20 of the Most Terrifying Horror Movie Dream Sequences
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The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
The Lair of the White Worm is a 1988 British horror film based loosely on the 1911 Bram Stoker novel of the same name and drawing upon the English legend of the Lambton Worm. Directed by British film director Ken Russell and starring Amanda Donohoe and Hugh Grant, the film is a dark and atmospheric horror that clashes Christianity and paganism into wry and atmospheric horror.
Russell’s quintessential female villain Lady Sylvia Marsh (Donohoe) discovers that the close neighbours have dug up an ancient giant snake skull, and goes about stealing it whilst they are out. As she leaves, she leaves a nasty calling card, in the form of a venomous spit she sprays across a crucifix in the hallway.
Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg) returns home and touches the strange substance on the wall, which knocks her unconscious and gives her a bizarre and terrifying nightmare that includes executions, roman soldiers raping nuns and a giant white worm all set in psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour.
Demons 3: The Ogre (1988)
The Ogre is a 1989 Italian television horror film directed by Lamberto Bava and written by Dardano Sacchetti. It was among four films made for the Italian television series Brivido Giallo. The film released outside of Italy as Demons III: The Ogre, where it was promoted as a sequel to Bava’s films Demons and Demons 2, despite having no connections.
The film opens with Cheryl (Virginia Bryant), an American writer of horror novels, having terrible nightmares of a dark cobwebbed basement and a monstrous ogre that’s stalks her through the dank labyrinth of corridors. The imagery is chilling, the music haunting, and the entire sequence is great example of atmospheric horror with little dialogue.
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Directed by John Landis, An American Werewolf In London is a tongue in cheek horror classic that sees two American backpacker attacked by a Werewolf during a trip across the moors in Yorkshire. Surviving the attack, David Kessler (David Naughton) wakes to discover that he’s about to become a werewolf on the next full moon.
Whilst resting in hospital, David has terrible nightmares that plague his dreams. In one such dream, David finds himself with his family in their New York home, watching the Muppet Show on TV. Suddenly, the house is invaded by blood thirst werewolf Nazis, who kill his family and set alight to the furniture. It’s violent, bloody and completely out of left field, and yet, it feels like an important ingredient in the story of David’s fractured psyche.
Dead Ringers (1988)
Dead Ringers is a disturbing little number from David Cronenberg that serves up a double dose of Jeremy Irons in a messed up story of creepy twin gynaecologists. The twins have a weird symbiotic relationship where they secretly share women, but this strange set up ends in a bizarre incestuous love triangle. This scenario is best summed up by the bizarre dream one of the Twins has.
The twins wake to find themselves joined at the hip, and their lover proceeds to eat the skin the joins them. It’s sick and twisted and could only come from the mind of Cronenberg.
Vertigo is Alfred Hitchcock’s film noir psychological master piece. The 1958 classic is often regarded as one of his best pieces of work, thanks to a terrifying insight into the tortured mind of man on the edge.
The film tells the tale of former police detective John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart), who wrestles with his own personal demons and his crippling acrophobia. It’s this fear that plagues Scottie’s dreams in a frightening sequences of shocking imagery. Lock in your seat for a kaleidoscope of colour and imagery that mixes live action and animation in a neon dripping romp into insanity.
Stephen King’s first foray into horror is still one of his most talked about, thanks to its shocking twist and turns that witness the ultimate fall from grace. Directed by Brian De Palma, the tale follows Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother. However, it’s not just puberty that the young girl is struggling with, as her telekinetic powers also start to surface.
The movie documents Carrie’s troubled life and the events that leads to her tragic death, after her telekinesis explodes in a fury of fire and blood during the school prom. The only survivor of Carries rage is Sue Snell who is traumatized by the events. Sue brings flowers to Carrie’s final resting place, but something is not quite right. There’s the strange wind, the red car going backwards and the ethereal lighting and music. Just as Sue lays the flowers down, Carrie’s hand reaches up out of the dirt to grab at her. Yep…it’s all a dream, but one that shocked the hell out of audiences back in 73, way before horror fans were accustomed to jump scares.
Friday The 13TH (1980)
The film that launched a mega franchise, Friday the 13th sees a group of counsellors brutally killed one by one at a summer camp held at the Camp Crystal Lake. Whilst the franchise is hinged on the Killer Jason Voorhees, the first film is sadly lacking the monstrous maniac. However, that does not mean that he does not appear in the film.
In a brief bait and switch dream sequence, we see lone survivor Alice (Adrienne King) asleep inside a canoe which floats out on Crystal Lake. Waking to find the police approaching the shore line, Alice is suddenly attacked by Jason’s decomposing corpse, at which point she awakens in a hospital surrounded by a police sergeant and medical staff. Being traumatized by the events at the camp, Alice seems somewhat confused by her dream, as she insist that “the boy” is still out there.
Clive Barker’s epic masterpiece, Hellraiser, is a gleefully vicious and bloody film that travels down a psychological route of terror. Barker’s vision is one of sadism and erotica that could only ever be the product of 80’s sensibilities. This mix of pleasure and pain is heavily embedded within the films narrative and visuals, and it’s plain to see within Kirsty Cotton’s (Ashley Laurence) hideous dream.
The sequences is an intense attack on the eyes and ears as, Kirsty is seen entering a dimly lit room, with feathers blowing around her in an strangely serene visual. At the center of the room is a bed, covered with a white sheet clearly hiding a body underneath. A baby can be hear crying as Kirsty approaches the bed and blood starts to seep through the sheets. As the camera pans up form Kirsty, the white sheets are now a bloody, dripping mess. The baby cries, the wind blows and feathers still blow around like snowflakes.
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Sometimes, films can leave a legacy bigger than the sum of their parts, and Jacob’s Ladder is surely one those films that has left it’s mark. If you ever wondered where the twisted world of Silent Hill comes from, look no further than this twisted Tim Robbins movie.
The story focuses on Vietnam vet Jacob Singer, who returns home only to suffer unimaginable nightmares and hallucinations. With fantasy blending into reality, Singer starts to suspect that he was experimented on during the war. These nightmares start to seep into his waking days and in one sequence, Jacob being wheeled through a disturbing hospital, littered with severed body parts, whilst patient leer and jeer at him. Jacob is wheeled into this bone-chilling dark room, with doctors prepared to conduct a terrifying procedure on him, including a needle straight through his skull. But don’t worry: it’s not real. But that does not make it any easier to watch.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Wes Craven’s genius creation Freddy Kruger, may have spawned an entire franchise and kept one of the worlds best loved film studio running through tough times, but he oddly enough, ever only had one single dream sequences that was truly terrifying.
Over the years the king of nightmares, Kruger, has created many weird and wonderful dream scenarios for his teen victims, like the time one his children was sucked into a video game, or the strange setup that saw a young victim become the topping on a pizza. With over two decades-worth of terrifying sequences to pick from, his best scare came in his first outing from 1984.
Freddy Kruger was child murder who was hunted down and murdered by the towns folk when he was released without charge for his crimes. Becoming a vengeful dream demon, Freddy has become the personification of nightmares, and he knows exactly what buttons to press to make you scream. The best example of this fall upon the weary head of Nancy Thompson, who is sucked into Kruger’s dream world during an English class at school.
Kruger uses Nancy’s recently deceased friend as a lure into his boiler room domain. Dragging her corpse, still in her body bag, through school hallway. We even get to see a little of the dream master’s famous humor , as he warns Nancy not to run in the halls. The entire sequence is dark, disturbing and a firm reminder at just how truly terrifying Kruger was back in his first few outings.
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“Hello Horror Fans – Like a heartbeat drives you mad, dreams will outright slay you. I don’t often remember my dreams, but if I did, I’d want them to be a nightmare vision like the films in this list. Did we miss something…why not tell us in the comments below?