The Nightmare Fuel — Tropes Thursday


Recently I had a bad dream, which had spawned this idea for Tropes Thursday. The dream was that The Psychological Abuser had come beating on my door with a posse demanding a check he’d written me for about $5000 six years ago. Of course, I’d cashed the thing YEARS ago in my dream, but it’s the fact he showed up at my door demanding money.

I don’t ever really have dreams about ghosts and goulies, but when I do, I sleep with the light on the rest of the night. When I was younger, I was an avid lucid dreamer. When I’d wake up from a nightmare, I’d go back to sleep into the same dream and change the outcome, because I knew I was dreaming, and resolve the dream. I remember I could shake myself out of bad dreams, too. I’d realize I was dreaming and shake myself awake. It was kind of difficult because of sleep paralysis. The dream would change and I’d feel like I had broken my neck and I was trying to shake it back into place or something. Then I’d wake up.

But as I grow older, my nightmares center around anxiety things — running late, forgetting something, running from something, and money.

I still have dreams about running late for the school bus — and haven’t ridden on an actual school bus in 10 years.

But nightmare fuel is different for everyone. I mean, blood, guts, and gore don’t bother me. Well, at least on screen. I have a very sensitive gag reflex, so in person, maybe not so much. Especially if I can smell the blood.

However, demonic shit — I actively avoid watching that sort of thing. I grew up very religious and even when I grew to be an agnostic, I couldn’t shake the belief something else insidious, just outside our periphery, existed. Also, I’ve seen some shit.

When I lived at one of my first off campus residences in undergrad, I was sitting on the back porch, stealing my neighbor’s internet, and saw this black sheet thing floating down the road.

No shit!

I really like to go on walks. I lived in a pretty safe area and when I couldn’t sleep, I’d go out and walk. I lived near campus, so there were always folks around all hours of the night. I had a power line about 20 meters in front of me and the cables stretched across the road. I saw something obscure the light at the top of the electrical pole, go across the lines above the road, and down in the bushes. I didn’t think anything of it until I was walking by the powerlines and saw something lunge at me in my peripheral vision, out of the bushes. I looked and saw nothing, but I hauled ass home.

I recently watched Insidious, which is a movie that gives me chills. I like how well done it is. It doesn’t follow the horror movie cliches and stupidness. It is genre savvy — the family moves houses thinking the house itself is haunted, they call in an expert that actually seems pretty credible, jump scares aren’t randomly inserted — they are artfully built up and purposeful, the music (holy GOD this is scary),


But… it didn’t give me nightmares.

One move that gives me nightmares, even though I’ve seen it a hundred times and own it, is Event Horizon.

The meat grinder “containment” area. The portal to literal hell, found not by faith, but by scientific inquiry. The eye scream! The creepy as hell distress call.


It’s funny, how this movie, seemed hokey when originally released is now a cult classic. It is available on Netflix US. Unsure about international. Definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. But if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, don’t watch… or just don’t watch at night.

For me, ideas seem to scare me more than visuals.

For instance, in Donnie Darko, the image of Frank is pretty startling, but the idea that the world is going to end and you are going to die. That would terrify me and definitely transfer over into nightmare form.


But, I do have to say, my favorite horror movie has to be, hands down, The Shining. Holy crap. The little nuances Kubrick set up to add unease to the audience. Also being trapped in a hotel like that. I mean, yeah, as an introvert I’d be okay for a while. But for five months Jack, Wendy, and Danny are stuck up there.


I love the Kubrick move a great deal. I really want to read the book, but I hear the book is entirely different from the movie; Kubrick wanted to add more layers and his own twist. I heard King wasn’t very happy about it.

In other media, I purchased Alien: Isolation and I cannot finish it. It’s different when you are watching a film and can’t change the outcome. It’s different when you’re in the middle of a video game and are actively being hunted. What’s so wonderful and scary about this title is that the Alien hunting you has a specially designed AI where instead of following a specific path, it hunts you.

The music in the game adds a whole other level of fear. When the alien is near you, the music crescendos, it makes your skin crawl and gives you chills.


The first time I encountered the Alien, I ran away, hid in a locker for 20 minutes, then it found me and ate me.

I’ve tried a few more times to complete it, but damn… I have to put it down.

Haven’t had any weird dreams about it, but probably one of the most terrifying forms of media I’ve ever engaged in.

Holy crap

Other things I’d consider non traditional nightmare fuel are deaths. I remember having a dream about my dad passing away in a car accident. It was so surreal and bizarre — kind of like Jacob’s Ladder. Nothing made sense.


And it turned out in my dream my dad was still alive.

And in real life too….


** Tropes play a large part in life; Merriam Webster defines it as something common place or cliche — but life is cliches. This is a series I am starting as a writing exercise to work on my analytical skills and write for fun. It is meant to be comical and informative. Feedback is always welcome!

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