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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 (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.
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.
"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.
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.