31 Shinbi's Apartment Ghosts!
DAY NINETEEN: INCUBUS
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
SEASON 02, EPISODE 05: children are being plagued by a rash of intense nightmares, and one by one they vanish in their sleep. The one common thread? The same short, middle aged man appears in every dream, with the same intense smile and high-pitched voice.
This man is revealed to be the dream avatar of an incubus, which in this series is (thankfully) a demon that feeds exclusively on fear. Every victim experiences the same nightmare every night, but always a little longer, until they finally dream about the man dragging them away while their real body is sucked down through their own bed.
After Hari is taken, her little brother Doori teams up with Shinbi to enter the dream realm themselves, where they find a hauntingly beautifully but unsettlingly organic looking cavern system, the domain of the Incubus, even populated by bats with his own visage. We also get some close-up glimpses of the walls, which resemble ghostly faces that slowly ripple and softly moan, quite possibly formed from previous victims.
At the center of the Gigeresque labyrinth, the demon's prisoners lie sleeping in extremely gothic cradle-like pods that siphon their lifeforce to the Incubus himself, who very weirdly resides embedded in the ceiling with only his head hanging down.
When Doori and Shinbi free Hari, the Incubus emerges to reveal a disproportionately massive, skinless body, and while we don't get a very clear shot of it, his head is capable of launching on a long, turtle-like neck. Wonderfully nasty!
By fleeing from the demon with one another's help, the three are able to awaken from the dream world and drag the incubus back into reality, where he manifests only as the small man, albeit with demonic horns. Powerless in the waking world, the demon is killed in mere seconds by a few quick slashes from Puppet Nurse!
A dream-walking nightmare demon is an inevitability in any series dealing with the supernatural, and Shinbi's Incubus doesn't disappoint. The mundane human form he takes to haunt the dreams of children is SO much more off-putting than if he always appeared as a monster, exuding a deeply unwholesome Stranger Danger vibe, and I can't say I didn't have nightmares as a child where I was scared out of my mind by basically just some guy popping up unexpectedly with a surprising face or speech pattern. The giant, skinless body of his "true" form, while perhaps a bit over the top, is also made more disturbing by keeping that banal skeevy dad face, and I feel like the gruesomeness of the exposed flesh and bone is probably to give him that grisly Freddy Kreuger feel without lifting Freddy's scarred and burned skin.
The Incubus is also inspired in part by what you can sort of consider a classic "creepypasta," though perhaps it falls more into the category of "hoax." From 2008 all the way until 2012, a viral website perpetuated a claim that same unidentified man kept appearing in people's dreams all around the world. The creator would ultimately admit that it was part of a marketing stunt for a fiction work that never really got off the ground.
Incubus is an exceptionally frightening demon for this series, and feels quite interesting both with and without knowledge of its loose inspiration.