Top 5: Films That Prove The Workplace Can Be Murder
List by Aaron Haughton
The corporate environment isn't for everyone. It can be a cutthroat place where you gotta kiss loads of ass and sacrifice your true self bit by bit in ways that erode your mentality, which can drag you into some pretty low frequencies at times. It can very easily send people over the edge. This list explores the films that take a look at the darker side of the office and prove that the workplace can be murder, both literally and figuratively.
- 5: Falling Down
Okay, so it doesn't technically take place in an office or have much to do with work, which is why Falling Down clocks in at number five on our list, but Michael Douglas's character does lose his job, followed by his shit in the burger joint scene, so we'll allow it. The film is pretty ridiculous, but seems a little too real in this modern day and age. In a lot of ways, it's still a pretty accurate tirade on America and the crumbling American Dream, which ain't a pretty one. Michael Douglas gives a terrifying performance as William "D-Fens" Foster, the film's bad guy protagonist who is pushed beyond his limits in a number of cascading events. In some ways, I think D-Fens gives Tony Montana a run for his money with regard to the most despicable protagonist in cinematic history. However, unlike Scarface, we watch D-Fens unravel over time and can even sympathize or agree with him on occasion; although, it still doesn't excuse his actions, which are unforgivable.
- 4: The Belko Experiment
This film takes place in a government-operated non-profit organization located in South America. One day, employees are trapped in the office by large metal doors and instructed by "their new God" over the loudspeaker to kill a select number of co-workers in order to survive. They'll have to follow orders or suffer the consequences -- each employee has been equipped with what they believe to be a "tracker," which they received upon employment due to the number of reported kidnappings in the area, but is actually an explosive. The employees are being watched all over the building via cameras placed throughout the facility, and the company logo is -- surprise, surprise! -- an eye; one wrong move and the employee's "new God" could detonate their explosive, blowing a hole through the back of their head. As the film progresses, the stakes are gradually increased, leading to an ending that leaves more questions than it does answers (you would expect more from James Gunn who wrote and produced the film). Ultimately, the film is an office version of Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, and is a story about what happens to humanity when it's faced with strenuous survival circumstances. SPOILER: it fucking crumbles to shit! The lesson here: don't take the fucking job if the government wants to put shit in your head.
- 3: Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Everyone's favorite mogwai, Gizmo, is back, only this time around he's the subject of scientific experiments conducted by Clamp Enterprises. Rescued by returning characters Billy and Kate (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates), who also work for the company, Gizmo is left alone in an office where he gets wet by a malfunctioning water fountain, which spawns new mogwai, who then eat after midnight and transform into gremlins. The evil gremlins then turn on the office sprinkler system, giving rise to a gremlin army that wreaks havoc on the office building and its staff. The film is filled with nutty 80s camp, which is best explained by the Key and Peele sketch below:
- 2: Severance
What starts out as a fairly typical company retreat for the European Sales Division of the Palisade Defense Military Arms Corporation quickly turns eerie, bloody, murderous, and funny. Severance is a British horror comedy in the vein of Edgar Wright's Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz (in fact, it's kinda like those two films rolled into one). The employees find themselves being pursued and hunted by Russian-speaking killers, but, luckily, they work for a weapon's company and have access to some pretty heavy fire power. It's a bloody funny good time (you see what I did there?), and the film has many great tag lines, including: "The company's making cutbacks."
- 1: American Psycho
This film goes to show you the mental strain a workplace environment can cause, which leads to, you know, murder and stuff. But are the murderous activities in the film fact or fiction? The film opens in what appears to be a grounded reality before descending into the outright absurd, giving way to an ATM demanding to be fed a kitten and a wild killing spree. Most people would say that it's all in Bateman's head, although the films director says otherwise. There's no doubting that Bateman (played by Christian Bale) is disconnected from reality -- this is very apparent from his morning routine scene -- and the reason the ending of the film is so absurd is because of Bateman's disconnect from reality. Bateman is a killer, but not the homicidal killer he thinks he is; he's just another normal guy in a sea of other uncaring American psychos, such as he. By the film's close (and in a nod to Jean-Paul Satre's play No Exit), Bateman is trapped in his own personal hell and receives "no catharsis" because he requires the recognition of the other yuppies to affirm his identity of being a murderer. The film is a suave satire that associates materialism, misogyny, narcissism, and classism in the same hand as homicide, and Christian Bale is both horrifying and hilarious as Patrick Bateman.
- Honorable Mention: Robocop
I was hesitant to add a film about cops to the list because cops die in a lot of films, and the possibility of death is just part of the job description. But, hands down, the best scene of workplace murder for me is ED-209's malfunction in the OCP boardroom in Paul Verhoeven's Robocop:
What do you think? Did we miss anything? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!