Stranger Things episode 4: The Duffer Brothers inspired by Stephen King
And getting a kick out of playing with fake corpses
Matt and Ross Duffer (Wayward Pines) are taking EW behind the scenes of every single episode in their thrilling new Netflix drama, Stranger Things, an ’80s-set supernatural show starring Winona Ryder and a slew of fantastic young stars. (You can read EW’s season 1 recap to get caught up.) Here, they bring us inside “Chapter 4: The Body”…
This episode is called “The Body.” That’s our not-so-subtle nod to Stephen King’s short story The Body, which was the basis for Rob Reiner’s classic film Stand by Me. We love that story and that film with all of our boyish hearts, and its DNA is written all over the show. (You’ll see kids marching down railroad tracks in the next chapter because we couldn’t resist.)
We feel like, if any actor steals this episode, it’s David Harbour, who plays Chief Jim “Hop” Hopper. David is very much an actor’s actor, and he’s had a great career playing memorable side characters and villains and government agents. You probably recognize him… but you probably don’t know from what. The reason for this is that Hollywood has never given him that “leading man” role, which is something we wanted to rectify — and David did, too.
David loved Hopper because he felt that the role harkened back to an old-school type of Hollywood hero. Hopper’s not a superhero. He’s screwed up, he screws up, he’s not afraid to make an ass of himself, and he solves problems with both his brains and his fists. A bit like, yes, Indiana Jones. In fact, one of David’s first requests was for Hopper to wear a hat at almost all times. He just had to have one (and he knew the perfect hatmaker in New York City to make it!). David was clearly channeling Indiana here, and we loved it. Early on, he even asked if we could have a giant boulder roll after him at one point in the show. We’re still not sure if he was joking or not. Either way, we could never find a way to organically weave a giant boulder into the show. Sorry, David. Maybe if there’s a season 2?
Over the course of the chapter, Hopper’s investigation leads him to the subject of our title: the body. Now, David obviously didn’t plunge his knife into our little actor’s chest, but it wasn’t VFX, either. It was a fake corpse built by a talented artist named Justin Raleigh, whose company Fractured FX builds prosthetics for many hit shows, including one of our personal favorites, Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick (if you haven’t seen that masterpiece, stop reading this and go watch it immediately!). In fact, Justin’s designs for that show were so realistic that that the Boston Children’s Hospital now has him build “simulation” bodies to train their surgeons!
About a month after we spoke to Justin about the job, we received our very own dead body of Noah Schnapp (the wonderful young actor who plays Will). If you have a dark side like we do, this was a creepy and fun present. We immediately took Noah’s mom aside, told her we had something to show her, and led her into a dark closet where we had propped up this frighteningly realistic corpse of her son. She was startled at first, and we felt like maybe we crossed a line… But after the initial shock, she loved it. Before long, she was taking pictures with her child’s fake corpse and texting the photos to all her friends. Yeah, Noah has a pretty cool mom.
Anyway, we leave this episode with Indiana Jones — sorry, Hopper — infiltrating Hawkins Lab. David was nervous that snipping the lab fence would be an anticlimactic ending to the episode, but we assured him that with the right music and sound design it would be badass. Sure enough, with the LOUDEST snipping of a fence ever recorded, we think it is exactly that. But just wait until Hopper gets inside. He’s going to need luck in there, and Hop is anything but lucky…
Random trivia: Although we shot the show on a digital RED camera, we wanted it to have a vintage film look. To achieve this look, our incredible colorist Skip Kimball employed many tricks, including adding a layer of scanned ’80s film grain. We love the results and hope you do too!
The Duffer Brothers on “Chapter Five” here.
Netflix’s hit sci-fi series follows a group of kids in the '80s battling supernatural forces in Hawkins, Ind.