Over the years of watching cinema, we have all experienced something so shocking, so horrifying that it has stuck with us long after the fact, permanently burnt into our memories. Whether it was a scary movie seen at far too young of an age or something so visually intense that was mentally overwhelming, we have all had an experience much the same. Consequently, we have generally all agreed upon the term ‘Nightmare Fuel’ for these moments. An image, scene or atmosphere so powerful, it can negatively affect our dreams from lingering subconsciously in our minds.
We, at Grimoire of Horror, have compiled a list of eleven films we believe to be true Nightmare fuel, but be warned, if you DO watch any of our suggestions, don’t say we didn’t WARN you.
The Woman in Black (2012) by James Watkins
“A young solicitor travels to a remote village where he discovers that the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.” The film is an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name, written by Susan Hill.
The very epitome of slow-burning, gothic horror, The Woman in Black focuses on building an incredibly bleak and sorrowful story. Slowly drip-feeding the scares to the audience intermittently at the start, slowly increasing in their frequency as the film progresses. Additionally, intuitive use of sound accompanies this horrific growth to sow the seeds of an overwhelming, somber atmosphere to deliver a terrifying experience that becomes more impactful as the film reaches its terrifying conclusion.
Haze (2005) By Shinya Tsukamoto
A man wakes up to find himself locked in a cramped concrete maze of corridors, in which he can barely move. He doesn’t remember why he is there or how he got there. He has a terrible stomach injury and is slowly bleeding to death.
The idea of being trapped in a hell of your own design is enough to send the mind spiraling to its darkest corners. Shinya Tsukamoto’s Haze is one of the few films that captures this concept with intimate detail. What makes this film so haunting is in its conclusion which shows how those trapped in the maze came to be there, and how simple it is for each and every one of us to find ourselves in such a dire situation. The most nightmare-inducing scene? Easily, the dragging of teeth across the metal pipe to make it to the next area – as audibly and visually uncomfortable as you can get.
Opera Mortem (1973) By
Raw images and elegant literary quotations with references to suicide: this is OPERA MORTEM, a surrealist/dadaist movie that intertwines the death visions of a suicidal girl with those of a ne***philiac serial killer. (TetroVideo)
A once-lost film, rumoured to be cursed and made by a prominent satanic artist, Opera Mortem is a wonderful combination of ominous elements strung together. Predating Begotten, the visual collage easily outdoes the more infamous black-and-white art project in every manner. Oddly hypnotic, the aesthetic has a way of creeping under your skin and blurring the lines between artistic expression and visual violence. Furthermore, the film employs a lot of innovative techniques for the time, often giving the impression of being modern and not plucked from the depths of the 70’s. A waking nightmare, there is nothing else quite like this out there.
Baskin (2015) By Can Evrenol
“A squad of unsuspecting cops go through a trapdoor to Hell when they stumble upon a Black Mass in an abandoned building.”
A surreal descent into the nightmarish depths of hell, Baskin is unequivocal in its use of imagery, full of occult symbolism, explicit violence as well as a powerfully unique representation of Hell itself. Furthermore, blurring the lines between reality and feverish fantasy, it effectively uses cinematography and sound to craft an atmosphere. These effects are stylised to increasingly unsettle and disorientate the audience, creating a foreboding sense of doom and despair throughout its runtime. A relatively unknown piece of experimental cinema from Turkey, it is worthy of more exploration from international audiences.
Climax (2018) By Gaspar Noé
French dancers gather in a remote, empty school building to rehearse on a wintry night. The all-night celebration morphs into a hallucinatory nightmare when they learn their sangria is laced with LSD.
Climax is a film in two parts, dancing and by sexually explicit conversations, followed by a chaotic breakdown chocked with drug induced paranoia and ultra-violence. Stripping away any sense of humanity, the latter half of the film is just a complete onslaught of distortion and sensationalism that reflects a complete loss of control. Adding to the dream-like flow, Gaspar Noe’s visual approach floats above his subjects as if viewing from an out-of-body experience, it is a real trip.
Watership Down (1978) By Martin Rosen
“Hoping to escape destruction by human developers and save their community, a colony of rabbits, led by Hazel and Fiver, seek out a safe place to set up a new warren.” The animation is based on the 1972 novel by Richard Adams
For those blissfully unaware, this child-orientated animation is incredibly deceptive in its initial, endearing foundations. Beginning as any other piece of family-friendly media, this soon deteriorates into intense, unwavering scenes of violence, murder, and a bleak struggle for survival, responsible for many cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in children throughout the country. Recently, after screening the film on TV on a Sunday afternoon, the channel received a torrent of complaints about the extreme scenes portrayed in the so-called family film and the stress it has caused, cementing this film’s place on this list as pure nightmare fuel.
Infection (2004) by Masayuki Ochiai
Infection takes place in a dark, isolated hospital, where one doctor’s mistake has led to dire consequences for a patient. In a hospital, death is just a breath away.
On the surface, Infection plays out like your typical J-horror fare with some ghastly long-haired creations waiting around the corner to pop out at you. However, what makes this production so haunting is its inventive combination of body and metaphysical horror. Bodies breaking down is nightmare fuel enough (Infection is notable gloopy), but to question one’s own sanity as the flesh decays adds an extra layer of terror that will pierce your dreamscape. There is also a really clever play on color and an open-ended conclusion that makes it hard to feel grounded at any point with this film.
Final Destination 2 (2003) By
David R. Ellis
“Kimberly has a premonition of an accident killing multiple people including her and her friends. She blocks the cars behind her on the ramp and as a police trooper arrives, the accident happens. Death is stalking this group of survivors.”
Known for its subdued acting and basic story, its inevitable drop in quality only sealed its fate as a film series. That notwithstanding, the reason these films still resonate with fans is for their impressively inventive and downright disturbing ways the characters meet their demise, mostly as a result of seemingly plausible accidents. This particular film in the series has affected people’s day-to-day lives because of the opening scene, which still leaves an uncomfortable feeling when traveling behind trucks carrying freight (and it has been over 10 years since my last viewing). There are few films that have introduced a cultural fear as large or with such longevity as this one.
Shutter (2004) By Banjong Pisanthanakun
“A young photographer and his girlfriend discover mysterious shadows in their photographs after a tragic accident. They soon learn that you can not escape your past.”
Spine-chilling in its application, Shutter uses beautiful cinematography to create a visually impressive ambiance, chaperoned throughout by an impeccable use of sound. This beneficially accompanies the production’s steady increase in tension, in addition to effectively implemented, yet sporadic, jump scare horror which is expertly blended until the story’s terrifying final revelation. The film is a petrifying tale of supernatural revenge, being remade multiple times in several languages from English, Chinese, Punjab, and even Tamil, to name a few. Demonstrating this story’s ability to scare, no matter the location.
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made (2018) By David Amito & Michael Laicini
A young boy and girl enter the forest to dig a hole to hell. Said to be a cursed film from the late 1970s, Antrum examines the horrifying power of storytelling.
Likely the most divisive film on this list, Antrum marketed itself as a cursed film and drew heavy inspiration from 70’s cult cinema. Certainly, it is a film that requires you to buy into its premise to enjoy it, but there is much reward for those who can get lost in its machinations. Moving at a dreamlike flow, the devil feels alive in the film, ready to consume a mother and child into an unknowing abyss. Throw in some backwoods Satanist who love to burn their victims alive and you have a truly unsettling experience.
Audition (1999) By Takashi Miike
Seven years after the death of his wife, company executive Aoyama is invited to sit in on auditions for an actress. Leafing through the resumés in advance, his eye is caught by Yamazaki Asami, a striking young woman with ballet training.
Audition explores the terror of the unspoken and misunderstood – the inability to communicate your message a constant guest in many dreams. Language is a tricky thing, and Audition shows just that and gives a few stings of extreme imagery to really drive home the repercussions of deadly misunderstandings when emotions are involved.