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Nightmare Fuel: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
A show about dealing with victims of sexual abuse and crimes is bound to be rife with examples of Nightmare Fuel. Here are but a few examples.
Heavy spoilers below.
The premise of the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Hammered" isn't anything out of the ordinary: a man wakes up and finds a bludgeoned and raped woman in his apartment and no memory of it because he'd been drinking. The Nightmare Fuel comes later when ADA Paxton has the crime lab make up a videotape showing the sequence of events in the killing, complete with realistic blood spatter, bloody hammer, and the unblinking, psycho-faced head of their main suspect, played by Noel Crane, photoshopped in. I cannot close my eyes anymore without seeing that tape.
The Mind Rape games that Elliot and Olivia go through at the hands of Merritt Rook. First, Rook tricks Olivia into submitting to him by telling her he's got a bomb and will detonate it if she doesn't obey him. Later, he tells Eliot that he's got Olivia and takes him to a houser that has two rooms separated by a wall and a window. In one of the rooms, we have a bound Olivia whom we can see through said window, and Rook says he's gonna torture her with electricity. To prove it, he closes the window and blocks it with a fold, then presses a button and we hear a female's scream. Which means, he is actually doing it. Then, he keeps pressuring, browbeating and trying to verbally bitchslap Elliot for some of the creepiest last moments of the whole franchise. Elliot doesn't break down, though, and then Rook reveals that the screams were recorded and the newly-released Olivia is unharmed. While it's a relief, it doesn't take the fright from the "torture session" away.
The episode "Mean", where a teenage girl is found dead in a car trunk, throat slit and with dozens of little cuts all over her body, which the medical examiner informs us were made while she was still alive, arms and legs bound, with tiny nail scissors—the attacker(s) had apparently been stabbing her with the scissors then opening them in the victim's flesh. And it turns out that the attackers were the victim's close friends, also teenage girls. And you want to know what's really scary? The episode is based on the real-life murder of Shanda Sharer, which was actually far more brutal in many respects, notably that the victim was kept trapped alive in the car trunk for many hours after the murder. The murderers eventually burned her alive.
And when the teenage girls responsible for the attack are brought in to be interrogated, the ringleader eventually has a Villainous Breakdown when she hears that her friends are selling her out, pounding on the door and screaming at them to say it to her face.
The worst part: The dead girl was an Alpha Bitch who made another girl's life a living hell for years, sending her text messages about how fat she was and how she should kill herself. When the other members of her Girl Posse are sent to jail, the audience is led to think the victim will finally be left in peace, but another student stepped up to start bullying her in the Girl Posse's absence, and the victim snapped and shot her dead. As she's being arrested, the episode ends with her tearfully saying to Olivia, "They went to jail...and it didn't even make any difference. No matter what anybody did, it was never gonna stop." No other SVU episode has driven home as powerfully the message that school bullying is not, and never will be, harmless.
And in between all that may have been the most extreme case of Adults Are Useless ever on network TV. The counselor saw the bullying as a "defense mechanism", an attempt to get a restraining order against the Alpha Bitchfailed, and the parents were completely oblivious to their little angels' cruelty ("They were nothing but nice to that Agnes girl, and this is what they get?")
Another case of Ripped from the Headlines: It’s only natural that the episode “Damaged” be loaded with nightmare fuel, when you consider that it was based on the case of Karla Homolka. The very idea that a girl could be messed up enough to force someone else to rape and murder her own adopted sister is horrifying, but then you have the added disturbing layer when you remember that the girl in question was raped herself, to the point that she is a complete sociopath with no empathy and no trust for anyone. The details are different from the case that it was based off of, sure, but the core of the story is virtually identical. And terrifying.
To make matters worse, a few years later, SVU gave us a second and even worse episode based off of the Karla Homolka case named "Pure". The short version is a teenage girl goes missing, a Canadian man played by Martin Short pretends to be a psychic and "sees" thing about the case that no one would know, of course she's later found dead, he did it because she was a virgin (whereas his wife was not) and in unearthing the crime, its motive and the couple's history, it's learned that a year earlier, the "couple's" baby was stolen from his biological mother...who the wife brutally murdered and then cut the baby out of her stomach.
"Signature" is about a Serial Killer who rapes and tortures his victims for days, which by itself (and with the description of the injuries on the victims) is Nightmare Fuel. Special mention has to go to the discovery of his Torture Cellar. A table covered with blood and various torture instruments, a filthy bathtub use for dry-drowning, a television playing a tape of a victim being tortured over and over again for psychological effect...and a still-living victim trapped underneath the table, tortured to the point where she has gangrene. One of the most horrific uses of And I Must Scream, a Fate Worse than Death and Cold-Blooded Torture on primetime TV. And it's mentioned he has done this to twenty-four victims.
The episode "Behave" has a truly terrifying premise. The victim, Vicky Sayers (played by Jennifer Love Hewitt) has been raped, but Olivia later uncovers it's not the first time this man has raped her. In fact, he's been stalking her for the past fifteen years, all over the country, and has raped her four times in that time span. The detectives later discover that, because he's a shipping mogul, he has warehouses in over a dozen major cities, and has been doing this exact same thing to numerous women for years. And this isn't bringing into account his Stalker Shrine to every woman he's ever attacked that Olivia finds...
In S13's episode, "Lost Traveler," in the last few minutes it's revealed who the killer is: a seemingly ordinary teenage girl. What's bone-chilling about the scene is how calm she is throughout. She seems mildly annoyed at worst. When asked why she did it, she simply replies, "Why not?" Brr.
Tragically, this real life case is disturbingly similar to both the season 4 episode Resilience, in which a father artificially inseminates his teenage daughter, and, to lesser extent, the season 5 episode Home, where a mother is an extreme control freak over her home-schooled children.
"Resilience" also gets double points for being based on the crimes of Fred and Rosemary West.
The episode, "Undercover" is chockfull of Nightmare Fuel. None of them can top the fact that Olivia nearly gets raped by a prison guard captain. It's a cat and mouse scene with Liv trying her best to fight for her life. Unfortunately, Liv gets overpowered and the unspeakable would've happened if it weren't for Fin making the save.
Even worse is if Liv was raped, she would've contracted a lethal disease from the prison guard. It's a downright frightening episode from beginning to end.
Actually a few moments later in that same episode, it is confirmed that Olivia's attacker was NOT diagnosed with carrying the disease and thereby would not have passed it on to Olivia. However it definitely does not make the episode any less frightening.
The episode Merchandise. After a car hits a 15 year old girl it's discovered that she was starved to the point of death as well as raped so that she was pregnant. Even worse? Her brother killed her by pushing her in front of the car, because she was trying to escape the human traffickers that had them because their "masters" would take out their rage at her escape on him and the rest of the children they were holding. Later when they actually start closing in on the traffickers, the bastards chain up the kids and force feed them poison so that they will be dead when the police arrive and unable to identify them. SVU has done human trafficking episodes before, but this one was horrifyingly deeper than usual, especially exploring the desperate mindset of someone who has been utterly deprived of their freedom and their sense of security from minute to minute.
Season 14 episode 19: Born Psychopath: 10 year old Henry has no soul, he hurts his mom and his sister. He then tries to kill his sister traps his mom in the laundry room after that he goes to his friends apartment ties him up and kills his dog, after that he takes a five year old hostage with a gun and shoots detective Amaro. When detective Rollins asks him why he tells her that he wanted to see if she would melt from the inside out and he thinks he didn't do anything wrong. Just before the credits he fakes tears and says the's sorry but he very quickly drops the act, and it's very clear to see that this kid is beyond help. It's a scary thought to think that your kid could be a heartless, soulless monster. Even Huang was freaked out by this kid.
All the episodes surrounding the character William Lewis are filled with Nightmare Fuel. His character makes an appearance in a total of 4 episodes, highly unorthodox for a non-regular character in this series. Lewis is a sadistic, psychopathic serial murder/rapist and his entire existence seems to be dedicated to moving from place to place looking for new victims to rape and torture. He consistently manages to elude police and is skilled at manipulating the criminal justice system to work in his favor. He has no remorse for any of his actions and does not seem to fear death (Lewis actually literally dies and comes back to life several times.) He proudly boasts about the heinous crimes he's committed (often while smiling) and his rape victims range from teenaged girls to elderly women. His long list of victims include Olivia Benson. He is shown assaulting her both on and off-screen and nearly rapes her twice; the first time he is interrupted and the second time he stops when Olivia refuses to give him the satisfaction of showing any sign of any fear or emotion whatsoever. Lewis meets his demise by eventually committing suicide right in front of Olivia in the last few seconds of the episode "Beast's Obsession".
The entire episode "Beast's Obsession" (Season 15 Episode 20) the episode starts off with serial rapist/murderer William Lewis escaping from prison, recklessly raping, torturing, and killing innocent people and he later takes a 12-year-old girl hostage as his main goal is to have a final showdown with Olivia. The last 10 minutes are without a doubt the most graphic and disturbing; Lewis is physically shown sexually assaulting Olivia, first touching between her legs and her backside and later grabbing her breasts and forcefully kissing her. (At one point while she's forcefully bent over a table he undoes Olivia's pants and although it's not shown onscreen, it's implied that he touches her privates as well). He seems intent or raping her in front of his young hostage but appears to be displeased at Olivia's stoic response and changes his mind. Lewis finally forces Olivia into playing Russian Roulette with him, and they take turns putting a pistol with only one bullet to their heads and pulling the trigger. In the remaining last minute, Lewis tells Olivia to say "goodbye" implying that he is finally going to kill her but in the end he puts the gun to his own head and commits suicide. The episode ends with his blood splattering onto Olivia's face as she stares in horror.
"Hothouse" featured a teenage prodigy abusing Provigil to help her study. Olivia finds one of her notebooks — her handwriting starts out neat but gets smaller and smaller and turning the next page reveals a chaotic mess of unintelligible word-scribbles. Way scarier than it sounds.
In the same episode, the same prodigy has one of the scariest psychotic breakdowns ever in the interrogation room. "I just wanted to talk to her, that's all. And take the next ferry back. But she screamed at me! Why was I following her? She called me a loser! She said I was pathetic and dumb and that I was only at Morewood because my family is rich, that I'd never be able to make it on brains alone like her! She tried walking away, and so I grabbed her arm, and she pushed me! So I jabbed her chest with my pen, and she pushed me again! And so I pulled her hair, and I slammed her head into the railing,OVER! AND OVER! AND OVER AGAIN!"
A suspect who was trying to evade capture in the episode "Fight" ends up falling into a trash compactor and the detectives, after failing to gain the attention of the operator of the compactor, listen helplessly as he is screaming and pleading to be let out and is eventually crushed to death. Granted, he was a bastard, but it's still such a horrible way to die.
When any of the main characters undergo a gratuitous amount of violence, such as Novak's attack.
One episode had a woman get severely burned as the result of an attack by her ex-husband. We get to see close-ups of her scorched face, and later we hear her screams from behind the hospital doors.
Then we learn that the ex-husband was a Red Herring all along. The woman burned herself to get back at him.
In "Dependent", a lawyer's family becomes the target of extremely ominous threats, including swastikas spray painted on the door, garbage left on the doorstep, and the family cat being stolen, dismembered, and returned to the house in pieces (we only see a photo of the boxes it came in). Oh, and they got a letter from a guy whose case the lawyer lost, threatening to burn his house down, rape his wife and daughter, and kidnap his son.
In one episode, at a club devoted to "embracing sexual freedom", one of the performers is raped onstage while dozens of people watch, thinking it's part of the show even as she screams for help.