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Nightmare Fuel / Stranger Things

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Do you remember the horror of some movies of The '70s and The '80s? Stranger Things manages to remind us a lot of these moments to new levels.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked. You Have Been Warned.

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    Season 1 
  • El’s name is short for Eleven, as in Test Subject Eleven. If she’s number eleven, what happened to the other ten? Her tattoo actually reads “011”. Just how many subjects were they planning on using that they started out their numbering in triple digits?
  • The thought that a monster abducted a child and that no one has any clue where the hell it is. Just the fact that when we DO see Will again in the season finale, he’s bound up with that weird tube that goes all the way through his throat à la Aliens, is completely terrifying. Just what was that doing to him, anyway?
  • Nancy inadvertently stumbles onto a portal into The Upside Down in the forests near where Will vanished. The moment is very pants-wetting for her, being stuck in another dimension with a creepy being, knowing that Jonathan is on the other side but having no idea how to reach him besides try to follow his voice. At one point, she stumbles upon the Demogorgon and freezes up at the sight of the creature that took Barb. Nancy runs and hides behind a tree, and the moment becomes very tense as she and the audience aren't sure if it's noticed her. It's only because Will sees her and lures the Demogorgon away from her (as revealed in the graphic novel Stranger Things: The Other Side) that she's able to escape. When Jonathan pulls her out of the portal in the tree, she's clearly hyperventilating, and so shaken up that she has flashbacks while showering, and has to ask Jonathan to share the bed with her.

  • The opening scene/Will’s abduction, which plays out just like a child’s nightmare of being chased by a monster. Will runs home through the dark woods after nearly running into a creature on the road. He runs through his house in a panic to find his mom and brother are not home, and when he looks out the window to see if the creature followed him, he sees it shambling out of the woods straight for his house...
  • Barb’s death, not to mention what she looks like afterwards. Naturally, this was toned down from the original concept...
  • Will's attempts to contact his mother from another world aren't really that chilling until he spells out the word 'RUN' just before the monster appears.
  • One of the most terrifying moments in the entire show isn’t even supernatural. Troy, the bully, is so disturbed and ruthless after El freezes him and makes him piss his pants that he threatens to cut out Dustin’s teeth with a switchblade... unless Mike jumps off a cliff at a height that would almost certainly kill him. If you were ever physically bullied as a kid, this is literally your worst nightmare.
  • Similar to the above, the opening scene of "The Bathtub" contains no supernatural horror, but is filled with Adult Fear for the situation the kids find themselves facing. "THE BAD MEN ARE COMING!"
  • In "The Bathtub" Eleven was actually given orders not to "turn around this time", which raises the question: How often did they use her?
  • The ending to “The Bathtub.” Just a few moments before, Will finally made contact with Eleven and gave her proof that he’s still alive. All he needs to do is hold on a little longer and... wait, what the hell is that breathing noise? Will becomes completely still; he’s too weak to run, so all he can do is try to keep quiet. The breathing stops for a moment... only for The Demogorgon to burst through the walls. Immediately smash to black. Even the credits of this episode get in on this. Normally, the credits play some kind of music, whether it be a band from the ’80s or the show’s theme song. Not here. The only sound is the Demogorgon’s breath.
  • The Upside-Down. Everything about it is unnerving. It’s basically like a darker version of Hawkins (or even just the world in general) with a slew of disgusting vines and Squick all around. And then there are the monsters. The panic of hearing familiar voices but not being able to reach them, of being in a place that is familiar yet completely alien, has got to be maddeningly unsettling.
    • A minor detail about this place was made all the more horrifying after an interview with the artists. Those bulbous shapes all around, like the one Hopper found hollowed out or the one Eleven saw the Demogorgon eating? Turns out those aren’t fungi like most people assumed. They’re eggs. And we’re still in the dark about what exactly laid them.
  • The CPR scene is one of the most horrifying moments in the series, not because of any monster or supernatural terror, not because of the twisted landscape or mortal peril. The monster is dead. Dr. Brenner and his men are dead. The horror is utterly human, here. Adult Fear in its purest form. As Joyce tearfully begs for her unconscious son to wake up, Hopper desperately tries to resurrect him, starting with CPR and ending up just pounding desperately on Will's chest, all the while flashing back to watching his own daughter die in the hospital. The sharp cuts between the flatlining monitor and Will, going on just long enough that you start to wonder... until he finally wakes up.
  • The final scene makes it clear that even though Will pretends things have gone back to normal and he’s generally fine, he’s not. Which is more concerning: the moments where he feels himself flicker back into the Upside Down (whether it means he’s suffering from terrible PTSD or whether he has become the flea and can flicker between dimensions) or the fact that, a month later, he’s still vomiting up slugs and doesn’t know what it means? It’s clearly happened to him before; can you imagine having to walk around like that, pretending to be recovered when you’re clearly not?

    Season 2 

  • The teaser for Season Two that played during the Super Bowl showed what appeared to be a giant multi-armed Eldritch Abomination coming out of a giant thunderstorm with red lightning.
  • The “Thriller” Trailer is no slouch when it comes to Nightmare Fuel. Featuring: Will flickering back into the Upside-Down... and something with a distorted-sounding voice is calling to him. Apparently, he goes catatonic for random periods too.
    Will: I saw something.
    Joyce: What is it?
    Will: I don’t know. I’ve felt it everywhere!
    • Adding to this is Will’s first flicker into the Upside-Down at the trailer’s start. He gets a good look at the aforementioned Eldritch Abomination...and it looks right back at him.
    • "Where does it hurt?" "EVERYWHERE!!!"
  • The final trailer gives us our first proper look at the Eldritch Abomination; it’s about as horrifying and otherworldly as you might expect. Worse, though, is the fact that the voiceover describes it as “a sort of shadow”. If this thing is a shadow, could it simply be an imprint of something even worse? The trailer also confirms that this thing is trying to break through to Hawkins.
  • The basic premise of Season 2 itself is that the monster who gave everyone so much trouble last time was just an attack dog for what was always the real threat from the Upside Down.
  • Will decides to take Bob’s advice about standing his ground against the Shadow Monster. Unfortunately, this just results in the Monster pouring itself into him through every single orifice. And then the episode ends.
    • This scene was one of the worst visual images presented in the series. The Mind Flayer pours itself into Will, appearing to be blue-black writhing smoke that flails around his head, leaving only his terrified eyes visible. It is truly a chilling scene.
  • Kali's gang in Pittsburgh/Chicago with the Halloween masks on are full-on Uncanny Valley mode.
    • Kali herself is pretty disturbing when you get past her nice moments with Eleven. She has the power of creating mirages — stuff that isn't there — and besides her Deadpan Snarker moments or her nice moments, you can tell there's something amiss in her.
  • Eleven going out for revenge on the Hawkins Lab crew. Imagine Carrie White with full control of her powers, and just as pissed off, especially when she almost kills a tech with Kali's gang when she learns he was involved in Terry Ives's current state.
  • The sole fact that Dr. Brenner could still be alive. While the tech Eleven almost kills says he's still alive could be him not knowing he had died after Season 1, he still appears when Eleven and Kali have their talk about their different paths. It's heavily implied to be an illusion created by Kali, but it still manages to freak Eleven out.
  • Everything about Dustin's new "pet", D'artagnan (Dart). Much to Dustin's ignorance, Dart isn't merely some kind of weird tadpole-like creature; it's actually one of numerous Demogorgon larvae that was coughed up from Will's body. Dustin finds this thing inside his trash can, and decides that it looks cute enough to take home.
    • Even after Dustin's friends realize and point out that this animal is definitely not from Earth; not to mention that Dart goes through multiple metamorphosis stages, growing larger and scarier with every transformation, Dustin is in total denial about its true nature and keeps it safe until he realizes too late...
      • Perhaps the worst part is when Dustin comes home to his room to find that Dart has not only grown big enough to break out of its glass container, but now it's feasting on the bloody corpse of poor little Mews (his mother's adorable pet cat). Dustin then has to spend the next few episodes searching for Dart and trying to kill it, as it has now escaped and roaming in the woods around town.
  • Bob’s surprisingly graphic (and tragic) death. After saving Will, Mike, Joyce, and Hopper from Hawkins Lab, he’s ambushed right before the exit by a demo-dog. He’s shown screaming in agony in slow motion as the demo-dog mauls him to death, and then the camera lingers on a pack of the monsters devouring his dead body for a horribly long time.
    • Word of God says that it was going to be even more graphic. Bob was going to spew blood out of his mouth as he was being attacked. It was filmed, but edited out in post.
    • Word of God later on said it was gonna be worse: They were going to have Bob killed off in Episode 3. By who? Will. The Duffers later on changed this since Sean Astin's performance was that good, but they still had to kill him off.
  • Billy Hargrove, Max’s stepbrother. Big Brother Bully doesn’t even begin to describe him. Immediately from the get-go, he’s seen as a threat to Max’s life, controlling every aspect of her personal life, even down to how long she spends at the arcade. Episodes later, it’s revealed that he’s angry due to having to move away from California or by his father remarrying, the answer isn’t really precise. But one thing becomes clear – since he can’t take his anger out on his mother, he takes it out on Max instead.
  • While we’re at it, Billy’s attitude towards Max and Lucas whenever he sees her with him. His already confirmed abuse aside, he acts creepily possessive of her and demands Lucas stays away from her. You’re not her dad, dude.
    • Episode 8 makes the root cause of his behavior far more clear, and it doesn't get any better. Billy is at home, getting ready to go on a date, when his father and Max's mother come home. Max's mom wants to know where she is, and Billy responds that he doesn't know exactly, but she went to go hang out with some other kids. His father immediately chides him for being a 'faggot' too busy looking at his own reflection to pay attention to Max, and he now needs to cancel his date with 'whatever whore' he's seeing to go look for her. Billy responds that Max is 13 and shouldn't need him to be a full-time babysitter. Not to mention that he had apparently had to look after her 24/7 all of the previous week, this time his father and Max's mom were 3 hours late coming back from wherever they were with no explanation. And Billy's father proceeds to absolutely lose his shit, slapping his son and throwing him around the room like a rag doll, ranting about how they had apparently had a long discussion about 'respect' and 'responsibility'. Billy's nature does a complete 180 in this scene, going from an aggressive, confident young man into a frightened child in seconds, completely breaking under his father's abuse. This has likely been Billy's life for a long time. And his real source of anger is likely from being unable to do anything about it. His father puts all the responsibility of raising his stepsister on him while he and Max's mother come and go as they please, and if he says or does anything else, his father will beat him back into submission. Additionally, there is no music, just terrifying tension from the minute Mr. Hardgrove enters the room.
  • The very nature of our series villain, the Mind Flayer. He, or rather, IT, is a colossal, shadowy creature of darkness and psychic might that rules over the entirety of the Upside-Down. Its viral nature has allowed it to bend entire species to its bidding, like the Demogorgons, and its root-like extensions spread through Hawkins like a life-devouring tumor. It desires nothing less than the complete dominion of Earth and the destruction of all those who would face it. Unlike its pets, it is a creature of intelligence and evil, cunning enough to deceive and emotional enough to seek revenge on those who would harm it. The only hope one stands against it is its three weaknesses, fire, water, and pain, but even those are in relative short supply due to its ingenious plan. It takes Eleven using all her psionic strength to banish it from our world, and it came dangerously close to attacking or even possessing her! And worst of all, it’s still alive.
  • Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy driving the Mind Flayer out of Will. The whole scene plays like something out of The Exorcist, with Voice of the Legion and Madness Mantra abounding. Will manages to get a hand free, and with a burst of Super Strength, is choking Joyce. It takes Nancy stabbing him in the side with a red-hot poker to get him to let go. The dark veins on his face don’t help either.
  • Eleven finds out precisely what Terry’s Madness Mantra means: Terry has been seeing certain things and hearing certain words related to Jane’s kidnapping on loop for years now – Becky telling her to breathe as she goes into labor. The sunflowers in her hospital room where she’s lied to and told Jane was stillborn. The combination on the safe she gets the gun out of to go get Jane back at any cost. The rainbow on the doorframe outside Jane’s room, where she finally confirms she was always right and Jane was kidnapped. And finally, horrifically, the voltage Brenner ordered the shock therapy machine turned to when it fried her mind. Breathe. Sunflower. Three to the right, four to the left. Rainbow. Four-fifty. Breathe... Her worst memories on repeat for eternity — Becky says Terry’s stuck in a dream she hopes is good, but really Terry’s been subjected to a hellish Fate Worse than Death. And by the time Eleven leaves, Becky knows. Imagine her caring for her sister now, hearing those words and knowing what they mean.
    • The ending to the same episode is horrifying too. Hawkins Lab arrives with reinforcements, who proceed to burn the vines out of the tunnels with flame throwers, leading to Will screeching in agony as he writhes on the ground.
      • Just the idea alone is Adult Fear incarnate, but what truly makes this scene cross over to nightmare fuel is just how it's executed: Will's face is contorted in a freakish manner while he's screaming his guts out, definitely not helped by how the lighting exacerbates how "not himself" he is after the Mind Flayer's already possessed him. Couple that with what sounds like a screeching banshee as Will screams out in pain and convulses violently on the floor, it's up there as one of the most unsettling scenes in the show.
  • Definitely one in the realm of Adult Fear, when Jim asks Eleven how she managed to travel to her mother's house, he shows clear concern when she answers "a man in a big truck", only partially calming down when she clarifies "a nice man". With all the worrying about shadowy malevolent g-men and interdimensional monsters, it's easy to forget that Eleven was still a pretty young girl entirely on her own, one that still didn't know a lot about the world. While logically he wouldn't be too worried about her abilities in defending herself, the idea of her being manipulated into receiving abuse is an all-too-real fear of parents and guardians.
  • Billy's final confrontation with Steve. What would have happened if Max had not interfered in the fight?!
    • Basically, the whole scene with Billy is pure Nightmare Fuel. Once Billy enters the house, the show's atmosphere becomes incredibly tense, unpredictable and disturbing. No one is sure what the actual hell Billy plans. Keep in mind, we are talking about a guy who was willing to run over Mike, Dustin and Lucas.
    • During the fight, Steve manages to give Billy a few punches. Billy's reaction? He laughs maniacally, almost taking the beating as enjoyable... of course, this is the moment where Dustin, Mike and Lucas are clearly disturbed by this guy.
    • Once Billy throws Steve to the ground, he manages to give him an extremely brutal beating. The most terrifying thing is that Billy was enjoying doing this while he savagely punched him in the face.
    • Perhaps the most frightening thing is that the violence is quite realistic. It is not a moment where the average, supernatural Nightmare Fuel in this show is present. It's just a man savagely beating another man.
  • The aftermath of the Demodogs invading Hawkins Lab: Jonathan and Nancy just found out that his Mother and both their little brothers have just survived. Imagine the Adult Fear going through the teens, Jonathan could have lost his brother again along with his mother and Nancy could be re-traumatized by another death of a loved one....
  • The ending of the finale. As the scene pans out from the party and the music fades off into the distance, the camera begins turning, before transitioning to the Upside Down, as it’s revealed the Mind Flayer is looming above the dilapidated hall. It’s still watching them. And given the lightning surrounding it, the Mind Flayer is clearly pissed and wants revenge against the Party.
  • After Eleven find's Hopper's stash of files hidden under the cottage, she does a lot of reading, and learns she has a mother. She immediately grabs a radio to try and find her. She gets in touch with her and calls her Mama. Mama responds by calling her Jane and vanishes.
    • El/Jane Hunts down the Ives's house, Terry's sister Becky tells El to take off (thinks she's selling something, or a Witness or something). She walks away from the door only for the latch to unlock itself and the door swing open, with a 12 year old girl staring at her. "I want. To see. Mama."

     Season 3 
  • The series opens with the Soviets conducting some mysterious experiment. Things go awry and we get a glorious slo-mo shot of a scientist burning to a crisp.
  • Scared of rats? Tough shit. They're featured prominently in this season. Not only that, but they've been affected by something horrific that causes them to act aggressively and then explode.
    • The aggression appears pain-driven, similar to encephalitic diseases such as “hydrophobic encephalitis” (rabies), which culminates to what appears to be crippling agony, following by the... explosion?... metamorphosis?... whatever it is.
    • Nancy and Jonathan capture one. When they're not looking, it pops. Then its pulpy remains start crawling away, gradually reforming into something else...
  • Billy stumbles into the Upside-Down and comes out exhibiting symptoms of hyper-sensitivity and spontaneous scabs appearing on his body.
    • The attack itself is pretty terrifying. He's suddenly grabbed by the ankle and dragged into an abandoned warehouse where some kind of tentacle attaches to his face, all while he's screaming his head off.
      • Even more horrifying when you realize the shot of him grabbing at the doorframe before being pulled into the basement invokes the same shot of Barb's final moments alive.
    • Later on we see him abducting an entire family and offering them to some gory monstrosity, which turns out to be a physical body for the Mind Flayer. His rapey-sounding dialogue before they're flayed doesn't help.
  • Eleven searching for Heather on the astral plane. It starts out okay, with El finding a red door, venturing through it, and finding a mysterious bathtub full of ice water, but no Heather. Then Heather bursts out of the tub, sees El, and begs for help. She's then dragged by something back into the tub, which promptly dissolves into smoke. El then sees Heather dragged straight down into the depths of the water of the astral plain. To repeat, the water that had always been mostly window dressing that El had walked on top of actually has depth, something El clearly didn't know. Even as she sees Heather dragged down, she tries to go after her by sticking her head under the water, but cannot hope to reach her in time. El is therefore forced to watch as Heather is mentally drowned as she is flayed in the real world, with both women screaming the whole time.
  • Billy and Heather brutally knocking out and kidnapping her parents in an eerily efficient and all too realistic manner.
  • The Mind Flayer is back, and with it comes a whole new slew of horrors.
    • We see what happens when it decides to "flay" someone, beginning with a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong from one of its tentacles. From there, the flayed slowly begin to lose any sense of control, feasting on chemicals and cleaning supplies. After a certain period of time, they are called back to the Steelmill for the Mind Flayer to liquefy them into a disgusting sludge to absorb into itself.
    • Even worse as in Billy's case it seems the flayed are self-aware but that the Mind Flayer is just too strong to be beaten. Anytime it's met with resistance it focuses itself upon you and forces you to do its will. Which makes their inevitable "repurposing" all the worse to think about.
    • The Mind Flayer's Evil Gloating, coupled with the various shots of Billy's "recruits" walking into the Steelmill to add to its own body, is absolutely chilling.
    You shouldn't have looked for me. Because now I see you. Now we can all see you. You... let us in. And now, you are going to have to let us stay. Don't you see? All this time, we've been building it! We've been building it... for you. All that work. All that pain. All of it for you. And now it's time. Time to end it. And we're going to end you. And when you are gone, we are going to end your friends. And then we are going to end... everyone.
  • When the Mind Flayer is stalking the kids in the mall, it hears Dustin's voice on the walkie-talkie. Instead of just smashing it or ignoring it as an animal would, it picks it up with one of its tentacles, manages to turn it on, and fucking roars into it, frightening Dustin and Erica on the other end. This shows yet again that it's not a mindless beast, but an intelligent, spiteful being that wants Dustin to know that it's coming for him and his friends, and it's going to make him suffer. It wasn't just a roar, it was a warning - a warning that's all too clear: "You are next!" The Mind Flayer doesn't just want to kill the Party just because they're a threat to its plans. The Mind Flayer wants to kill the Party because it utterly despises them.
  • The Body Horror is absolutely amped up this season, and even that's putting it lightly; the result is terror incarnate.
  • Eleven makes use of her snooping ability recreationally, which highlights just how scary her powers are. Imagine being Mike and knowing you can never comfortably talk about her in case she is just happening to be watching you at the moment.
    • Conversely, you’re said kid with ESP, using your powers on random people. Surprise! You’re eavesdropping on a kidnapping and what’s possibly some girl’s last moments before something horrible is about to happen. Worse yet... one of the perpetrators looks back and sees you!
  • Grigori the assassin may be human, but he's by far one of the scariest characters in the show, with his cold, ruthless nature. He ain't a walking homage to the Terminator for nothing.
  • The real reason Nancy and Jonathan were fired becomes apparent as the season goes on. Tom, head of the Hawkins Post, was flayed (courtesy of his own daughter), thus becoming yet another flesh proxy for the Mind Flayer. When the Flayer/Tom caught wind that the two teens were investigating Mrs. Driscoll's case (as she was also flayed), he fired them, claiming that the paper was being sued by Mrs. Driscoll's familynote . The Mind Flayer was using Tom to prevent Nancy and Jonathan from foiling its plot to take over the world by keeping the residents of Hawkins oblivious, thus giving them more unsuspecting victims.
  • After the party escapes to the mall, and after Eleven saves Steve, Robin, Dustin and Erica from the Soviets, the bite that El got from the Mind Flayer starts acting up, with a piece of it crawling around inside her leg. Jonathan performs some impromptu surgery on her, with special mention going to him digging around under her skin with his fingers.
  • The mid-credits scene in "The Battle of Starcourt" reveals that in a Soviet facility somewhere in Kamchatka, it seems like the hard work of the Russians paid off anyway, even with the heroes thwarting them. Two guards go down a hallway and then grab hold of a panicked prisoner, dragging him down an incredibly deep stairway as he struggles, and then toss him into a large holding pen at the bottom of the staircase. As he begs to be released from the pen, one of the guards opens up a small gate for an animal that's being held captive alongside the prisoner as it makes its way out. And it's revealed to be an adult Demogorgon that the Soviets have been feeding their prisoners (one of whom is implied to be Hopper) to, almost as if trying to tame it. The look of pure fear on the guy's face before he becomes this thing's latest meal... who can blame him?
    • This is the first time we’ve seen the Demogorgon in a long time as Season 2 didn’t have any either. It’s a chilling reminder how terrifying they still are and that they remain are at large.
    • Not only that but the Demogorgon seems... off. Its skin looks somewhat slicker than usual, and it has muscle and some internal organs exposed in places, almost as if the Russians removed its skin. Alternatively, it also seems larger overall and more heavily built than the season 1 Demogorgon, and the Upside Down doesn't seem particularly rich in prey; perhaps we are simply seeing what a Demogorgon looks like when well-fed.
  • Nancy and Jonathan running through the hospital is immensely creepy. Lights are flickering, dead bodies are everywhere, and flayed Tom and Bruce are casually chasing them with Slasher Smiles and casual Terms of Endangerment. It feels like something out of a slasher movie.

  • A comicbook tie-in chronicles Will's time in the Upside-Down. Long story short, he's just as confused and frightened as Joyce was.
    • During said comic's finale, right after Will is woken up in the hospital by Joyce and Jonathan, he has a "now-memory" for one panel, hallucinating that they are skeletons with hair and clothes.
  • The final trailer for Season 3 reveals that not only is the Mind Flayer apparently back, it seems to have taken Billy for a host—Billy, who is already something of a sociopath and the monster can probably only make him worse. It looks like the show may have its most terrifying antagonist yet.
    • Additionally, giving the Mind Flayer a voice does not make it any less creepy. Especially when that voice belongs to a nearly-purring Dacre Montgomery.
      You let us in. And now... you are going to have to let us stay.
  • After delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new trailer for Season 4 is released in May 2021…and it’s creepy, with Nothing Is Scarier used to great effect as seemingly innocent shots of kids playing in the lab quickly become unsettling as it shows that the kids are using their powers-then Dr. Brenner shows up.
  • The next teaser released for September 2021 showcases a quaint family in the Creel House in the late sixties, which cuts to the present where the Party, Steve and Robin are out exploring for various reasons. In a timelapse to the sixties, the little girl finds a dead rabbit and titular signs of the Upside Down interfering with the house, which soon leads to a scene with the kids dead and the father looking horrified, and in the cut to the present, completely abandoned. While the grandfather clock ticks away and then it cuts to the Upside Down, where the clock shatters due to some reason.

    Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds 

  • Just when you thought Terry Ives' Trauma Conga Line couldn't get any does.
  • The fate of Jane / El's biological father. To ensure he can never return to help Terry or get El back, Brenner sends him to Vietnam. Given the terrible conditions in Vietnam, this is horrible enough, but there's also the fact that Brenner planned for him to die there.


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