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The Dreadful Ten: 10 Horror Films About Killer Careers!

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The work we accomplish in our careers is supposed to be what fulfills us. But isn’t there an uncomfortably obsessive quality to our work habits? Do the problems at work not have an unnervingly gum-like consistency, so that we find they’ve stuck to us and entered into our home with us? Think of the sleepless nights you’ve spent, dreading the presentation you must deliver tomorrow or the avalanche of paperwork that waits atop your desk. The fear of failure has become a modern day boogeyman, keeping us up at night with its whispering in the dark.

Some horror movies have tapped into the fear and anxiety our careers generate, depicting stories of hard work and sacrifice that doesn’t lead down the sunny, butterfly populated road to success. Here are ten films where ambition and initiative lead to much darker places. There’s no sunshine and no butterflies on these trails, but you will find voodoo rituals and soggy skinned ghosts.

 

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10. QUARANTINE (2008) – “Investigative TV Journalist”

Nothing says ambition like going into a pitch black apartment building in Los Angeles, from which a 911 call has just been issued. Investigative journalist Angela Vidal, played by Jennifer Carpenter, is willing to do exactly that to get a great story. When the firefighters whose night shift she is covering respond to the emergency call and investigate the complex, Angela goes inside with them, but it’s soon discovered, to everyone’s horror, that a rabies-like virus is infecting the human inhabitants of the building, turning them to crazed, violent predators. With the rabid infected jumping out of the dark building’s setting, QUARANTINE, a remake of the seminal found footage frightener [REC], is sure to make you jump. The hysterical, frenzied feel of panic maintained throughout the entire movie is efficiently nerve-grating. So if you enjoy that particular high of being kept on the edge of your seat, QUARANTINE may be the film to watch on your next sick day.

 

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9. THE SKELETON KEY (2005) – “Live-In Hospice Nurse”

Kate Hudson plays compassionate hospice nurse Caroline, a woman whose professional ambition is driven by guilt. By helping the physically ill, she tries to atone for being absent for her own father’s death. When a job offer from Southern Louisiana surfaces, Caroline agrees to live with the arrogant, elderly, Violet and her mute, stroke-victim husband, Ben. But what begins as a heartfelt story begins to contort into a feverish nightmare as Caroline registers that there’s something very wrong within the house. There are no mirrors allowed inside and although Ben cannot speak, his face and eyes show that he is in constant terror. But why?

Violet tells Caroline that the house is haunted by ghosts, a notion the latter is quick to scoff
at. But in this isolated corner of Louisiana, things are different than she’s used to: from each house and store, residents hang bizarre chimes to ward off evil curses and the paranoid fear of black magic is catching. It isn’t long before Caroline’s convinced that she’s being preyed upon by something unimaginably sinister. The atmosphere of THE SKELETON KEY is cloyingly creepy and the acting is great, with strong-willed characters butting heads against the backdrop of an otherworldly swamp. The unsettling line up of obstacles Caroline faces culminates in a jaw-dropping ending that was, in my opinion, impossible to predict.

 

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8. THE SHINING (1980) – “Hotel Caretaker”

Jack Nicholson gives a notorious portrayal of Jack Torrance in this adaption of Stephen King’s novel. Desperately in need of work, Jack leaps at the chance to serve as the winter caretaker of the expansive Overlook Hotel. As the hotel closes for the snowy season, Torrance brings his wife and son to reside with him in the isolated Maine mountains. As the snow accumulates outside, Jack’s sanity begins to falter and the Torrance family finds itself sharing the hotel with a host of conniving spirits.

The most intriguing part of the movie is watching Nicholson’s character change. THE SHINING is “grade A” chronicling of a descent into madness, pulled off so well by Jack Nicholson that his performance has become iconic. If a crazed Jack Nicholson and a hotel full of deceased residents doesn’t entice horror fans to come out and play in the snow, I’m not sure what will.

 

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7. 1408 (2007) – “Novelty Book Author”

Although 1408 mirrors THE SHINING in being a Stephen King adaption about a haunted hotel, the environments of the two hotels couldn’t be more different. Instead of the overwhelming vastness of the Overlook Hotel, 1408 takes place in the claustrophobic space of a single hotel room. John Cusack delivers dark humor as sarcastic writer Mike Enslin, a man with no belief in the supernatural, despite the fact that he writes about haunted locations for a living. He’s determined to spend a night in supposedly haunted room 1408, thinking it will make a great chapter for his newest book.

Regardless of the chilling warnings from the hotel manager, played by Samuel L. Jackson, Enslin checks into the hotel room credited with killing a shocking amount of people. In the cramped room, dimly lit with sickly yellow light, Enslin is astounded to find that the structure seems to have a mind of its own. Toilet paper folds itself into a neat triangle when he steps out of the bathroom for a moment. The subject matter of wall paintings change when his back is turned. Unease quickly shifts to horror as the room’s phenomenons go from strange to sinister and Enslin finds he is locked inside the hellish suite.

 

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6. THE RING (2002) – “Reporter”

To this day, I look at the THE RING with a mixture of respect and alarm. This English-language remake of RINGU is that one movie that I saw as a kid which literally made me sleep with the lights on…for over a month. Every time I tried to turn the lights out, I had the horrific sense that Samara, the film’s malevolent child ghost, was standing right beside my bed. THE RING follows Rachel Keller, played by Naomi Watts, a reporter who dives headfirst into investigating the deaths of several teenagers. Her exploration leads her to a videotape which holds strange images on it. What the tape also does is summon Samara, and seven days after anyone watches the video, she pays them the last visit of their lives.

 

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5. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) – “Bank Loan Officer”

Underneath it’s heavy coating of outrageous gore, DRAG ME TO HELL can actually be looked at as a morality play. In a moment of selfishness, LA loan officer Christine Brown makes the impulsive decision to turn an elderly gypsy woman down for an extension on her home loan. Denying the old woman the extension will mean she’ll lose her home, but it should put Christine in line for the promotion she’s dying for. What Christine, played by Alison Lohman, doesn’t know is that the elderly gypsy has the ability to summon demons and send them after her victims. Directed by EVIL DEAD helmer Sam Raimi, DRAG ME TO HELL is an astoundingly fun explosion of gore, mayhem, and dark humor.

 

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4. THE GRUDGE (2004) – “Student Nurse”

THE GRUDGE, a remake of the Japanese film JU-ON, brings us into a house still inhabited by its deceased and vengeful prior occupants. Nursing student Karen, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, goes into the house to cover for a missing classmate and to care for the elderly Emma. Within the house, Karen comes face to face with the horrifying ghosts that still reside there. Although she was only trying to do her job, Karen is marked by the milky skinned ghosts, as is anyone who steps inside the home’s threshold. THE GRUDGE is a well woven overlapping of stories, following different people as they enter the house and are resultantly followed by the malevolent spirits. Few ghosts have made my skin crawl the way the spirits in this film did.

 

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3. BLACK SWAN (2010) – “Ballet Dancer”

From director Darren Aronofsky comes this story of the pursuit to be perfect. Natalie Portman is Nina, an obsessively dedicated ballerina who earns the lead role in her company’s production of Swan Lake. Nina is overjoyed, until the stress of being the company’s new star begins to eat at her. As she tries to cope with a possessive mother, an abusive company director, and the competition of a new and talented company member, Nina begins to lose touch with reality.

The story is beautifully told and incredibly acted, sucking viewers into the oppression Nina’s own anxiety is crushing her with. Utterly unnerving, we experience the disconnect from what’s real along with Nina, looking out from her eyes as reality melts away and the world is transformed into a horrific series of nightmares.

 

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2. SINISTER (2012) – “True Crime Novelist”

In this wonderfully twisted and genuinely creepy film, Ethan Hawke stars as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt. The subject of his newest novel is the grisly murder of an entire family, each of whose members were found hanging from a tree in their own back yard. Only the youngest child’s body was never found. Ellison locates the deceased family’s home and makes a bold career move- he moves into the house himself, along with his wife and their two children. Within the house, Ellison discovers tapes which hold shocking footage. The excitement of the monstrous discovery pushes him into a feverish and secret investigation.

SINISTER  is just as much fun as it is frightening, as each new discovery that Ellison makes is more disturbing than the last. The creepy atmosphere of the house grows stronger each time darkness falls, just as the supernatural presences that appear every time Ellison enters his study grow more intrusive.

 

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1. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) – “FBI Agent”

The top spot on this list goes to the film that presented one of the most phenomenal portrayals of a psychopath in horror film history. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1992, allows us to become intimately acquainted with the charismatic and impeccably mannered serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins plays the cannibalistic doctor who agent Clarice Starling of the FBI, portrayed by Jodie Foster, must collaborate with to catch another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Starling’s profession requires that she visit Lecter in his maximum security jail cell, trading personal stories of her life for the clues Lecter gives in return.

Hopkins gives an unforgettable performance as Lecter, a sociopathic cannibal who is just as seductively intriguing as he is horrifying to behold. Jodie Foster matches his performance as the fiercely determined agent-in-training who risks everything to stop Buffalo Bill from killing his current hostage.

And now, here are some honorable mentions that unfortunately didn’t make the cut…

1. GREEN ROOM (2016) – “Punk Rock Musicians”
2. THE BOY (2016) – “Dollsitter”
3. THE FLY (1986) – “Scientist”
4. FROM HELL (2001) – “Detective”
5. SAW III (2007) – “Surgeon”

About the author
Lexi Harrington
Lexi Harrington fell in love with horror after picking up Stephen King’s novel Carrie in middle school. Since then, she’s devoured as many horror movies and horror novels as she can. Lexi even writes about horror at Florida Atlantic University, where she is studying English. She’s also a Vinyasa yoga junky and teacher.
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