I believe it was John Rambo who once said, "I'm your worst nightmare." If your worst nightmare is an over-oiled action star from the 1980s greeting you with an explosive arrowhead poised at the ready, then I can't argue that. But, for me, totally not my worst nightmare. You're going to have to try harder than that, Rambo.
Take A Nightmare on Elm Street for instance. There are too many "worst" nightmares to choose from in that series, and with the addition of an all-new remake next week, we'll get to see a number of them all over again, courtesy of Hollywood's hardest working "cover band" Platinum Dunes. Will Freddy Krueger get the chance to add some all-new cinematic nightmares to his resume?
Sometimes, lists are made to declare something as the best or worst, but this is not that list. Consider this a conversation starter about what cinematic nightmares you find the most terrifying. I've included seven that stand out in my mind as memorably disturbing, so, in no particular order, here we go.
The most iconic death scene in the original Elm Street, possibly even the entire series, is the moment in which Johnny Depp is pulled into his own mattress, which then spews forth a gravity-defying geyser of blood. Strangely enough, it's not quite a dream sequence. By the logic of the series, Freddy can only kill you in a dream, and while he certainly kills Depp while Depp is sleeping, the bizarre physical evidence of the blood-filled ceiling is witnessed by Depp's mother, who seems completely awake. Whether Depp getting pulled into the bed is an actual physical act or a nightmare is debatable, but the impact of the moment is not. It's nightmare enough to make this list.
How dare you Nazi werewolves interrupt The Muppet Show! Go ahead, shoot up the fine China, slit the throat of the Dr. Pepper guy, but don't you get between me and my Muppets. This dream sequence is completely gonzo -- a family night ruined by machine gun toting werewolf Nazis. Does this nightmare have much bearing on the plot? Not really, but it's so whacked-out and over-the-top that it provides a nice action beat while David recoups in his hospital bed.
Ah, the late 90s. While most horror films were dishing out pithy Kevin Williamson-style one-liners, along came Event Horizon. While it didn't re-invent the wheel, so much as completely steal the wheels off of older, better cars (Alien, The Shining, Hellraiser), it was a much-needed break from the teen-centric horror films that were in vogue. Notable is the dream sequence that opens the film, in which Sam Neill's character is approached by the dead, eyeless corpse of his former wife, setting the stage for the space-bound house of horrors that follows.
The king of the "wake up, only to find it's ANOTHER DREAM!" moments, Prince of Darkness barely makes any sense, but almost makes up for that with its final sting. Imagine -- you've just had a bad dream about the apocalypse. Alice Cooper was homeless or something, and the Devil was a tube full of green goo. Then you wake up. Yawn. You roll over in bed. OHMYGODFACELESSCORPSEINYOURBED! Then you wake up AGAIN. Good morning!
You remember that time you were eating some original recipe KFC and then YOUR FACE FELL OFF IN THE FREAKIN' SINK??? No? Oh, yeah, because it was all a dream. This was the scene that every seven-year old at my school talked about for most of 1982, dragged by unsuspecting parents into Spielberg suburbia, only to see a guy's face fall off in the freakin' sink.
And it's not even the scariest scene in the film. There are a half-dozen scenes scarier than the paranormal investigator ripping his own face off in a nightmare. Remember, this is a movie where a tree tries to eat a buck-toothed kid and a stuffed clown attempts to choke the life out of Coach.
6. The Fly
No, I do not want to give birth to a giant maggot. It doesn't even matter that I'm not genetically equipped to give birth to anything -- I don't want to have a fly larvae as a baby. Imagine all of the trouble I would have trying to find a decent day care, and don't even get me started on breast-feeding.
What list of bad dreams would be complete without evil clowns? In Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, anxiety leads Pee-Wee Herman to dream about his stolen bicycle. It's rushed to the emergency room by a group of leering circus clowns, then dropped directly into the pits of Hell. I've never really been that afraid of clowns, but I do love this scene, and I know there are many who find it much more disturbing than I do. I've included the video above, so you can sleep well tonight. You're welcome!