Warning: Spoilers for the movie "Gravity" follow.
Space travel can appear enchanting, as astronauts drift among the stars, marveling at sights never seen before by anyone, gazing down on Earth as a big blue marble. But look at the dark side. There are plenty of terrifying things that can happen to a lone astronaut out there floating beyond help, and in the new 3-D movie "Gravity," almost all of them happen to Sandra Bullock.
The already acclaimed 3-D space adventure features Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts working outside the space shuttle Explorer when disaster strikes — debris from a damaged satellite leaves them stranded in space with no help on the way.
"Gravity" is just one of a number of Nightmare Fuel movies out this fall. Robert Redford's new film, "All Is Lost," stars the actor as a lone sailor whose boat is damaged and must fight the vast ocean to stay alive. And "Prisoners" features one of the worst nightmares of any parent when two girls are kidnapped and the man believed to be their abductor won't reveal their location.
Here's a spoiler-filled look at six of the biggest nightmares "Gravity" floats into viewers' minds, and how they translate into real-life disasters.
Sandra Bullock faces every conceivable space nightmare in the gripping 3-D movie "Gravity."
1. Spinning wildly through space
If you've seen the trailer, you know Sandra Bullock is working outside the shuttle when events escalate, and suddenly she is unmoored in space, spinning crazily with nothing tethering her to the shuttle. "Dr. Stone is off-structure!" Clooney's character relays to Houston. Well, that's an understated way to put it.
Real-world equivalent: You're on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the state fair when it breaks loose and the tattooed carny running the ride is of zero help. Hey, you always knew those deep-fried pickles would resurface again.
Nightmare level: B
2. A damaged space suit
That Stay-Puft Marshmallow-style pressurized suit is the one thing protecting the astronauts from the vacuum of space. If your suit loses pressure, your body will deplete the oxygen from your blood and you'll lose consciousness. And as a "Gravity" scene gruesomely shows, suits are not made of impenetrable material. If your helmet is hit with debris and cracks open, your head is going to take the damage.
Real-world equivalent: Peyton Manning loses his helmet and gets taken out by Jared Allen.
Nightmare level: A+
3. Stalled in space
Bullock and Clooney's shuttle is damaged so severely by space debris that her character must leapfrog through the universe, utilizing both Russian and Chinese spacecraft, seeking the seemingly one working capsule left in millions of miles of vast empty space.
Real-world equivalent: Everyone who's driven a car has felt that sinking feeling when you turn the key and just hear that "wubba wubba" sound as the engine refuses to turn over. Too bad Bullock couldn't just call AAA.
Nightmare level: A
Bullock plays a biomedical engineer whose first space mission goes horribly wrong.
4. Using up oxygen
"From the minute you start watching this film, you can't breathe," Bullock said in an interview. That's only fair, because neither can she. Early on, Bullock is battling not being stranded in space, but the horrifyingly quick loss of oxygen. As a panicked first-time spacewalker, she's breathing much harder than Clooney's character, and the two quickly discover that her oxygen level is in the single digits and sinking fast.
Real-world equivalent: Scuba diving off the coast of Spain seemed like a great vacation idea, but maybe you should've paid attention in that beginners' diving class. Should this oxygen tank be on "E"?
Nightmare level: A-
5. Loss of communication
Remember in "Apollo 13" when the astronauts are in trouble and a NASA employee announces, "We gotta find a way to make THIS fit into the hole for THIS using nothing but THAT"? Yeah, ingenious help from a team of rocket scientists isn't coming in "Gravity." Early on, the damage makes it impossible for Bullock and Clooney to communicate with NASA back home, forcing them to rely on their own wits and ingenuity to solve a space problem no one has ever had before.
Real-world equivalent: Hello? Can you hear me now?
Nightmare level: A
6. Disaster upon splashdown
Returning to Earth! What a great idea! Surely nothing can go wrong this close to home, right? Well ... let's just say returning can get dicey, what with fears of burning up on re-entry, and that whole possible drowning when splashing down into a body of water thing.
Real-world equivalent: No lifeguard on duty.
Nightmare level: B
First published October 4 2013, 4:30 AM