Not Quite Horror: “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” (2005)


Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There more than one way to watch a movie.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

The Monster: This Oscar-nominated documentary about Enron may be factual, but its narrative comes straight out of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The company grows under the mad-science tinkerings of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The mad scientist owners pumped their creation full of risky investments and creative accounting regarding the costs. Unable to stay alive, the Enron Frankenstein died of bankruptcy.

The Horror: During its meltdown, the Enron monster was more Godzilla than Frankenstein. Jobs were lost. Companies were ruined. Presidents and former presidents were mentioned. One Enron executive committed suicide.

The Shared Fate: With every purchase we make, with every job we take, we are reminded decisions made by companies of every size can affect the entire world. The bigger the company, the bigger the group of people that company could potentially affect.

Most of these relationships are positive. We can eat what we want to eat and we can find the products we want to buy.

When one of these giants is tainted by mad scientists and becomes hurtful, its footprint can smash cities.

When a documentary reminds us we are all vulnerable. A monstrous company may not leave craters or bonfires in its wake, but Enron demonstrated it can leave destroyed households and tragedies just the same.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen