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Nightmare Fuel / The Empire Strikes Back

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"There's something not right here... I feel cold. Death."

  • The introductory scene of Executor, a.k.a. Super Star Destroyer. You remember how a standard-sized Star Destroyer is bigger than a rebel cruiser in A New Hope, right? And now, compared to Executor, these standard-sized Star Destroyers are dwarfed.
  • The beginning of the film where Luke and his tauntaun are attacked by a wampa. Plus there's the bit where Luke is hanging helpless from the ceiling while the wampa is gnawing on his tauntaun nearby, and, before he can grab his lightsaber, it looks up, pauses, then starts slowly advancing towards him.
  • Vader killing Admiral Ozzel. We've seen him use the Force-choke before, but this is more chilling because he's able to do it through a video screen! He doesn't even have to be in the same room to kill you, just establish a line of sight. What are the limits to this? Can he choke someone from across a galaxy? (As shown by Darth Sidious in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this is in fact possible.)
  • A quick bit is during the hologram meeting with Vader in the asteroid field. An asteroid blasts the bridge of a Destroyer in an exterior shot, then when we first see the meeting and Vader, one of the holographic officers disappears suddenly, before anyone starts talking. No one comments or reacts to this, of course. Vader doesn't care what or who is at risk, he wants to find that ship.
  • The very first thing the viewer sees of the now iconic AT-AT Walker is the foot of one through the grainy filter of one soldier's binoculars before panning up to the "head" of a massive lumbering metal beast the likes of which audiences had never seen before. Then he pulls back to zoom to reveal two more. The next time we see them there's five on screen and outside materials confirm that the number of AT-ATs is unknown but at least six total. Just one of these things instills dread in the rank and file and there's at least six.
    • The Battle of Hoth in general serves to show just why the Rebel Alliance has to stay on the run. They're hopelessly outgunned against the Empire. None of their guns can even penetrate the AT-ATs armor, they're being slaughtered by the bushel, they have to focus the majority of their strategic strength to maintaining their exit strategy with the battlefield troops mostly holding the line until evacuations are complete before bugging out themselves, and Darth fucking Vader is on field.
  • When Han starts flying the Millennium Falcon out of the asteroid field, only to discover that they were inside a giant space slug the entire time.
    • The Jump Scare that greets Leia when she hears a disturbance outside of the ship and inside the cave. A Mynock, a really creepy flying creature with a Lamprey Mouth, attaches itself to the window and screeches loudly at her.
    • Captain Needa losing sight of the Millennium Falcon, realizing that he's going to have to break the news to Darth "You Have Failed Me" Vader, and then visiting him to apologize anyway to take the heat for his subordinates. Cut to Vader forgiving Needa...after a fatal Force-choke. A reminder that serving in the Imperial military, especially in a position that requires you to answer directly to Vader, means having to stay on top of your game; a single mistake risks a swift and fatal discharge.
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  • Yoda of all people can make every kid (and some adults) piss themselves in horror, in a subtle yet deeply unnerving moment. Yoda is the apex of what a Jedi can be, and has faced the rage, fear, hatred, and sheer malevolence of the dark side, manifested by the worst and lowest sentient emotions, and he understands what Luke is up against far better than Luke himself does.
    Luke: I won't fail you. I'm not afraid.
    Yoda: (growls) You will be... You will be.
  • Luke going into the "dark side cave" on Dagobah. Once inside, he's soon met by a shocking hallucination of Vader. Terrified, Luke desperately attempts to fight back, eventually gaining the upper-hand and slicing Vader's head off. Vader's helmet lands in front of Luke, only to soon explode, revealing that the face underneath the mask was in fact Luke's, establishing that he's not as safe from the dark side as he would like to believe. Not only is the whole premise and context of this scene terrifying, but there's the added fact that the music in this scene is probably John Williams at his most bone-chilling and sinister, and of course there's the lifeless stare the severed Vader/Luke head gives off (shown right).
    • Not to mention that Hallucination!Vader's entrance and the helmet exploding are both well-placed jumpscares in a scene already fraught with tension. Watching it for the first time can be frightening to say the least.
    • The way the "fight" is filmed adds to it as well. It has a weird, creepy, grainy, slightly slow-motion quality, giving the whole scene a nightmare-like feel.
    • Star Wars Rebels provides a new layer of Fridge Horror to the hallucination. In another Jedi Temple that has Force hallucination trials, some Jedi Masters died waiting for their apprentices to return from the trials, setting up the implication that the hallucinations can be lethal as long as the one having them is afraid. In other words, Luke could have died if he didn't "kill" the Vader hallucination.
  • Han being tortured by Vader. When you're a kid who grew up used to the initial relative innocence of A New Hope, hearing Han's piercing howls of agony is as soul shaking as realizing the extent of the nightmare you are listening to. Worse, Vader has no reason to torture Leia, Han and Chewie except to send their pain through the Force and draw his son to Bespin.
    Han: They never even asked me any questions.
  • The moment when Luke, disregarding Obi-Wan and Yoda's warning that he has no chance against Darth Vader, leaves to help his friends in the Sith Lord's clutches. Specifically, when Yoda contradicts Obi-Wan's comment about Luke being their last chance with "No, There Is Another.'" At that point, your horror for Luke will spike when you realize the kid has just lost his Plot Armor.
  • The whole carbon freezing scene. The atmosphere is, frankly, hellish, with red lights and steam galore. Han's forced into the chamber after sharing a last kiss with Leia, the process starts, he's obscured by the carbon mist. When the process is complete a claw reaches in, pulls out a slab, it's pushed over and lands hard with a clang - first part of a double shock, because we have a lovely close up of Han's face, frozen in pain and fear, trying to ward off his fate despite himself. Lando specifically says the process can kill him and that Vader is testing it to make sure it won't kill Luke. Luke proceeds to get stuck in the carbon freezer as Vader pulls the switch. Thank God Luke got out of there in time and didn't suffer the same fate Han did. The novelization makes it worse-he's still conscious!
  • Luke enters the carbon freezing chamber. Everything is deathly silent. Then the breathing sound begins, and Luke looks up to see the Dark Lord of the Sith in all his terrifying glory:
    Vader: The Force is with you, Skywalker. . .but you are not a Jedi yet.
  • The climactic duel between Luke and Vader is one of the foremost examples in the 'PG' category of film. The carbon-freezing chamber is soullessly industrial and filled with an infernal light. Vader appears as a silhouette, the monotone breathing underlying his Breaking Speech. Vader toys with the hero enough to establish the hopelessness of his battle, at one point leaping as if to crush him underfoot. When Luke loses line of sight, he's suddenly met with a Jump Scare - Vader had turned off his Vader Breath, lain in wait, then activated his saber and struck in a single motion. Then Vader starts to beat Luke to a pulp with Force-flung objects: the windows are blown out and the final showdown occurs in hostile winds, over a bottomless abyss. Vader backs Luke onto a fragile perch and hacks his weapon hand off (Mark Hamill really sold the horror and excruciation of being maimed with his anguished scream.) There is no hope for victory, our protagonist is helpless.
    Vader: There is no escape. Don't Make Me Destroy You.
  • The bestial roar of rage Vader makes when Luke manages to deal him a flesh wound to the shoulder is pretty creepy, not least because it goads Vader onto the attack that costs Luke his hand.
  • Then there's Vader's wham line, one of the biggest in the entire series. Imagine that you just found out that your dad, who you thought was killed by the evil overlord, who then killed your mentor and possibly had your aunt and uncle killed too, just cut your hand off and is standing in front of you, is that evil overlord. And he wants you to join him.
    Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
    Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
    Vader: No. I am your father.
    Luke: (in absolute horror)'s not true...that's impossible!
  • How about the part where Luke is hanging for dear life from the underside of Cloud City? Not only was there no way for him to get back up, but there was no one nearby to save him! If it weren't for his use of the Force to send Leia back for him, he would've been close to falling down through a gas giant, i.e. a planet with no solid ground whatsoever. Suffocate or die of ever-increasing air pressure: take your pick.
  • Say what you will about the special edition edits, but Ian McDiarmid's face isn't quite as scary as the Emperor's old face
    • That's not the face of the actor who voiced the Emperor (Clive Revill) - from the nose down it's actually an old woman. From the nose up? A chimpanzee. Those sunken, glossy, not-quite-human eyes are straight out of the Uncanny Valley.
    • Similar to seeing the Super Star Destroyer dwarfing all of the impossibly huge Star Destroyers not much earlier in the film, the Emperor's very existence is horrifying when you compare him to Darth Vader. In the first movie, Vader was held back by orders and deferred to Tarkin, who was "holding his leash". In this film, he's large and in charge, taking command as he slaughters Rebels by the hundreds, and being judge, jury and executioner if any of his men fail. Vader spends the first half-hour of the film as the most terrifying man in the galaxy, but when the Emperor summons him, he goes on his knees and calls him "Master." How powerful is this man to make Vader pay such homage?
  • Our first view of Vader's head. Piett comes in to Vader's chambers and sees the black helmet being lowered on to a pale, scarred head that's supported by a black metal collar. Until the movies Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith came out, we could only guess at the extent of Vader's disfigurement. In-Universe as well—in the Novelization, Piett sees the back of Vader's head and worries that he might have seen something he shouldn't and will suffer the same fate as Ozzel. Good thing Vader wasn't in a killing mood.
  • There's the moment when the Millennium Falcon slips away with the waste dump from the Star Destroyer they were hiding on. For a moment, it seems that Han has truly given the Empire the slip. Unfortunately, one of those pieces suddenly rights itself and fires its engines to follow the Rebels. In seconds, you learn that it is Boba Fett and you realize that, unknown to the Rebels, their escape attempt has failed and Vader will now have the advantage as soon as Boba tells him where the ship is likely going.


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