When I think of the word ‘Nightmare’, to me this means more than just a bad dream. A nightmare can be truly terrifying and can be convincingly portrayed across many forms of art, from the haunting Guernica by Picasso, the battlefield art of WW1 and Munch’s The Scream in painting to Victorian Gothic tales from Edgar Allan Poe, Dracula Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus (Wordsworth Classics) Du Maurier’s Rebecca (VMC) and recent incantations from Marissa Pessl, Susan Hill etc in writing. Film has produced many successful adaptations of nightmares from literature but also explored the subject on its own terms.
A nightmare is anything strange and uneasy, it can be a sudden shock or a realisation that all is not what it seems. Nightmares can be represented in fact and fiction, the Holocaust is often quoted as being a historical nightmare. Any kind of War is a nightmare. Nightmares can be represented in crime fiction through murder, stalking, committing a crime with a guilty conscience. A lost child to a parent is a nightmare. The recent popularity of the psychological thriller genre in literature could represent our ongoing fascination with nightmares. The actual sphere of nightmares is much wider than the horror or ghostly connotations that the word first evokes.
This time of year nearing Halloween the emphasis is on horror and ghost stories which fit in with our nightmare theme and here I explore a few of my favourite titles. For me the true masters of visual nightmares have to be the Japanese in both fiction and filmic interpretation. Ring
is a classic (both in novel and film form) and one we have previously discussed but I also loved the film adaptation of Dark Water  [DVD]
too which I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Of course lots of people have watched Stranger Things by now on Netflix and I’m such a chicken I haven’t been able to get past episode one which I thought was very good but absolutely terrifying! I have watched some really scary films in the past and am not sure why this has rattled my bones so much but it really has! I’ll have to watch it with a room full of people in bright daylight I think to get past this!
The Others by Alejandro Amenabar
A great film by Alejandro Amenabar, The Others [DVD] is now a modern classic in the haunted house genre. It involves the classic stalwarts of a creepy séance, new inhabitants of a home and the old ones who don’t want to leave! There is one scene in this that struck with me the macabre tradition of mourning photos of Victorian and Edwardian times featuring deceased relatives!! Thank goodness this is a tradition that is not as widely observed today! Another creepy film that has been praised is The Witch [DVD]  by Robert Eggers. I have seen the trailer for this and it looks spine tingling.
It and Bag of Bones by Stephen King
The scariest ever book I’ve read is It by the ‘Master of Horror Writing,’ Stephen King. ‘It’ is a very apt title due to all this clown scaring going on (not a good idea BTW!!). I actually never finished ‘It’ though due to the truly terrifying-ness of the story! Is absolutely frightening! One other Stephen King book I have managed to finish and would recommend though is Bag of Bones there are some really scary moments in thus and reading it has made sure that I’ll never be able to look at a Felix the cat clock again!
Other Nightmare Tales!
James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall is another great tale and quite scarily fitting into the haunted house subgenre of Gothic tales. I read this book one Christmas whilst staying in Devon as this book is set in the West country. The strange tales in The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson are definitely worth a Halloween read as are the earlier Robert Aickman tales they were influenced by the Ringing the Changes in Dark Entries is a particular favourite of mine.
With regards to film and TV nightmares there are so many, the aforementioned Stranger Things and its immense popularity point that this is a genre that will run and run as we as humans have a constant appetite for all things eerie and unexplained and no doubt will continue to do so for many years to come.