ONTD Halloween Original™: 10 Dream-Themed Movies

Slumber © 2017 Vertical Entertainment

"No one ever really gets used to nightmares."
- Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

It's not uncommon for someone to tell you they don't dream. What they really mean is they don't remember their dreams. Without dreaming, some say we can't function physically, emotionally, or mentally.But then there are times when you want to avoid going to sleep altogether. For entering the REM cycle may be a death sentence.

Here are ten horror and suspense movies with a theme of dreams.

Directed by Wes Craven

A town's teenagers are being stalked in their dreams by someone named Freddy Krueger. Yet when they die in their dreams, they die in real life. So now Nancy and her friends must find a way to stop Freddy whille staying awake. Or else the nightmares will become reality.

When you think slashers, you might think of A Nightmare on Elm Street. You recall Freddy Krueger's disfigured face and those signature bladed gloves, which Wes Craven created after being inspired by his cat. The basic plot of the original Elm Street movie was loosely based on news stories of Khmer refugees who were reported as being too scared to sleep. A few even died, which led to doctors calling the phenomenon "Asian Death Syndrome." The remainder of the Elm franchise kept the dream motif in tact, especially in the earlier entries. The Elm Street mythology ties into the idea that if we die in our dreams, we will die in reality. As many of us already know based on experience, that isn't true. If anything, most of us are jolted awake once we die in our dreams.

Directed by Andrew Fleming

After the lone survivor of a suicide cult wakes up thirteen years later in a hospital's psychiatric ward, the other patients begin to mysteriously die. Has the ghost of the cult leader returned to make sure his former follower joins him in the afterlife?

This obscure quasi-slasher is similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Yet it's more ambiguous and is not catered toward the teen demo as the aforementioned movie. There is a twist at the end that you'll either like or not. At the time of Bad Dreams' original release, critics -- including Roger Ebert -- trashed the movie, but in following years, it has developed a small cult following (pun intended).

Directed by Romain Basset

A young woman named Jessica tries to uncover the truth behind the nightmares she's had since she was a child. After her maternal grandmother passes away, the nightmares become worse. So now Jessica must use her knowledge of dream psychology as well as lucid dreaming if she wants to uncover the origin of her nightmares.

Depite the title, this English language French film has no horse monster picking off people in the movie. Instead it is a surreal flick with some good visuals but not much substance.

Directed by Can Evrenol

A couple adopts a boy whose bad dreams are manifesting into something horrific.

This Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) project had trouble finding distribution in the U.S. for a while. So the director's fans had to find other means of watching this movie before it was made available on Netflix. Was the wait worth it? Well, Before I Wake has an intriguing concept and some strong performances. On the downside, the special effects were not top-notch. The movie also adds to the belief that foster children are inherently troubled or damaged.

Directed by Bernard Rose

A lonely child finds solace by befriending an ill boy living in the dream world she's created.

Bernard Rose's Paperhouse is often lumped in with the horror genre, but it's more of a fantasy drama. It's a breath of fresh air for those wanting something different if they've seen too many cheesy '80s horror movies. But remember, it's also quite sad.

Directed by Tarsem Singh

A capable social worker is persuaded to use a new technology so she can enter a comatose serial killer's mind and then learn the whereabouts of his latest abducted victim.

Jennifer Lopez starred in this popular thriller that boasts a nightmarish aesthetic. The costumes and visuals are the biggest draws here, and it's no surprise the movie is remembered for those things. Critics were divided on The Cell itself, though, complaining of the emphasis on the aspects of the movie that fans enjoyed.

Directed by J.S. Cardone

An artist named Kay, her brother, and their siblings all end up on a small island off the coast of U.S. Georgia. Kay has been plagued by reoccuring and disturbing dreams for as long as she remembers. In them, she witnesses her loved ones' deaths at the hands of something evil. Now on the isle, Kay's dreams are starting to come true.

This slower-paced slasher from the early 1980s really plays up the theme of dreams. Maybe a little too much. However, watch carefully as there's a surprising amount of nuance to The Slayer. Even the way the story is told allows some room for theories on the order of cause and effect. If you want a slasher that requires some critical thinking, check this one out. Just avoid looking at the Blu-ray art that spoils the ending's big reveal.

Directed by Jonathan Hopkins

A sleep doctor helps a family that's been affected by severe parasomnia.

Thanks to fairly good acting and set pieces, and ample amounts of tension instead of gore, Slumber coasts by as a spooky scientific ghost story. Between this and Dead Awake, another horror movie about sleep paralysis, Slumber is more compelling. For those who like trivia, the word "nightmare" or "night-mare" was originally used to describe the phenonemon of sleep paralysis (the feeling of a malevolent entity sitting on or near you as you are immobilized) before it evolved into its modern meaning.

Directed by Dimitri Logothetis

After a man starts to experience the dreams of those that died at the prison on Alcatraz Island, he, his brother, and their friends all visit the island. There, they begin to fall victim to a wicked demon.

Does the plot sound silly? Yes. And that's basically all the movie is - silly. Its highlight is musician Toni Basil playing the ghostly rocker that comes to the characters' aid.

Directed by Neil Jordan

A suburban mother has a psychic connection with a serial killer who targets childen - including her own.

This late '90s dreamy thriller has an intriguing plot, but the acting is all over the place, and the pacing doesn't help matters either.

Poll #2085620 Do you believe in dream interpretation?

Do you believe in dream interpretation?


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What do you dream about?

- Throughout the post, I will share 5 different comments, each with a screencap from a different horror movie.
- If you're the first to name all 5 movies correctly or name the most correctly out of everyone who commented, you win. One winner per game.
- The prize: a $10 E-gift card (your choice: Amazon, Fright Rags, Sephora, ThinkGeek). Your prize will be emailed to you after we speak through PM. Be sure your settings allow PMs.

Keep an eye out as there will be various mini-contests posted randomly in my series of ONTD Halloween posts.

- Dressing up for Halloween? Take a photo of yourself dressed up in your costume (face must be visible) and with a sign saying "ONTD Halloween 2018." When the time comes, submit the photo for competition (state it's for the contest). You can still share photos without entering. From the chosen finalists, users will later vote for the winner. Contest is open to U.S. users only.
- The grand prize includes: a $50 Visa/MC gift card, horror DVDs/Blu-rays & other goodies TBD.
  • Current Music: The Cranberries - Dreams