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"I get up put on the light, dreading the oncoming night Scared to fall asleep and dream the dream again"
Some dreams are heart-warming visions of hope, filled with cute and cuddly creatures, so delightful they make you want to fall asleep right away — some dreams, but not all.
There are nightmares that chill your soul
. They are a journey through a warped mirror of reality where Transformation Traumas
abound and Primal Fears
are on public parade. All our comforting certainties melt away, and chaos reigns supreme. Quite frankly, after a dream like that it would almost be a relief to encounter the Outer Gods
dancing to the eldritch music of blasphemous flutes.
These nightmares can show off the emotional confusion and torment affecting a character. An effective way to show a character is having Bad Dreams
is just to go into them and show the nightmarish sequence itself. Each bizarre image can dissect the issue facing them, showing the distortions the mind puts on them.
These dreams are often, though not always, associated with Deranged Animation
. Hallucinations and supposedly funny nightmares
also fall under this trope.
See also Bad Dreams
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Anime and Manga
- Tetsuo's series of nightmares and hallucinations in AKIRA. These dreams vary from giant stuffed animals attacking him, to visions of his horrifying future, to having his intestines spill out of him from simply falling. I don't even want to mention the further horrors that this poor kid has to go through during the story (even though he does partially deserve it).
- Digimon Tamers: During a Mind Rape-induced dream sequence (seen here, starting at 0:53), one protagonist experiences herself as a child running through a hospital and right into a razor-toothed, eyeless version of herself, with a snarling, drooling, oddly grinning version of her favorite sock puppet sewn onto her arm. The fact that this is how she equates her mother's death does NOT help matters in any way/shape/form. The true psychological impact can't be had without seeing her slow degeneration throughout the series from using the puppet as a cute way to talk to people into being actively controlled by the puppet, but the images are arguably worse for sheer Nightmare Fuel out of context.
- An episode of Yes! Precure 5 features nightmare sequences for four of the main characters, induced by The Dragon for a pretty good reason. The idea is to cause the girls to despair.
- The Stand Death 13 has this ability in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, killing people when they fall asleep. The worst part is that even if you wake up before it can get to you, you have no recollection of what happened in the dream...
- Diamond Daydreams, in itself a rather subdued Slice of Life series, has Karin's often rather scary nightmares.
- Himeno from Prétear has these in an episode of the anime. It's actually caused by Takako/Fenrir, who wants to communicate with her.
- Guts of Berserk has these quite often, both from his childhood trauma and from the monsters that constantly torment him post-Eclipse.
- The premise of Nightmare Inspector is Hiruko the Baku's entering into people's nightmares with them in order to figure out what they mean.
- Happens several times in Chrono Crusade. Chrono has a nightmare where he's surrounded by dead bodies as Aion tempts him back to his side (hinting at his backstory). Rosette has a nightmare at the start of the Darkest Hour that serves to recap some of the trauma she's been through as well as gives a clear idea of her psychological state. And in an early episode of the anime, Rosette has a nightmare that's half flashback, half nightmare about her brother's kidnapping by the Big Bad.
- The Adventures of Tintin: The dream sequences in "Tintin" will never be surpassed in terms of creepyness. Yet, for the sake of this article, let's just mention the nightmare scenes:
- In "Tintin Cigars of the Pharaoh" Tintin is locked inside an Egyptian tomb and put to sleep with sleeping gas. He then dreams several strange images combining recent people he met and Egyptian artwork.
- In "Tintin The Crab With The Golden Claws" Tintin dreams he is turned into a bottle, which Haddock is planning to uncork.
- In "Tintin The Shooting Star" Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippulus the prophet who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider, claiming it is life size!
- In "Tintin The Seven Crystal Balls" Tintin and his companions all have the same nightmare: that they are visited by the Inca mummy Rascar Capac who enters their bedroom by night and then throws a poisonous crystal ball on the floor.
- This is even more terrifying in the animated series.
- In Prisoners of the Sun, Tintin dreams that Calculus is admiring an "Inca Tree" whose flowes are skulls while a real Inca menaces him with a spear, next Tintin asks the Inca, who now has Haddock's face if he has a licence for the rifle over his shoulder, upon which the Inca turns into a mysterious Indian who has been following the heroes and blasts Tintin with fire for blasphemy. Tintin then wakes up with hot sunlight on his face.
- Yorick in Y: The Last Man suffers from constant nightmares, usually involving his girlfriend Beth. So much so that when Yorick finally does meet her his first reaction is to storm off in the belief that he's just having another cruel dream.
- In Transmetropolitan, Spider Jerusalem has one after he stuffs himself with drugs (again) when he realizes he has become a Japanese-like anime, a cheesy live action TV series and a porn movie. Sadly, he has a fairly good dream at the beginning.
- Dream of The Sandman curses a man who has displeased him with the never-ending nightmare, where every time he thinks he's woken up, the nightmare continues. The few panels of this we see are horrifying.
- Suske en Wiske: The album "De Bokkenrijders" starts off with Wiske telling a nightmare she just had and Tante Sidonia explaining its symbolic meanings. Of course, as the story progresses Wiske's nightmare turns out to she was Dreaming of Things to Come.
- Nero: Nightmare sequences occur quite frequently in the series, among others in “Moea Papoea”, “Beo De Verschrikkelijke”, “De Gouden Vrouw”, “De Ark Van Nero”, “De Paarse Futen”, “Zwoele Charlotte” and “De Draak van Halfzeven”.
- Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel:
- Guiv's nightmare is being attacked in the Tower of Silence by countless skeletons, and then being surrounded by doubles of himself, whose heads turn into skulls as he cuts them off.
- Shirin's nightmare is a dust storm raising up giant boys made of dust, who carry off Ferdos, claiming him as "one of us."
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Issue #5 starts with this, and mentions the mane 6 have all had nightmares for an entire week. It's during another one that the Nightmare Forces kidnap Rarity and take her to the moon. In the following issue they are confronted by the same nightmares, but overcome them thanks to each other (with the exception of Rarity, who's still kidnapped, of course).
- In Bad Dreams, the protagonist Cynthia, who went into a coma after barely surviving a mass suicide, is tormented by images of the dead cult leader, Harris.
- An American Werewolf in London:
- There's one upsetting nightmare scene in which the protagonist sees his family shot in their home by what can only be described as Zombie Werewolf Nazi Goblins. The fact that The Muppets is playing on the television doesn't help. Quite possibly one of the most horrifying nightmares in all of film.
- Then there's the one where he's seen biting a deer.
- Pee-wee's Big Adventure,the evil clown dream sequence
- In Herbie Rides Again, Corrupt Corporate Executive Alonzo Hawk is tormented in his dreams by evil Volkswagen Beetles after Herbie thwarts his evil schemes.
- The dream sequence the main character in Son of the Mask has. His wife being pregnant and giving birth... only to reveal that she is pregnant with many, many, many babies, all squirming and crying with fanged mouths.
- Considering that Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is All Just a Dream, the entire climactic scene with the villain could be considered a Nightmare Dream, but the sequence with a subtler horror is a Dream-Within-A-Dream where Nemo goes to the kitchen, to find his mother washing the dishes, except that a train's coming, barrelling ever closer and closer towards them while Nemo's mom does not budge, just says, "Don't be silly, Nemo," as the whistle screams and—
- Certain scenes of Videodrome. It's hard to say which.
- Similarly enough, the '80s remake of The Fly has a nightmare dream sequence where Geena Davis gives birth to a squirming maggot-like creature. There's also the deleted Butterfly baby scene.
- There's a good chance that Eraserhead is entirely made out of this trope.
- The entire A Nightmare on Elm Street series is themed around this, as Freddy Krueger attacks his victims through nightmares.
- Another Wes Craven movie, The Serpent and the Rainbow, includes several zombie-themed nightmares suffered by the protagonist.
- In the 1996 film The Cable Guy, the main character Steven has a nightmare in which Chip (Jim Carrey) pounds on the door a few times but there's no answer, but later he bursts through the door and snarls...."I JUST WANT TO HANG OUT....NO BIG DEAL!" and chases him. This nightmare is a parody of the chase scene from Wolf.
- "Moloch" from the silent classic Metropolis.
- The dreams in Felidae are perhaps the most twisted animation ever created. Those dreams are just damn freaky, specifically the one involving Gregor Mendel giggling demonically "EXPERIMENTS WITH PLANT HYBRIDS!" while putting on some kind of twisted marionette show using the decomposing corpses of gutted cats. Using their entrails as the marionette strings.
- Michael and Laurie have these in Halloween II (2009).
- Sarah Connor is plagued by this trope and its contents in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
- Likewise, Kyle's dreams/flashbacks in the original movie.
- Given in Aliens Ripley has a nightmare about a Chest Burster, the director has a thing for this.
- Monkeybone has many - a drug that could be described as "Nightmare Fuel" is even a plot point.
- Vanilla Sky, the whole movie IS a nightmare, but there are many scenes picturing a dream/nightmare inside a nightmare/dream
- The film The Ghost and the Darkness has a scene after the protagonist kills the first lion. The railroad construction is back on track and his wife is coming to visit with their new baby. And then the other lion comes running out of the grass.
- In Hollow Man, Linda is fast asleep in bed with the windows wide open. Suddenly, the bed covers slip off of her and Caine crawls onto her bed, takes her underwear off, and begins to rape her. And then she wakes up with the bed covers still on her.
- Alice in Wonderland. The original book is a single extended dream sequence, and the various film versions do not skimp on the horror.
- The original Alice in Wonderland might or might not count, but The Nursery Alice most assuredly does. The text is the classic Carroll story, but the illustrations were apparently created by a morbid impressionist while on a bad acid trip.
- In the 1985 adaptation the White Queen, played by Carol Channing, turns into a sheep, just like in the book, but here the sheep's face is so ghostly and its bleating so unearthly that it's terrifying just to look at.
- Similarly, the scene where the Duchess' baby transforms from a wailing human child to a writhing, screaming piglet.
- And then there's the Jabberwock scene, which seems to be cruelly engineered to traumatize children. Watch if you dare. It looks as though Alice has made her way home, but she's actually still stuck in the world Through the Looking Glass. She can see her parents on the other side of the mirror and cries for their attention, but her mom and dad can't hear or see her and she's left to wander the limbo-like mirror room. She comes upon the Jabberwocky book and starts to read it — and then the monster (which could have been co-designed by H.R. Giger and Wayne D. Barlowe) comes charging into the room to eat her and then... that's the cliffhanger ending of the first episode of the two-part special!
- In the original publishing, an illustration of the Jabberwock was intended to be the frontispiece, but was deemed too fearsome.
- How can one babble about Alice in Wonderland being nightmare fuel without including the American McGee version? She is an asylum patient in the game After her parents burned alive in a house fire! and then there's the whole demon mode thing...*Shudders*
- The nightmare in How to Eat Fried Worms.
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader The island where dreams come true. When the sailor joke about what they would find, the man who had been trapped there screams that it's not daydreams, it's dreams. Which inspires a proper panic in them. Even after their escape, the man they rescued is in a state of collapse from the horror.
- Apparently, everyone saw different things, based on nightmares they'd had. Like a boggart from Harry Potter, except it's a whole island.
- From the Deryni books.
- While being held captive by Caitrin and Loris in The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal has a vivid nightmare about facing divine judgement for failing to save Kelson, whose gory corpse rises up from its bier to point an accusing finger at him.
- When Kelson reads Loris' mind during questioning late in The King's Justice, he learns that Camber appeared to Loris in a dream (later speculation attributes this to his possession of Duncan's episcopal ring, which was originally made for Henry Istelyn from an old piece of altar plate associated with Camber himself). Reliving the experience through Loris's eyes, Kelson knows that while Camber spoke of tolerance, Loris so demonized all things Deryni that for him it was a nightmare.
- During his preparatory meditation for Conall's triggering ritual in The Quest for Saint Camber, Morgan gazes on the unconscious and frail Nigel, dressed in Haldane red court robes with one of the state crowns on a pillow above his head. Suddenly, Morgan vividly imagines himself standing in the Haldanes' royal crypt gazing down at Nigel's body on his funeral bier.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Death Star, a trooper transferred to the titled battle station starts having nightmares, some of them about his own death. They make it hard to sleep. Medical staff is short, so a surgeon reluctantly looks him over, takes his blood, and gives him medication. Then the Death Star fires on a prison planet, the trooper wakes up screaming, and his dreams get exponentially worse. The surgeon tells him that it turns out he's Force-Sensitive. His dreams come true.
- The protagonist of E. F. Benson's "The Room in the Tower" has increasingly ominous dreams about paying a visit to... someone, who keeps sending him off to sleep in that room in the tower. Then, one day, he gets an invitation from a chum, and things go From Bad to Worse.
- In Dragons of Winter Night, the protagonists suffer through a particularly horrific nightmare.
- The authors of Warrior Cats seem to like horrific blood filled nightmares considering how many there have been in the books. Some even feature the characters drowning in blood.
- Constantly used in the Goosebumps books, I Live In Your Basement! having the most by far.
- The BFG: The BFG and Sophie make a nightmare for the Queen about giants.
- In A Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark has recurring dreams about the death of his sister Lyanna, including a particularly infamous flashback that still continues to inspire Epileptic Trees about the circumstances of her passing. Near the end of the book, while imprisoned, he sees a dream of his dead friend Robert mocking him, only for Robert's visage to crumble away, revealing Littlefinger's face beneath.
- The Stories Of Nypre series mixes this with Dream Within a Dream when Nypre gets trapped from the mind altering effects of the Night Land.
- In the Rainbow Magic series, sometimes Jack Frost's mischief causes Rachel and Kirsty to have these.
- In Those That Wake, the main characters each have nightmares before their lives are altered.
- In the sequel, Mal has recurring nightmares of Man In Suit.
Live Action TV
- Pink Floyd, as seen here. Gerald Scarfe deserves a lot of credit for that. Hard to believe he'd end up working on Disney's Hercules, isn't it?
- The video for "Easy" by Barenaked Ladies has little to do with the song itself, and a lot more to do with bloodstained warped-fairytale imagery. The crows don't help.
- All videos by Tool.
- Iron Maiden has many (mostly by Steve Harris, who must sleep horribly), most notably "Infinite Dreams" and "Dream of Mirrors". Also, "The Number of the Beast" was based on both The Omen II and a nightmare of Harris.
- Quest for Glory IV:
- The game has literal Nightmare Fuel in the form of a Cask of Amon Tillado, a wine that gives the drinker dark visions of the local Eldritch Abomination rising to destroy the world.
- Also the nightmares you have when you sleep in Erana's garden or under her staff.
- Sonic Riders is a game you'd think has absolutely no potential for nightmare fuel whatsoever... until you race in the Digital Dimension track, the first half of which is a hellish landscape with creepy gargoyle statues and skeleton hands that try to drag you into a pit. Its potential for inducing nightmares is lampshaded in mission briefings as Storm the Albatross says he's scared of the place. The second half of the track is Fluffy Cloud Heaven. Sounds like a relief, but it comes across more as unnerving.
- Final Fantasy VI, the creepy music and imagery in Shadow's first dream.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All starts with Phoenix having a dream of a dark giant judge about to hammer him to the ground. The dream returns for the final case, as Phoenix is in the depths of despair over Maya being kidnapped.
- In Nights: Journey of Dreams:
- Helen feels guilty for constantly spending more time with her friends than with her mother. Shortly into her opening cutscene, she is walking down the street with two friends when she stops and sees something that reminds her of her mother in a store window. As she starts feeling guilty again, her mother's image appears faintly in the window. She gives Helen a sad gaze, but this abruptly turns into empty red eyes and a hideous snarl. The expression is just distorted enough to start heading into the Uncanny Valley, and the suddenness of it makes it as good as a screamer.
- Technically, every boss battle in both games is one of these. Most of the really creepy, surreal ones are in Journey of Dreams, but Wizeman is horror in either.
- Dark Messiah has a few nightmare cutscenes, which are made worse by the fact that they're in first person like the rest of the game. The worst part of those dreams was they turn out to be the truth, and the thing you thought was real was the ACTUAL dream.
- Except for the one with Zelda, any dream, hallucination, transformation sequence, flashback, abstract idea, or dizzy state in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is overflowing with nightmarish elements.
- In Toy Story, the first Boss Battle happens when Woody has a nightmare of being attacked by a flying, real-laser-shooting Buzz Lightyear. If he dies in the nightmare, he dies for real. It's also a particularly hard boss fight.
- Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri has the "Dream Twister" Secret Project, which gives the known and liked Mind Worms a 50% bonus to their psionic attack by (judging by the cinematic) allowing them to tap into their victims' specific fears.
- Baldur's Gate has multiple dream sequences throughout. Most consist merely of Hannibal Lectures, although the one you get just after receiving the Slayer Form is kind of creepy...
- Entering a little girl's dreams in Yume Nikki? That can't possibly be so-OHMYGODWHATWASTHAT!? Madotsuki, you have problems.
- In a similar vein as the above, LSD Dream Emulator is just as disturbing.
- Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete has a brief but remarkably puissant nightmare sequence. As Alex sleeps in the middle of the woods, we get treated to a cutscene of his nightmare. The kidnapped love interest, Luna, appears against a black background. Her singing can be heard in the background, along with her crying out Alex's name twice and a strange gurgling sound. The camera begins to zoom in on her and her shouts become more frantic. Suddenly, the singing stops and her voice warps into an unnatural low pitch (if there's such a thing as an Uncanny Valley for voices, this sequence nails it perfectly) and a bloody liquid suddenly floods the bottom of the screen.
- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories has sequences where monsters chase you down, and all you can do is run and hide. They are referred to as "The Nightmare" by the game tutorial, but since Harry is the only speaking character to experience them, they barely get acknowledged, much less referred to by name.
- In Silent Hill 3, the opening level is a nightmare, which is ended by Heather being killed and waking up in a diner. Turns out dreams come true in Silent Hill.
- Silent Hill 2 seemingly shifts into this type of experience during and after exiting the hospital. This is the only time of the game where the town becomes dark, for one. The character is lead to a "Historical Society"; from there, James encounters features unlikely to exist, such as a very-very long stairway, and very deep man-made-looking holes that don't cause injury from jumping into them. Also, one room has a deep hole that is protected by a prison bar-gate, with doors and ceiling features on the walls making this a hallway that has been rotated down 90 degrees. Additionally, James encounters a labyrinthine area with dead-end halls occasionally found. The nightmare seems to end after James gains a significant insight, and this places James back into the foggy town from earlier.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has not only one, but TWO quests in which the PC actively participates in an NPC's nightmare. 1) In "Through a Nightmare, Darkly", the PC uses a magical amulet to enter the nightmare world of a mage in order to rescue him. In his or her skivvies, no less. 2) Vaermina's quest "Arkved's Tower" sends the PC into a nightmarish world of burning corpses, molten lava, zombie-o-rama, only to find that the entire quest is the never-ending nightmare of the titular wizard-in-question, the result of him having stolen an artifact from Vaermina.
- Fable II has a sequence in which after you are shot by Lucien, you enter a dreamlike state where Rose and your parents are still alive, and live on a peaceful farm. At first, this is very pleasant, until nighttime. You wake up to the sound of a music box and leave the farm, but your sister follows. If you head down a path beyond a now-opened gate, your sister begs you not to leave and eventually vanishes with a desperate Big "NO!", and the area outside turns out to be full of fire and dead bodies, all while a music box is playing in the background.
- This comprises the latter half of the Runescape quest Dream Mentor.
- Vincent's nightmares in Catherine. He has to make his way up staircases made of blocks to reach the top. If he fails (falling off the stage, crushed by falling blocks, caught in traps or being killed by the weird creatures that pursue him), then he dies in real life.
- Gabriel's recurrent nightmare is a very important plot point in the first game, Sins of the Fathers. It is actually tied to Gunter's last moments, and has been tormenting his descendants for 300 years.
- In Ambridge Mansion, at the beginning of the games, you play through Silas' nightmares. You wander around a creepy monster-infested house until you die in your dream.
- The battles with Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Asylum are this, thanks to copious amounts of fear toxins.
- First Encounter Assault Recon is chock full of these.
- In the first generation, a lot of Foreshadowing is involved, such as hinting that the Point Man shares a bond with Alma, since, as Paxton Fettel says "She cannot see into your mind, but you can see into hers" or that lieutenant Chen will be killed by a monster in Perseus Mandate.
- The second game uses these as a sign that Alma is trying to approach Becket sexually.
- In the same vein of the series above, Nightmare House 2 has several of these. It's actually Romero trying to mess with your head by using his mind control Core.
- A few in Mass Effect 3 as Shepard goes through a serious case of Survivor Guilt and wonders why s/he is still alive and so many of his/her friends, loved ones, and innocent people are dead.
- In Bastion, The Kid walks right into one of these while exploring Jawson's Bog, thanks to the hallucinogenic properties of the place. In his dream, he has to fight his way through a series of unsettling landscapes... with the Narrator actively speaking against him.
- Oni features one when Konoko visits her father's lab. It's a particularly tough level, featuring consecutive boss fights against the game's Big Bad Muro, Konoko's superior Griffin and finally Konoko herself, interspersed with trippy imagery.
- Very much truth in television. Casual nightmares can be horrifying to the extreme, overshadowing the goriest of gratuitous horror films. Reports of dreams such as watching a person being skinned alive, or worse doing the skinning in hyper-realistic detail. What is truly baffling about these dreams is that they can and do occur to people who are well adjusted, and don't reflect reality to a great extent. In other cases, intense horrifying imagery is one indicator of repressed emotions, trauma, and emotional baggage. Even then, the nightmares may seem disproportionately frightening.