15 HORROR MOVIES THAT TAKE PLACE AT A WORKPLACE
Staying engaged at work is difficult, but it’s even tougher if there’s an immortal, ax-wielding psychopath chasing you through the woods.
In honor of Halloween, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best horror movies that take place at work — ones where workers face bloody, scary, and satanic situations. Each movie involves a different type of worker and workplace, from a fast-food restaurant to a bank.
Hopefully this puts your bad days in perspective — at least you don’t have ancient, bloodthirsty witches haunting your office.
1. Compliance (2012)
Afflicted workers: service industry
Workplace: fast-food restaurant
Do you do everything your boss tells you to do? The workers in Compliance do, even if it means mistreating a coworker. A man claiming to be a police officer calls a fast food restaurant and says that he’s investigating a worker for theft. The man tells the manager to detain the worker, and then orders the manager and others to mistreat her. Most horror movies have a supernatural element, but the absence of that here is what makes Compliance scary. The tormentors are not possessed by a demon but by an irrational eagerness to obey an invisible authority figure.
2. Suspiria (1977)
Afflicted workers: ballerinas
Workplace: a German dance school
An American ballerina heads to Germany to attend a dance school, but she discovers that the school is actually a coven. “Discovers” is probably a poor word because the witches don’t really hide their murderous predilections. Though it’s not technically a workplace, the dance school serves as a stand-in for tempting offers: a new workplace in a new city might seem cool, but you never know what could be hiding there.
3. Alien (1979)
Afflicted workers: astronauts
If anything, this sci-fi-horror classic reminds us how dangerous some jobs are, even without parasitic aliens running around. The crew of a spaceship — bound by the vacuum of space outside — must contend with a giant, fanged alien running around in the walls. It’s a reminder that many professions put workers in similarly harrowing conditions. Miners, submarine crews, commercial fishermen, and many more go to work knowing that they can’t escape danger; they must work inside of it.
4. [REC] (2007)
Afflicted workers: news reporters
Workplace: the scene of a breaking news story
An absurdly terrifying movie from Spain that puts a pair of journalists in the most dangerous situation any journalist has been in since D-Day. A TV reporter and her cameraman investigate a strange situation at an apartment building but end up becoming part of the gruesome story. Locked in an apartment building with other survivors, they have to face a spreading zombie plague — and avoid the trigger-happy police outside the door.
5. The House of the Devil (2009)
Afflicted workers: babysitters
Workplace: a stranger’s house
Think it’s hard taking care of kids? Try babysitting Satanists. Set in the 1980s, this movie is about a college student who takes a gig babysitting an elderly woman. She winds up alone in a big, creaky house. Satan doesn’t appear until the end of the movie, but it’s the buildup to the gore that makes this movie so chilling. If you’ve ever worked alone in an empty building, you will understand why this movie is so scary.
6. Creep (2014)
Afflicted workers: freelancers
Workplace: a creep’s house
Like The House of the Devil, Creep provides a good reason to avoid on-demand work. A freelance videographer accepts a gig documenting a day in the life of a man with terminal cancer, allegedly a gift for the man’s unborn child. Things get weird quickly: the man demands to be filmed taking a “tubby” and later dons a werewolf mask named “Peachfuzz.” After seeing this movie, we’d be surprised if you ever look for work on Craigslist again.
7. Session 9 (2001)
Afflicted workers: asbestos removers
Workplace: abandoned asylum
So much of this movie revolves around common workplace problems. Ostensibly, the movie is about a group of asbestos removal techs working inside an abandoned insane asylum where they discover creepy evidence about the treatment of former patients. On top of that, they discover that they might not be alone in the asylum. Session 9 also deals with interpersonal problems between workers (to an extreme), and how stress at home can affect your work performance.
8. Willow Creek (2013)
Afflicted workers: documentarians
Workplace: the forest
An aspiring documentarian drags his girlfriend into the remote woods of northern California to find and film Bigfoot, but it turns out there’s more lurking in the woods than Sasquatch. But Willow Creek does prove that if you have passion for your work, you’ll pursue it to the very end. This movie culminates in a nauseatingly tense 20-minute scene that takes place inside a tent. Directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite — the standup comedian who played Zed in the Police Academy movies — Willow Creek lurches from humor to terror very quickly.
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Afflicted workers: students
Workplace: also the forest
How do you impress potential employers after you graduate from college? The best way is to show them that you earned real work experience in college. You could do that by getting an internship or by making an amateur documentary about an ancient, child-murdering witch who lives deep in the woods in rural Maryland. The choice is yours! Many people thought this movie was a snuff film when it came out because it was the first found footage-style horror film. It’s still very, very scary.
10. The Thing (1982)
Afflicted workers: scientists
Workplace: Antarctic research station
Filmmakers in the 1970s and ’80s really had a thing for killing scientists. Between Alien, Aliens, The Thing, and The Abyss, it was a rough decade for them. The Thing, however, is the scariest of them. Here, the scientists must use their analytical skills to root out a shapeshifting alien who is living as one of them. There’s also a good lesson about company culture here. Had the scientists fostered a good work culture, they would’ve been able to spot the shapeshifting alien right away. Aliens might be able to morph into human form, but they can’t fake cultural fit.
11. The Innkeepers (2011)
Afflicted workers: innkeepers
Workplace: an inn
Working the desk at an old New England inn on its last night in operation, two clerks spend their time investigating a ghost who haunts the building. What do you think they find? There’s actually a lot of debate about whether the ghosts in this are real or imagined — a great example of how being disengaged at work can lead to serious trouble.
12. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
Afflicted workers: bankers
Workplace: a bank
Released just after the 2008 financial crisis, Drag Me to Hell takes on the banking industry. A loan officer at a retail bank denies a loan for an old, creepy woman, who subsequently places a curse on the loan officer. Bad stuff follows. Sometimes you have to make tough choices at work, and those choices can have negative consequences — like being dragged into hell by a soul-eating ghoul.
13. Candyman (1992)
Afflicted workers: grad students
Workplace: the field
Graduate students in the U.S. have been pushing recently for better pay and benefits. They definitely deserve it if their work is anything like in this movie. In pursuit of an urban legend, the protagonist begins poking around the Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago for evidence of the Candyman, a ghost with a hook for a hand who you summon by saying his name five times while looking in a mirror. You shouldn’t do that — but in the name of academia, she does.
14. The Wicker Man (1973)
Afflicted workers: police
Workplace: a remote island
It’s never a good idea to bring religion or politics into the workplace, a maxim The Wicker Man underscores. A devout Christian police sergeant heads to an island off the coast of Scotland investigating the disappearance of a child. He discovers that the inhabitants are pagans, which he finds revolting. He allows his faith to obscure his police duties, however, and angers the nature-worshipping island residents.
15. Friday the 13th (1980)
Afflicted workers: camp counselors
Workplace: Camp Crystal Lake
You can’t talk about horror movies that take place at work without mentioning this one. The first movie in the classic slasher franchise is a blueprint for how not to behave at work. A masked lunatic stalks and slays the promiscuous, inebriated counselors of Camp Crystal Lake. Why? Revenge for their hedonistic ineptitude. During a previous summer, the counselors were so preoccupied with promiscuity and inebriation that a young camper drowned on their watch. The big, flashing lesson here: be responsible at work!