Welcome to “Another Movie Guy?”! In celebration of our spookiest holiday, I’m going to share what really gives me the creeps. I’ve always thought that the best horror movies are the ones that stay with you long after the movie is over. And no experience stays with you quite like the ones that lurk in your subconscious. With that in mind, here is a list of movies that have given me nightmares. Keep in mind that these movies aren’t necessarily the scariest movies I’ve seen, or even the best. What unites them is that the dreams they inspire come from a single, disturbing movie moment, and they all attack my primal fears.
James Cameron directed this sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. Cameron took the “bigger is better” approach to sequel-making. The last 45 minutes of this movie are an intense white-knuckle hell ride.
Back story: Being responsible adults, my parents let me watch Aliens when I was six. It gave me horrible dreams for about a decade. Now it’s one of my favorites.
Nightmare-inducing moment: This is a tie. The first moment is when Ripley discovers a still-breathing colonist who promptly has an alien burst from her chest. The scene is tame now, but for a kid who had no understanding of fatalistic suicide, the phrase “Kill me” leaves psychic trauma. The second moment happens when the queen rips Bishop in half. His robot insides are gross.
Nightmare: Aliens pop out of my chest. The queen rips me in half. Repeatedly.
Primal fear: Being destroyed from the inside.
Back story: Being a responsible adult, my 9th grade science teacher showed us Dante’s Peak in class. She claimed the movie’s science was accurate. That may have very well been true, but it still doesn’t excuse my teacher’s wanton laziness.
Nightmare-inducing moment: The plucky family and the badass scientist are stuck on a boat. Through the miracle of science, the volcano turns the lake into a vat of boiling acid. Sweet Old Granny does everyone a solid by jumping into the acid, and pulling the boat to shore. Granny dies.
Nightmare: I turn on the shower, and boiling acid comes out. It burns off my skin.
Primal fear: Distrust of the familiar.
Nightmare-inducing moment: Faceless doctors try to operate on Jacob. They keep telling him that he’s dead.
Nightmare: All my friends are faceless monsters.
Primal Fear: Helplessness.
Touching the Void.
This documentary is about a mountain climber who shatters his kneecap and falls into a crevasse. Amazingly, he survives.
Nightmare-inducing moment(s): The mountain climber is hanging off the edge of a crevasse. He cannot see the bottom, and is tethered to his climbing partner. They cannot communicate. Left with no other option, the partner cuts the rope. The climber falls.
Nightmare: Falling endlessly, usually accompanied by a hypnagogic jerk.
Primal Fear: Heights – duh.
An awkward-but-sexy girl tries to make friends. Her relationships don’t work out, so she decides to “make” a friend of her own. Dismemberment ensues.
Back story: I have a strange compulsion to show this movie to friends. They always scream in horror at least once. It usually occurs when blind toddlers crawl over broken glass.
Nightmare-inducing moment: In an unbroken shot, May shoves a long pair of scissors into her eyeball (see above).
Nightmare: Compulsively blinding self.
Primal Fear: Loss of control.
Nightmare: I’m Dustin Hoffman in that scene. Just thinking about it makes my teeth ache.
Primal Fear: Helplessness, again.
Thus concludes my chronicle of what movies keep me up at night. After re-reading all the nightmares, I’ve come to two conclusions: (1) the scariest movie anybody sees is the first one they shouldn’t see as a kid and (2) I don’t like going to the doctor or dentist.
Writing this post has certainly piqued my curiosity: what movies give you nightmares?