Unexpected Horror: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, “In Dreams”

A new series episode touches on the characters' dark roots
This is King Komodo, and he totally ate some kids

This is King Komodo, and he totally ate some kids

I think the title of my new (and expect it to be pretty sporadic) series, “Unexpected Horror,” is pretty self-explanatory; in these articles, I’ll talk about cases where the horror content of a story just catches unwary audiences totally off guard.

Today’s example comes from the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series airing on Nickelodeon.  Now, comic readers will know that the print versions of the Turtles have featured in some pretty disturbing adventures (remember that time that King Komodo ate a couple of children?), but to the general public, it’s always been the various kid-friendly animates series that defined the characters.

The Dream Beavers

The Dream Beavers

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I took a co-worker’s suggestion and watched “In Dreams,” the 5th episode of the 3rd season of the Nickelodeon series.  In Dreams has each of the Turtles tormented by one of the four Dream Beavers, fanged and clawed masters of the nightmare realm – with voices provided by horror fan favorites Robert Englund and John Kassir – who drain your life force while you sleep.  The Beavers (in particular the red-furred Dark Beaver, voiced by Englund) are obviously inspired by Freddy Krueger, and the dream sequences are very much in the playful, high-concept style of the later A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels.  At one point, there is even a musical allusion to the iconic Elm Street theme music.

Englund recording

Englund recording

Kassir and Englund goof around in the studio

Kassir and Englund goof around in the studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to Englund and Kassir, genre fans are treated to another horror veteran in a guest role.  Bill Moseley voices Bernie, the deranged, sleep deprived owner of an isolated county store.  Bernie is the guardian of a book called the Obturaculum Somniorum, which keeps the Beavers trapped in the dream world.  At one point, in order to protect the book, Bernie wields a chainsaw engraved with the phrase “The Saw Is Family,” a quote from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) which was also engraved into a chainsaw in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990).

Raph's dream

Raph’s dream

Sure, the concept is silly, and most of it is played for laughs, but some of the imagery in the dream sequences is kind of unnerving (especially in Raphael’s bizarre heavy metal video nightmares), and three of the four Beavers are allowed to be pretty menacing – at least menacing enough to send some moderate shivers down a little kid’s spine.  There’s nothing here that would really unnerve an adult viewer, but the allusions to beloved horror movies and tropes (there are more references than just those I’ve covered) are there to entertain saavy grown-ups.

If you’re a horror fan with any affection for the Ninja Turtles, In Dreams is a pretty solid use of 22 minutes.

 

Do you crave all things horror?  Read some more articles on The Blood Shed, or visit our Facebook page!

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