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8 Film Ideas Sparked By The Nightmares of Children

Children might just have the richest, strangest, most ingeniously macabre imaginations in the world. Their singularly dark and sumptuously surreal visions have inspired authors like the Brothers Grimm and Edward Gorey, and kids have provided countless filmmakers with nightmare fuel, as well: any number of bizarre and/or creepy movies have been directly inspired by their flat-out terrifying dreams. 

The below directors have never stopped drawing on the haunted goldmine of ideas that define childhood fears. Read on to find out more, and don't be ashamed if you have to sleep with the lights on tonight.

  • The Watcher In The Woods: "The Witch" (2015)

    Robert Eggers' The Witch, with its sacrifices, demonic possessions, and disturbing figures living in the woods, gained plenty of acclaim on its release. But not many people know that the movie came straight from the director's childhood nightmares. According to this article, shooting the film “was particularly strange because [Eggers] leaned so heavily on drawing from his dreams that it felt like he was reliving certain moments from his childhood.”

    Specifically, a scene showing a child finding a witch's house in the woods struck a cord with the director. "I remember talking to... our director of photography, and saying, 'This is all so odd.' It wasn't just something that I had dreamed as a child, but it was something that I could recall vividly.”

    • Photo: deeperintomovies.net / via Pinterest

      Federico Fellini's films are firmly grounded in the beauty, darkness, and fascination of childhood dreams. As this article explains, the young Fellini "could not wait for bedtime, when he would close his eyes and see absorbing spectacles. He had named the four corners of his bed after four cinemas in Rimini, his birthplace on the Adriatic coast." 

      Fellini kept dream notebooks and sketchbooks in his youth and throughout his life. In one, he apparently describes "waking up in fright after sensing his father's corpse beside him." He also reportedly "saw himself condemned to be hanged," and "locked in an elevator besieged by sharks." Perhaps that dark sensibility informed his take on the works of Edgar Allan Poe in Spirits of the Dead, which re-imagines ultimate evil as a young girl.

      • Actors: Jane Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, Terence Stamp, Alain Delon, Peter Fonda
      • Released: 1968
      • Directed by: Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini
    • Talking Animals And Dead Relatives: "Dance of Reality" (2014)

      Photo: wardance.it / via Pinterest

      Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky is known for his surreal, artistic work. In 2013, after a 20-year absence from filmmaking, Jodorowsky again exploded onto the scene with Dance of Reality, a movie largely inspired by his childhood dreams, nightmares, and hopes. 

      Throughout his childhood, Jodorowsky claims, he had visions of "talking animals, gods, and deceased relatives" that he incorporated into this film. It's not clear what's real and what's invented; the director calls his autobiographical project "imaginary but not fictitious."

      • Photo: jeancarlosayala / via YouTube

        From Pan's Labyrinth to Cronos to The Devil's Backbone, Guillermo del Toro's films often feature elaborate demons, oppressive forces of evil, and imaginative, intrepid children venturing into hellish landscapes. As it turns out, many of these children are products of del Toro's own childhood flights of fancy.

        According to del Toro, who speaks at length about his early inspirations in this video interview, his relationship with the macabre "started in the crib. I was a baby. And from the crib all the way to age eleven, I had 'lucid dreaming,' which means that you dream that you are awake. So I literally saw monsters."

        However, said relationship was amicable rather than terrifying. "I was used to them, " del Toro goes on to explain. "I loved them... And, you know, we stayed friends."

        • Actors: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero
        • Released: 2006
        • Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

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