Neil Jordan’s masterful thriller In Dreams takes the Girl Underground a step further than most. [Caution: SPOILERS. No way to discuss this one here without them.]

Claire, an adult woman with a husband and child, has always been a bit psychic. She starts being tormented by dreams that appear to show the fate of a young girl who has recently gone missing in her town. But in fact, they are predicting her own daughter’s kidnapping and murder by the same unknown killer. As the dreams intensify, Claire acts quite mad, but in fact she is seeing the truth. What she doesn’t know is that the killer dreams of her too – they are linked somehow, and he can even manipulate her dreams to lead her to him. When yet another girl disappears, Claire decides to surrender her mind to him, so that she may find and ultimately defeat him (following the normal pattern that an adult GU protagonist is usually fighting to save a child).

Claire doesn’t have many companions – her husband is only concerned for her sanity, but her psychiatrist does end up believing her, although he doesn’t help much. Her dog is sometimes by her side. Primarily, she is led through the labyrinth by the adversary himself, the mysterious killer who invades her mind.

Her “final showdown” with the adversary is an extended mind game, with the killer (brilliantly played by Robert Downey Jr.) trying to bring her over to his side, creating a little family with the kidnapped girl, and Claire playing along until she can get them both to safety. She does rescue the girl, but dies during the final confrontation on a bridge.

And that’s where it gets interesting. Because their mysterious mental link still exists, and now it is Claire’s turn, from beyond death, to torment the imprisoned killer with waking nightmares. In a case of Girl Becomes Adversary, she haunts him violently.

I’m noticing a new theme starting to emerge here – that when the Girl is an adult, her fate is often much worse than normal, either becoming something scary herself (as in this movie and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), or at the very least being stuck in a horrible netherworld, such as in The Dark and Silent Hill).

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