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Nightmare Fuel / The Force Awakens

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"I will finish what you started!"
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The Sith may be destroyed, and Palpatine may be dead, but this saga still has bucket-loads of stuff that can make its viewers lie shivering in bed at night.

WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.


The Film

  • As the First Order raids the Jakku village in the beginning, it seems like we're going to focus on Poe's fight. But it stops to linger on a stormtrooper he just shot as Finn strides up in the chaos. He tries to keep the trooper steady, only for said trooper to leave a bloodstain on his mask as he tries to grip it and fall dead. Finn tries to rouse his comrade up before realizing that this is happening all around him. Even without having seen his face yet, you can feel the terror in him as he panics and darts around trying to just stay alive until either side gives up. When the Order is victorious and Kylo Ren orders the execution of the survivors, he's so horrified and distraught that he can't stomach the idea of pulling the trigger, an action that nearly gets him psychologically tortured into conformity had he not saved Poe.
    • More subtly, when Finn, clearly in shock, later takes his helmet off after the troopers return to the Star Destroyer, Phasma coldly scolds him for removing it without permission...and orders him to undergo "reconditioning" just for that. The First Order is so fascist that just removing a piece of gear, even while not in combat, is seen as insubordination.

  • The sight of Darth Vader's charred helmet (the page image above). It doesn't help that with its bone-white coloration, dark, empty eye-holes; melted mouthpiece, and the nose-socket shaped hole directly above said nose piece, the helmet resembles a grimacing skull. Neither does the fact that a soft piece of "The Imperial March" plays as it appears. And if you listen closely, you can hear Vader's trademark breathing, except that this one is even lower-pitched and drawn out to the point it sounds like, appropriately enough, a spirit wailing from beyond the grave.

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  • Hux's speech prior to Starkiller Base being tested can be pretty chilling and unnerving since it's like it was ripped from the Nazi German film Triumph of the Will, particularly when he's yelling at the end.
    Hux: ALL REMAINING SYSTEMS WILL BOW TO THE FIRST ORDER! AND WILL REMEMBER THIS...AS THE LAST DAY...OF THE REPUBLIC!!!

  • We get to see Starkiller Base in action, and it's worse than the Death Star.
    • With one shot, it wipes out an entire inhabited system, and the beam splits apart in order to hit each planet. It's made even worse in that we see the attack incoming on the planet it shoots, with civilians on the planet only able to look on in horror as an unstoppable force of death approaches them. Doubles as Tear Jerker.
    • The above aspect of Starkiller Base is made even worse by the way it's shown. At first, when the cannon fires, it appears to only use one shot for one planet, as the Death Star did. And then we see the massive beam split into five...and then the reveal of five separate planets...and it's then that the real Oh, Crap! moment starts.
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    • Since Starkiller Base eats stars to power its massive cannon, it actually destroys two star systems with every shot. It gets worse: According to Pablo Hidalgo (curator of the franchise's continuity), what is seen in the skies above Takodana is a tear in hyperspace itself made by the weapon. So it doesn't just destroy two star systems in one go, it also causes galaxy-wide environmental damage.
    • Finn's expression when he looks up in the sky to see the beam of light, horror as he realizes that the First Order has that thing working. Han looks even more thrown when he sees the balls of flame in the sky that were once planets. Even the various smugglers and crooks on the planet are all jarred by the sight, realizing something has gone very wrong.
    • Even worse, at the moment Finn looks up, you can hear terrified screams of a massive crowd—screams that repeat themselves once we get our look at the end of Hosnian Prime. No one else around Finn even noticed what was happening.
    • The novelization throws in even more drama as Leia nearly collapses feeling the shockwaves through the Force of billions of people wiped out. It also brings back the memories of her own beloved Alderaan.
    • While the Death Star needed to get within range of its target before it could fire its weapon, Starkiller Base can strike any world in the Galaxy at any time regardless of location. Had the Resistance failed to destroy it, nothing would have stopped the First Order from conquering what's left of the Republic.
    • There's the nature of Starkiller Base itself: Unlike previous superweapons, it's not a space station or a really big ship; it's literally built from the planet it's based on. The First Order gutted an entire world and turned it into an instrument of genocide.
      • Furthermore, the Visual Dictionary reveals that the First Order exterminated all indigenous lifeforms on the planet prior to constructing Starkiller, having learned from Endor.
    • Just to emphasize the point of just how big Starkiller Base is, during a Resistance mission briefing, Poe shows a holographic model of the Death Star, followed by Starkiller Base for size comparison. The Death Star, once a fearsome weapon and a symbol of power of the Galactic Empire, is dwarfed by Starkiller Base's cannon alone.
    • And then there's the havoc the use of Starkiller Base would wreak on systems throughout the galaxy. They are absorbing the matter of a star and shooting it at other systems. This is firmly straddling Class X-2 and Class X-3 Apocalypse How. An entire system was robbed of its star, possibly snuffing several planets. That matter is fired at another system to destroy other planets. Then, because a system's center of gravity was violently ejected, its dying worlds are just going to fly off in all directions. Even in the system where Starkiller Base was destroyed, all it did was essentially cause that system's sun to reconstitute in a different center of gravity, which will still wreak all sorts of havoc on that system's planets, possibly all the way up to multiple Class X calamities.
    • For some mild eldritch horror, this is a galaxy we are talking about. That means the beams are traveling light-years away (for reference, the closest solar system to ours is little over four light-years away) at what seems to be a speed faster than light. Keep in mind it takes about four hours for the Sun's light to get to Pluto. It sure looked like it went pretty far in a very short amount of time. That can be explained by the above mentioned space (and thus time) warp factor. It is bending all of space-time to travel hundreds of thousands of kilometers in seconds to cause a galactic apocalypse across known space. The result of millions of years of evolution and history gone in moments, with the added bonus of tearing reality apart. Fantastic. Note that The Force Awakens Restructured fixes this scientific blunder by moving the destruction of the Hosnian system to immediately after Han Solo's death.
    • How exactly is Starkiller Base powered? By slowly absorbing an entire sun. And not just absorbing all the radiation from it, no, by completely sucking it out of existence. So the only warning you'd get of a Starkiller attack is through your sun disappearing, and by a massive red plasma beam heading your way.
    • It's even worse. In one hand, if one trusts in the novelization, Starkiller Base sucks stars...but instead of firing their remains as plasma, the poor stars are used as a power source to scoop dark energy and transform it to phantom energy, which is fired to the target, disrupting space-time at galactic scale in the process and causing a small Big Rip on the targets, not leaving even an asteroid field and scattering its subatomic particles across all the Universe. On the other, the Death Star's super-laser at least instant-killed; the beam traveled very fast, and the planet was wiped out at the moment, with at best a warning when the Death Star popped up close to its target. Starkiller's plasma/phantom energy/whatever moves considerably slower, giving those in the planet a few seconds of terror before annihilation (remember the scenes of the destruction of the Hosnian system, as stated above), the destruction of the target planets took several seconds, and as stated also above, you don't get to at least see what sent that stuff to destroy your planet.
    • The entire concept of converting an entire planet into a mega-Death Star. The cannon from which the super-laser is shot from? That hole is most likely the size of the first Death Star. And we've seen what the Death Star is capable of.

  • We get to see yet another one of the galaxy's deadly creatures in the form of the rathtar. Hell, they look like something H. P. Lovecraft would come up with.
    • This is an octopus-like monstrosity that turns ten minutes of the movie into a horror film as everyone (both heroes and villains) try to stay alive while avoiding them. Sometime before the film, the Trillia Massacre apparently took place and involved rathtars (an event that is seemingly so horrible, Finn thinks it's a mercy that Rey hasn't heard of it). Han was delivering a few of these things to King Prana for his zoo (and according to supplementary material, Prana wanted them just because his political rival didn't have rathtars in his zoo and having rathtars would give himself a political advantage) and the rest of his "bigger crew" was eaten while just getting them on board the Eravana.
    • The rathtars also swallow a few pirates during their rampage, and it's...not explicit or gory. Just a flash of a tongue and jaws, a big gulping sound, and their prey is gone (hopefully dead, but probably not). Just how suddenly these things can eat live adult humans, many in combat armor, makes one wonder why the hell anybody would want them in a zoo, of all places (and given Prana's reasoning mentioned above, another question to ask is what kind of king is he?).
    • We also get a lovely view of their gaping maws, courtesy of one that latched onto the Falcon's cockpit. It's essentially an organic meat-grinder crammed with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth, designed to mince its prey until it can fit down a tiny gullet. Those men they swallowed did not die cleanly.
    • Rey gets a close look at what happens when you get caught by one and she is utterly horrified.
    • Oh yeah, and these things are part of the same family of animals as the Sarlacc. It really says something that these things manage to be more horrifying then their stationary cousins despite their much smaller size. If there's any silver lining, there doesn't seem to be any confirmation that it digests its prey alive for anywhere near as long as the Sarlacc.

  • Kylo Ren is, by far, one of the saga's creepiest villains:
    • In the film's backstory, he killed Luke's Jedi students before joining the Knights of Ren. Luke's inability to stop this tragedy was so traumatic that he abandoned his quest of teaching a new generation to search for Jedi knowledge in exile.
    • His first atrocity takes place not five minutes into the movie, where he orders the deaths of an entire village on Jakku after getting what he wants. It's made even more unsettling with how readily all of the stormtroopers (sans Finn) comply.
    • The moment Kylo first shows Rey his face. We've already seen what he's capable of, so she would be forgiven for thinking he must be as ugly and twisted on the outside as he is on the inside, like the Emperor or Vader, but no. He removes his mask and reveals...a pale, rather unassuming young man. Rey is not underwhelmed by this; she is shocked because the "creature" turns out to look like anybody else. He could blend in amidst a crowd. Now that's pretty chilling.
    • As noted in the Awesome section, Kylo's sheer potential as a Dark Side user is terrifying. Let's count the ways: He's got vast potential with the Force if his lineage as a grandchild of Anakin Skywalker AKA The Chosen One has anything to do with it, has the physical stamina to fight a very prolonged battle despite heavy wounds, has enough skill with the Force to stop blaster bolts in mid-air as well as retrieve information from deep within the minds of his victims (with some effort, demonstrated by his mind-probing on Poe), and is knowledgeable enough to forge a lightsaber that, despite being clearly cobbled together and housing a cracked crystal (hence the unstable blade), can still take on a relic of the golden age of the Jedi built by one of its finest. What's really horrifying is that, according to Supreme Leader Snoke, he's still in training.
    • Snoke is guiding him to avoid a fate similar to Vader's, who failed the Dark Side through his love for his son. Kylo is making sure this doesn't happen to him by trying to murder his own family. By killing his father Han, he managed to conquer his emotions in devotion to the Dark Side that even Vader himself could not. The implication this has for the future: His next target will almost certainly be Leia, and he'll be less conflicted about it next time.
      • Kylo's power is supplemented by his angst. His power becomes even more terrifying when taking his rage into account. Since the Dark Side thrives on emotion, he could very well be the Force version of the Hulk.
    • Whenever things don't go his way, he switches on his lightsaber and starts furiously cutting through random walls and presumably-valuable equipment. Anyone in the same room as him just freezes with fear as they watch him take out his anger in seriously unhealthy ways, and anyone who hears him from down the hall turns back the other way.
    • He uses the Force to extract secrets from Resistance members. When he does this, we hear a low-frequency metallic drone and a grinding, rumbling noise like a rock slide. Imagine that happening inside your skull, and you'll see why even Poe eventually gave in. This "memory ripping" seems to match a Legends power called "Torture by Chagrin," in which the user sifts through and recalls the victim's most negative memories, from merely embarrassing moments to events that induce soul-crushing despair, and repeats them at the forefront of the mind, again and again and again (think the Dementors from Harry Potter), until the prisoner snaps and reveals the necessary information.
    • Kylo stalking Rey through the forest at a walking pace as she scrambles away, which is very evocative of a longer confrontation with Luke's Force Vision on Dagobah.
    • Kylo torturing Rey, when he dredges up what was almost certainly one of her few good memories of growing up on Jakku and uses it to hurt her: Her potential Force visions of Luke's island, which he tosses in her face with unhinged intensity. That, plus his profoundly weird demeanor toward her in the same scenes, verging on molestation, is scary as hell.
    • The novelization has Leia reveal that Snoke was watching Ben Solo from birth, always lurking in the shadows and trying to manipulate him. The notion of some evil, twisted thing stalking your child is terrifying by itself, but him doing it specifically to turn him evil is eerily reminiscent of child grooming, which turns it into pure Adult Fear.
    • Making the above worse is the fact that Snoke was doing it so subtly, nobody noticed until it was too late to help Ben.
    • As Yoda said "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it control your destiny". Kylo looks like he's asking Han to kill him and almost lets him do it, only to gut him with his lightsaber. The look on his face shows that he's crossed the Moral Event Horizon.

  • When Poe is brought aboard the Star Destroyer, the stunned look on his face shows that he (and, by extension, the Resistance and the Republic) had no idea the First Order was this advanced in their military build-up and that they're an even bigger threat than imagined.

  • We don't see the full torture that Kylo conducts on Poe, but the fact that it was enough to break the defiant and proud pilot indicates it must have been horrific to force him to give up that information.

  • Snoke himself. His face doesn't look right. This is helped by having a Face Framed in Shadow, and Andy Serkis implying that his long-term plans are far more complex than anyone could imagine. His droning, ethereal leitmotif also helps the scare factor, particularly when one considers that it matches Darth Plagueis' theme from the prequels.
    • The first time we see Snoke, it appears that he's a giant. It's soon revealed that the Snoke we see is just a hologram, leaving us to only hope that he's not actually that big...

  • Luke/Anakin's old lightsaber. When Rey first grabs it, she experiences Luke's trauma from his first fight with Vader (you can even faintly hear his Big "NO!" from The Empire Strikes Back as the scene in the vision changes), and several other painful memories, including what is probably her own worst memory, the moment she was left behind on Jakku. It's enough to make her scared of the old weapon.
    • Although she's been chased by fanatics, targeted by an airstrike, and hunted by nightmarish creatures, Rey has thus far done a superb job of keeping her cool. Yet after the nightmare, she's flat-out horrified. Seeing was bad enough. Just imagine what it must have been like first-hand.
      • In particular, what causes her to flee is that Maz is trying to encourage her to take the lightsaber and fight the Dark Side, the horrors of which the lightsaber shows her. In essence, what Maz is saying to her is her family isn't coming back (to which Rey obviously, if sadly, understands), but she is still special and can having belonging (which she seems hopeful about for a moment), take the lightsaber, embrace her destiny, and join the fight (which the vision has just shown her is vastly harder and more terrifying than even her hard and lonely life on Jakku). She understandably flees in terror at the idea.

  • Kylo vs Finn in a lightsaber duel:
    • Remember the old days, when a lightsaber duel ended either with one combatant dying instantly or being dismembered and unable to fight further? Kylo is the first villain to use his lightsaber with the intent to inflict pain. During his fight with Finn, they go into a Blade Lock, and Kylo pushes his blade further and further down until it's burning into Finn's shoulder, setting his clothes on fire, and causing him to scream in agony. After Finn breaks away, Kylo lashes his blade up Finn's back like a cat-o-nine-tails. Darth Maul and General Grievous were sadistic, but at least they'd kill you quickly. Not this guy.
    • Finn's scream in particular really sells it. If you thought that listening to Hayden Christensen screaming his head off in Revenge of the Sith as Anakin burned was already horrifying, then John Boyega will scare you as his performance here is just blood-curdling.
    • Kylo's most direct predecessors are the Emperor himself and Vader. Even they tended to use the Force to inflict trauma. The Emperor, of course, was more than happy to torture via Force Lightning and mind games, yet he still made clean kills while dueling back when he bothered to fight at that level. Vader had his iconic Force Choke, and one need only ask Luke how it feels to be on the receiving end of Vader's mind-probing skills. Kylo appears to be one of the first people (at least onscreen) in a long time to realize the burning sensation of the lightsaber can be an effective torture tool by itself, and does his best to take advantage of that, by weaponizing the cross-guard blades (which are actually stabilizing vents) when stuck in blade locks.
    • Kylo repeatedly punching the wound in his side during this fight is also unnerving, partly because the Star Wars movies have never handled physical damage this way before; it's always been stylized flourishes, instant-kill blaster bolts, and cauterized lightsaber slashes, not open wounds slowly dripping blood. Kylo aggravating the wound with his fist (on top of what a dreadful thing that is for a person to do to their own body) creates a really strange and gruesome effect.
    • The style of the lightsaber combat itself. All the elegant acrobatics of the prequels and kendo-like striking of the original trilogy is gone, replaced with the kind of swipes and strikes that would be expected in a violent action or horror movie. It makes sense, because Luke Skywalker is one of the last known people in the galaxy who has any idea how to properly duel (though it should be noted that we don't know what Snoke is equipped with). The characters in this film fight like you'd expect normal people trying to maim each other to fight like, and it resembles a lot of fan-made duel videos on the internet.

  • The lightsaber damage in general is far more gnarly. Finn is potentially crippled when he's slashed up the spine, and whether Kylo is using an Energy Resistance shroud Force power or the Dark Side just keeps him on his feet through the agony, he is hit with plasma weapons no less than five times. These aren't the couple of nicks that Dooku gave Obi-Wan on Geonosis, but great swathe strikes that strip flesh off and cut muscle to the bone, likely only furthering his descent into darkness.
    • Finn's first use of the saber. He runs a stormtrooper through with it. No blood, sure, but creepy black cracks start spreading from the wound with the blade still piercing the body.

  • The First Order is Nightmare Fuel incarnate due to their sheer fanaticism. While the ranks of the Galactic Empire was composed mainly of opportunists like Tarkin, or soldiers and officers merely trying to do their job like Piett, the First Order displays a cult-like zeal in their goal of restoring the Empire no matter how much of the Galaxy they end up destroying in the process, from indoctrinating soldiers since childhood into following orders without question, to developing superweapons even more devastating than the Death Star, along with some implications that they openly worship the Dark Side in contrast to the skepticism that many Imperial officers displayed towards the Force.
    • Their top-ranking officer, General Hux, is practically a kid compared to many of the officers seen in the original trilogy as well as on Starkiller Base, being in his early-to-mid 30s. How many people did he get rid of to ascend to such a high rank so soon? With the general being that bad, how must the First Order officers themselves be to survive in such an environment?
    • Tie-in materials reveal that Hux used treachery and assassinating his rivals as means to rise in rank so fast. One of his victims was his own father, one of the founding members of the First Order.
    • The Visual Dictionary and novelization reveal that the First Order has considerably more military power than what was on display in the film, having assembled entire armies and fleets in the Unknown Regions to wage a war the Order has spent three decades planning for. The New Republic is now reeling from the loss of their capital and GHQ, and the Resistance took heavy casualties of their own trying to destroy Starkiller Base, while the First Order has fresh, disciplined, and dedicated forces preparing to strike the weakened Republic. The destruction of Starkiller may have bought the heroes some time, but it's only proven to be a temporary setback for the First Order in the grand scheme of things.
    • Another point about the First Order's stormtroopers: They are apparently regularly "reconditioned," which could be anything from the kind of torture Poe suffered to outright brainwashing. What's more, it's effective; Finn's refusal to shoot the innocent villagers was apparently his first sign of insubordination in his entire life, and he's in his early twenties.
    • When the team is talking with Maz and the idea of fighting the First Order comes up? Finn goes deathly quiet and just leans over the table as he speaks about the First Order. The look of absolute panic on his face is one thing, but the way he describes the First Order is like describing death; you can't escape it, you can't fight it, all you can do is try to avoid it until it decides to stop screwing around and just end you.

  • Rey's expression of pure rage throughout her fight with Kylo. The novel confirms that she was tempted to kill him once she had him down, which would have begun her own journey to the Dark Side, before the Base's destruction separated them. She still has that potential in her at the end, along with clearly extremely powerful Force abilities she's just beginning to tap into.

  • The destruction of Starkiller Base at the end. With the first Death Star, it was a near-instantaneous destruction, with most of the crew likely not knowing that anything was wrong. The second Death Star was a lot more chaotic, with the crew scrambling to get off before the reactor was hit. Here, we see the crust crumbling apart across the planet, turning into molten lava. Imagine being there, realizing that the planet is collapsing around you, and there's nothing that you can do to stop it...

  • According to J. J. Abrams, the special stand for Vader's helmet appears to contain ashes. Those ashes belong to Kylo Ren's victims that he tortured to death.


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