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Nightmare Fuel / Terminator 2: Judgment Day

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From Sarah Connor's nightmares to yours!

"You think you're safe and alive? You're already dead! Everybody! Him, you, you're dead already! This whole place! Everything you see is gone!"
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Just because Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an Actionised Sequel, doesn't mean that its predecessor's horror elements have been stripped away.

WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.


  • Sarah's nightmare (as seen in the picture to the right), which depicts a chillingly realistic portrayal of a nuclear holocaust. Even the crew was disturbed during filming.
    • In fact, James Cameron got fan mail from scientists who worked on atomic weapons thanking and praising him for the most realistic portrayal of a nuclear detonation in movies at that time.note  He was rightly horrified (and also a bit proud of it).
    • Nobody seems to ever describe Sarah's nightmare (although to be fair, it is that creepy), but for those who don't want to see the clip: Sarah is just standing behind a fence, looking at a park filled with happy people and children. She beats at the fence in horror and fear, but nothing comes out of her mouth. Then the nuke is dropped. Cue Sarah, those kids, and their parents horribly burning from the effects of the nuke as the aftershock blows through Los Angeles, turning everything into ash and dust, all while Sarah's body (that is gripping onto the fence) explodes into a skeleton. Sweet dreams!
      • Only one parent in the playground notices Sarah, and it's a younger version of herself. She's not the hardened figure we know but a more traditional motherly figure, likely a symbol of Sarah's fear of complacency (she's even wearing her waitress uniform from the first movie). The baby she's playing with is actually John. The confused glance she gives makes it seem like she can hear her real-world counterpart screaming, but can't actually see her.
      • Or maybe she can see her, but chose to ignore her.
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    • The kicker comes at the very end, after Sarah has been vaporized. The howling wind and fire looks and sounds like nothing less than the literal Fire and Brimstone Hell. It is a very small consolation that it only lasts a few seconds, because even that is downright chilling.
      • And can easily be mistaken as Sarah still screaming even as a skeleton.
    • While massively overshadowed by the nuclear explosion itself, even the first version of the nightmare can be pretty unsettling since, after Kyle's departure, it plays out like a textbook false awakening where one-by-one details just seem to be off. Not only does Sarah wake up in an orderly room (she ransacked it in the real world) and wearing something different than what she fell asleep in, but the entire facility is deserted and seems to be bathed in perpetual sunrise/sunset. Then, she leaves the facility to find herself at the park...and, upon looking behind her, finds the building has vanished. These experiences are often unnerving in Real Life, having you go through the usual morning motions (shower, breakfast, etc) while a sense of apprehension builds, eventually culminating in a Catapult Nightmare.

  • How about the first five minutes? Where you see human civilization at the dawn of the 1990s as it appeared in Los Angeles. Cars on the freeway, people coming and going. And then a masterful Match Cut: Just the definition of a Nightmare Fuel wasteland, with a horde of T-800s and H-Ks hunting humans.
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    • In a Mythology Gag to the first movie, there's a shot of the Bad Future early on, where we see actual disguise-free T-800s on the march. It starts with a focus on a bleached human skull under a dark sky seconds before a mechanical, skeletal foot crushes it to powder, and is almost as impactful as the scene of the Hunter-Killers rumbling through the ruins from the first film.
    • It's bad enough the first time, when it simply fades to white and we later have Sarah recounting what happens to the people struck by the light to her psychiatrist. What's worse is the Special Edition, where we see Sarah having a reprise of it while gathering weapons in Mexico; here, we get to see the people, and Sarah herself, incinerated and then vaporized—that's where this page's (former) header image comes from.

  • The opening credits very much count, showing the world (even a park) in flames that never seem to extinguish, showing the horrors that will be entailed if Skynet is to go online and self-aware, putting a capstone to the above examples. Hell, the close-up of the T-800 skull is the header image of the general Nightmare Fuel page.

  • Sarah's fate when we see her in this movie: Locked away in a mental institute where people treat her as crazy, even though she knows that the actual truth is coming. What's worse is the fact her psychiatrist, Dr. Silberman, was also present at the police station massacre and he keeps on insisting she's as crazy as he thought Kyle Reese was.
    • Almost making things worse is the potential Paranoia Fuel. What if Silberman is deliberately stymying Sarah's efforts to free herself because he knows she's not crazy, but the thought of having to admit that he was wrong, that the mechanical, time-traveling monsters she spoke of really do exist, is just too personally horrifying for him? That is, he's choosing to ignore reality and is forcing Sarah, one of the last hopes for humanity, to be imprisoned just so he can cling to his delusions of ignorant bliss?
      • And we can even see the effects on Silberman in Rise of the Machines. He has clearly been traumatized by the events of Judgment Day and seeing the fight between the T-1000 and the T-800. He speaks as though reality has flipped on its head and runs in terror when he sees the T-850.
    • What if Silberman is on Skynet's side?
    • Even worse (and confirmed in the T2 novel trilogy by SM Stirling), Silberman's (probably) well-intentioned treatment with loads of drugs is actually making Sarah crazy.
    • Note, also, that Sarah's care and that of the other patients is entrusted to a facility where the psychologists are too unobservant to notice that one of their own staff enjoys licking stuporous patients' faces.
    • Silberman wasn't present at the massacre. He left the police station just before the massacre happened and didn't even spot the Terminator because he was checking his pager as it walked past him.

  • You spend your youth under the care of a "survivalist/terrorist" who insists that machines from the future will try to kill you. Then, when she is finally captured and institutionalized, you are thrust into the world of foster care. THEN, one day, in the narrow confines of a mall's service corridors, you come face to face with the very thing she certainly described to you in detail. And it just pulled out a shotgun.

  • Sarah's encounter with the Terminator as she tries to escape the mental hospital. She's just pulled off a daring escape, but seeing him—the face of a decade of running and the thing that's going to bring about the apocalypse—come out of the elevator sends her right back to her captors.
    Sarah: He'll kill us all!
    • As she runs away, she hears the voice of her son. Given the Terminator's ability to mimic voices, and what it does to the people it mimics, imagine what she is thinking.
      • Especially when you recall that in the first film, the Terminator killed Sarah's mother and mimicked her voice. Sarah had no idea at the time.
    • It's also noteworthy that this scene was also the only time in the entire film she's completely paralyzed by fear to the point of trying to run away—even when facing the T-1000, she was still looking for ways to defend herself or fight back.

  • An escaped mental patient with a history of violence and known to have previously attacked tech companies launches an attack on one of the biggest ones. She is aided by both her delinquent son and a cyborg who matches the description of a cop killer from 1984 that was apparently immune to any conventional weapons, and who's still taking their bullets without flinching. Just try to tell these guys they overreacted by sending everybody and everything they had after him. No, they didn't; even that wasn't enough.

  • Shading into Fridge Horror, when we see the motorcycle cop pull up to the T-1000, the scene ends with the T-1000 telling him "Say, that's a nice bike." Knowing the T-1000's standard operating procedure, that was almost certainly the last thing that guy ever heard. Almost.
    • The T-1000 in general is pretty nasty. While the T-800s just kill because it's the most efficient way to complete their assignments, the T-1000 shows hints of having a malicious personality. There's very little that could destroy him and many of his victims weren't an actual hindrance to his mission, yet he kills them without a moment's hesitation. His torture of Sarah also seemed pretty senseless unless he gained some pleasure out of her suffering.

  • The T-1000 commandeering the police chopper at Cyberdyne after charging at it from the top floor on a motorbike. Confronting the pilot, he doesn't even quite finish his return to "human" form or even bother skewering him like all the others; instead, he, in a Call-Back to the first movie when the T-800 commandeers a semi; simply tells him this:
    T-1000: Get out.
    • Then that's exactly what that terrified pilot does. Mid-air.
      • Probably the worst part of that, as with the motorcycle cop above, is that we don't see what happens next: whether he survived the fall or not, and how badly injured he was on the off chance that he did.

  • The T-1000, full stop, and also doubling as Paranoia Fuel. Let's recap: It can be anyone it touches, impersonate your family and your friends to get to you. It can become other objects, so that chair or that table in the corner could well be him, and when someone sits down on it, it's sampled them so now it can look like them. It can perfectly mimic human expression and emotion to blend in perfectly with normal society. It understands how to actually look for you by getting pictures and asking people where you are and searching for your personal data on computers. It understands how to manipulate people, torturing them or playing on their fears. When it finds you, it doesn't need a weapon; it is a weapon, turning its fingers and hands into knives, blades, or hooks as it chases you down. Like the other Terminators, it will not stop until you are dead, and destroying it is pretty much impossible unless you have a vat of molten metal nearby. And on top of it all, it poses as a cop chasing a child. Able to be anyone, anywhere, without being detected, never stopping, impossible to reason with, and all it wants to do is kill you—it's about as basic and terrifying as a boogeyman can be.
    • Perfectly summing it up is when John calls his foster parents, Todd and Janelle, and the T-1000 has taken their place. The only reason he isn't lured into a trap is because the T-1000 didn't know their dog's name.
      • The horrific image that confirms Janelle really was the T-1000 in disguise. The camera pans slowly to the right showing the T-1000's left arm formed into a "sword" impaling Todd through his mouth and out the back of his head. Good Lord. note 
    • There is also the image of it facing the screen running: The smooth, mechanical stride and the stone-faced determination on its face with absolutely no sign of fatigue is the stuff of nightmares as a relentless killing machine who is after you.
    • Robert Patrick's performance as the T-1000 is what makes the character really come together. It can pull off regular human speech almost normally, but the tone and delivery are just barely cold and lifeless enough (even when it's trying to sound pleasant) that it doesn't quite sound human. It's like a vocal Uncanny Valley effect, and it works so well that it makes the T-1000 way more terrifying than if they had given it a HAL-9000 style conversational tone.
    • Even its arrival in our time is Nightmare Fuel mixed with Fridge Horror, as we know it is made of liquid metal but only living tissue (or cyborgs surrounded by living tissue) can travel through time. So how was it "packaged" to arrive?
      • It mimicked the basic chemicals that make up flesh.
      • That doesn't make any sense; metal made to look like flesh is still metal. It was probably packaged in a flesh-balloon, like a mercury-stuffed turkey.
      • Good thing that's an off-screen detail, then. Because few things could possibly invoke the Uncanny Valley more effectively than real human skin grown into an unnatural shape like a balloon.
    • To add one more bit of horror to this abomination (as if it needed more), Expanded Universe material and Word of God reveals WHY the T-1000 isn't the standard troop of Skynet: Even Skynet is afraid of them because of how smart and fast-learning they are. note 
  • The T-1000's first attempt on John's life ends with the truck it's driving getting blown up in a nod to the first movie. Just like with the first terminator, this doesn't kill it. Unlike the first terminator, this doesn't even scratch it.

  • The death of the T-1000. It was just so utterly surreal and somehow completely lacked the satisfaction that should have come with seeing that thing killed...
    • When it blows up, it looks like a mangled abomination like something straight out of The Thing.
    • We see it thrown into a vat of molten metal, and the thing undergoes a hideous Shapeshifter Swan Song, shifting rapidly between its previous forms in an effort to escape. Finally, it becomes just this bubbling, distorted face that turns itself inside out before it finally sinks into the molten metal and dissolves.
    • And then there's the horrific screeches it makes. It may be a machine, but it could be interpretated that the T-1000 is experiencing absolute agony as it fries.
    • Most likely, yes. It exhibited shock and horror earlier as it looked at the stump of its frozen arm. The shooting script even specifies that T-1000's silently screaming in pain.

  • Also, there's the T-1000's Leitmotif. It's starts as one long, single, ominous tone played repeatedly almost coming off sounding like a slow alarm from Hell.

  • When the T-800 is telling Sarah and John how Skynet comes to be. The entire scene is terrifying because of how it plays on your paranoia that machines can become self-aware and wipe out their creators. Plus Arnold's monotone really does make it scarier, especially when he is telling how the future will turn out bad. We also find out that Skynet only decided all humans are a threat after its creators tried to destroy it in a panic because it became self-aware, making the attempted genocide of humanity an extreme self-defense move.
    • This is even worse in context: Judgment Day was made right after The Cold War and takes place in 1995 with the Red Scare still in people's minds. And it wasn't Skynet responsible for the nuclear holocaust; it was Russia, merely retaliating against the use of American weapons. Manipulative Bastard much?

  • The T-800 running a knife along his arm so calmly before tearing the skin off sent chills down many a spine when it was first seen. When he runs it up his arm is the creepy part. No wonder John took Danny out of the room...
    • What makes it scarier is that, at first, Miles, like his wife, is grossed out seeing this man before him cutting his own arm up, but upon seeing the endoskeleton arm, which looks like the exact same arm he's been studying, his look is a mix of awe from being able to see the finished result to sheer terror. Arnie's just calmly testing his mechanical arm, while Miles' wife is absolutely hysterical, screaming and crying and tugging on her husband, because she probably knows that this horrific thing is what her good, loving husband's work that he toils at day after day is helping create.

  • Miles' situation. Even without finding out that his work was indirectly responsible for the rise of a malevolent machine out to exterminate humanity and the nuclear holocaust it unleashes, this was just your regular office worker, working late at home, surrounded by his loving family, when a violent escaped mental patient starts shooting up his home with an assault rifle with his young boy just barely outside the line of fire. Then Sarah breaks into the house, hell-bent on killing him (and, for all he knows, his family) and he has absolutely no idea why this nightmare is happening to his family.
    • Not to mention Miles's son's situation: having the only home he's ever known shot to pieces, being rushed from the room by his terrified mother, seeing his father injured, trying to shield him from an oncoming killer as he pleads for his father's life, being shoved away for his own protection by his bleeding dad. Danny is eleven or twelve, tops.
    • This is an oft-overlooked aspect of any time travel story. Your future is completely fucked and the only way you can see it being fixed is to go back in time and kill the man who caused it, regardless of how long ago that was and what the man himself was like or what his intentions were. Maybe the best time to kill him is the rare occasion he leaves the office to spend time with his family, playing with his children in the park...

  • Minor compared to everything else, but does anyone else feel a stab of terror and sorrow at what the T-800 does to a very effective, professionally trained, and experienced LAPD SWAT team? Imagine, you are the best of the best outside a military force, you are trained to handle the worst of society. The best gear, the best training, your years of experience as a peace officer, determined to stand and fight against the darkness inside humanity. But here is this unstoppable juggernaut, slowly walking through your combined fire that should be dropping him like a stone, calmly eyeing your positions before drawing a handgun and effectively crippling you with precise single shots, possibly ending your careers and leaving you with nightmares for years to come of what that...THING might have done to you and your fellow officers if it didn't even care about the concept of mercy. And it was never seen again. That's some next-level PTSD ruining lives, despite physically living. Death may have been a kinder mercy.

  • One from the Extreme Edition DVD: The main menu. It starts with an animation of Cyberdyne's T-800 factory, which isn't too scary, but what is scary is the menu itself. It shows the T-1000's true form, just staring at the viewer, with his droning Leitmotif in the background...and it still stares at you if you go to the options. And, if you play the movie, he stabs the screen with his finger weapon. But what's especially horrifying is what happens if you linger on the menu: At random intervals, and out of goddamn nowhere, a T-800 endoskeleton will walk into the screen and just stare at you before leaving. It seems like every Terminator in the factory is out for blood...

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