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Nightmare Fuel / Watchmen

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Watchmen helped redefine the comic book and lead the medium into a darker era. How? Large amounts of Nightmare Fuel. Alan Moore really is the master of this sort of thing.

Spoilers below.

  • Jon slowly building himself a new body is this even in-universe. People start to believe the place is haunted after they start seeing, among other things: A floating brain (complete with eyes) with a thousand yard stare, a walking nervous system, and a skeleton partially covered in muscle tissue. His first form in particular looks extremely creepy, resembling an alien.
    • While it’s not really focused much on, it’s incredibly unsettling how, instead of just wearing a helmet as part of his costume, Dr. Manhattan would rather just carve his own symbol into his head instead.
    • There's hints that Doctor Manhattan himself is this in universe - Hollis Mason describes seeing him for the first time as making his brain want to scream and shut down due to the sheer uncanniness and his mere existence as the only superhuman in the world on the American side arguably makes the geopolitical situation far worse. To quote Milton Glass:
      Glass: "I never said that, although I do recall saying something similar to a persistent reporter who would not leave without a quote. I presume the quote as edited or toned down so as not to offend public sensibilities; in any event, I never said 'the superman exists and he's American'. What I said was 'God exists and he's American.' If that statement starts to chill you after a couple of moments' consideration, then don't be alarmed. A feeling of intense and crushing religious terror at the concept indicates only that you are still sane."
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  • "I WILL GIVE YOU BODIES BEYOND YOUR WILDEST IMAGININGS"- A perfectly innocent-seeming advert for the Veidt Method takes on Nightmare Fuel properties at towards the end of Watchmen when Ozymandias' plan to unify the world by dropping a gigantic "alien" monstrosity to kill half of New York is revealed.
  • The entirety of Tales of the Black Freighter. Even if you see the ending coming a mile away, it somehow just makes it worse. "In Hell, at least the gulls are contented."
  • Rorschach is a walking, breathing Nightmare Fuel. Observe:
    • Rorschach eating beans freaks a few out for some reason. It just seemed so wrong. Maybe it was the sound effects... Ronch ronch.
    • Lots of Rorschach's actions are seriously grotesque. But somehow the thing that really gets to many was that little throwaway detail of young Walter's drawing of his dream.
    • Rorschach's account of how he came to make his mask, boiled down into five rage-filled words:
      Some of them even watched.
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    • "None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me."
      • It's nightmarish in that Rorschach is well aware of how vicious he is going to have to be to survive in prison. And he just proved it a second earlier by stopping an inmate from knifing him by throwing hot cooking oil into the inmate's face.
    • Finding out what it was that made Rorschach who he is.
      "...Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent. Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night. Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there... This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world. Was Rorschach.
    • Even more haunting is the fact Rorschach's psychiatrist is quite seriously affected by this, to the point it causes a spat with his wife and causes him to lose all hope and become something of a nihilist. Paranoia Fuel for the readers - talking to someone like Rorschach, even for a few days, will cause you, inevitably, to collapse into depression.
    • The reveal that in his civilian identity Rorschach is a street person, having left his job as a garment worker after being traumatized by the Blair Roche incident.
    • Heck, just the Blair Roche incident in general: Investigating the kidnapping of a little girl, Rorshach finds the suspect's house and investigates, finding little clues one by one as he searches for the child. Even through his mask, the look of horror is clear as all of the pieces fit into place: The six-year-old girl had been killed, butchered, and fed to the abductor's German Shepards when he didn't receive the ransom money he'd demanded. What's truly disturbing is that it was all because of a case of mistaken identity, the perpetrator thinking the child was connected to a wealthy family when in reality the child's family had no money at all.
  • The bit where Adrian opens up the vivarium dome and lets the snow in to cover the dead bodies of his three associates is truly unnerving. It can take more than one read-through of the comic before it even hits you as to what the hell just happened.
  • The opening pages of chapter 12, a wrecked, broken New York with the streets full of corpses, blood and 'alien' tentacles.
  • The large amount of gore thrown around in the film version, especially Vietnam scene.
    • Just for a few examples; Dr. Manhattan explodes people into bloody mush (though this also what happens in the comic), The Comedian gets brutally beaten and then thrown out a window, elbows and knees get snapped like twigs, Jon Osterman gets graphically disintegrated, a secretary gets shot through the leg, (and gets two fingers blown off in the Director's Cut), boiling hot cooking oil gets thrown in an inmate's face, a Vietnamese soldier gets his leg blown off before being burned alive with a flamethrower, and so much more. All on-screen.
    • Though the detail is somewhat subtle, if you look closely, you can see that The Comedian's right leg has been twisted to a disproportionate angle after his fatal fall in the film.
  • Dan, of all characters going crazy on a criminal when he finds out Mason's been murdered. He repeatedly punches him to the point where the criminal's mouth is filled with blood, and a tooth can be seen floating in there! In other words, it's so bad that Rorschach has to calm him down.
    • In the film, Rorschach has to drag Daniel out of the bar.
    • What brought Dreiberg to such violent extremes? It was the gruesome murder of his idol, mentor and friend Mason by a sociopathic punk named Derf. Mason was a retired hero and was ambushed and killed after being mistaken for the younger Nite Owl, who'd just helped Rorschach escape from prison. His skull was smashed in by his own trophy. Even Derf's gang were disturbed by his action.
      • Three little kids, all dressed up for Halloween, are trick-or-treating. They come to a place they go to every year. The guy who lives there used to be a superhero, and he's an awesome guy. Friendly and always there to help. And then they see a bunch of thugs leaving the place. The door is open. They walk up the steps, trying to tell Hollis Mason they're here for trick-or-treating, like every other year. And they find the whole place trashed completely. And there, on the floor, is the body of Hollis Mason, with his skull caved in. In full view for them to see. That's how you get scarred for life right there.
  • The Squid Monster reminds some readers of the standard anatomy textbook diagram of the female genitalia.Veidt's ultimate plan weaponizes in-universe Nightmare Fuel, where the mock-up "alien squid's" psychic attack incorporates fictional alien worlds invented by a professional science fiction novelist, which adds to the overwhelming effect on those killed and will be burned into the minds of the survivors.
  • A lingering implication or possibility at the end that Veidt's actions to unite the world, horrific though they were, were all for nothing.
  • The Big Figure having one of his goons saw off the arms of his other goon (with an electric buzzsaw) during the prison riot, after said-other goon gets his arms broken and tied to the bars of Rorschach's cell, keeping the first goon from cutting open Rorschach's cell and Big Figure from getting to Rorschach.
  • The movie version of how Rorschach's Start of Darkness is both this and a Tear Jerker: During the investigation of a missing child named Blaire Roche, Rorschach finds her burned clothing in the kidnapper's burner and even sees his dogs eating her bones. While the events play out like in the comic (Rorschach throwing the killer's dead dogs at him through the window and handcuffing him to the burner), something is changed. Instead of setting him on fire, Rorschach slams a meat cleaver on the killer's head. Repeatedly. What makes it chilling is both Rorschach's mask displaying Berserker Tears and the utter mental breakdown he's enduring after hearing the killer bluntly admit he did kill Blaire and wants Rorschach to arrest him because "he has problems" and even begins laughing quietly as he struggles with the idea of killing the kidnapper.
    Rorschach (mask now has blood spatters): Men...get arrested.....Dogs get put down *proceeds to slam the meat cleaver repeatedly on the kidnapper's head*