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Industrialized Evil

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Crush, kill, destroy? No: perforate, plug in, drain.

Moran: That's what you get, Mr. Holmes, when industry marries arms.
Holmes: My horror at your crimes is matched only by my admiration at the skill it took to achieve them.

When the bad guys aren't satisfied with killing one or two people at a time, and couldn't care less about appearances, they may hit upon the "creative" solution of applying industrial efficiency to their vile practices. Rather than spend time crafting personalized tortures for their victims, they will automate their evildoing to an efficient and loveless routine that is all the more creepy for its impersonal detachment.

Why should vampires spend hours hunting a juicy bloodbag when they can just breed and slowly exsanguinate people in People Farms? Or for that matter, the repressive police state may just build an all purpose Agony Beam rather than bother with psych evaluations to put political prisoners in tailor made torture chambers. A werewolf may decide that rather than wait for college students to wander into his forest to hunt, he could just kidnap people off the street and release them for sport.


As with Real Life automation, one of the "benefits" of this approach is a potentially vast scale of application. While even the single murder of an undeveloped Innocent Bystander can be tragic thanks to the Rule of Empathy, mechanizing/serializing it and putting it on a national or even global level gives a sense of extra dehumanization and elevates the horror to near incomprehensible levels. And it's precisely because A Million Is a Statistic that using this trope can be risky; the flippant treatment of human life and lack of "anchoring" individuals can alienate audiences. It's not even a case of Show, Don't Tell, unless the threat or horror is represented as tangibly real it can't be conveyed even by dialog.

Add Horror Hunger, Powered by a Forsaken Child, Human Resources, or And I Must Scream with this trope for extra (evil) fuel economy. Since the execution of this idea requires order and discipline, the perpetrators will usually be Lawful Evil unless they are an uncharacteristically well organized Neutral or Chaotic Evil, or they represent Blue-and-Orange Morality. Less vile examples may be Obliviously Evil or an example of Humans Are Cthulhu. Compare Ludd Was Right, where technology and science are considered bad in and of themselves. May be a part of a Final Solution scenario.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Simoun, where at first the pastoral Simulacrum is presented as morally superior to the early industrial Argentum but eventually proven to be similar behind the facade.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, ghouls that are captured by the CCG are sent to Cochlea for their imprisonment and eventual execution. Those not kept alive as Informants are either selected for experimentation or marked for termination. And how does one execute a large number of super-human beings that cannot be injured by conventional weapons? Simple! A large number of prisoners are simply loaded into a massive industrial press, and then crushed like trash and flushed into the sewers. The whole matter is handled in a very banal manner, with the Warden stamping papers to mark which prisoners will be part of the next mass disposal. The audience learns all this after Hinami is selected for Disposal, and several groups unite in a desperate bid to rescue her from the prison. As a final triumphant Screw You to the CCG, Eto creates a Kaiju-sized armor to smash the machine to pieces.
  • The Reveal (one of them, anyway) in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos is that Table City, in its original design, was a huge, mechanical transmutation circle, designed to turn whoever was in the appropriate chambers into blood, which is distilled into a Philosopher's Stone also known as a Sacred Star. We don't get to see exactly what happens to the Amestrian soldiers in the chambers, but a lot of blood is shown going through the pipes...
  • Attack on Titan has an lower-tech example of this after the Time Skip: The airships used by the nation of Marley hang Eldian prisoners from equipment racks, then launch them out of the back of the hangar. These prisoners are transformed into Titans mid-air, raining down on enemy forces from above. Other nations use regular munitions to attack from the air, while Marley uses people as disposable military equipment.
  • The Promised Neverland is what happens when brain-eating demons adopt factory farming. Children are raised in a giant pen and given a strong education for the sole purpose of having that knowledge absorbed by their consumers. Some demons help the protagonists because the farms are outright sacrilegious, but hope to restore the traditions of hunting down humans for food. Eventually, the series concludes that even demons would ultimately reject people farming; not because of any ethical concerns, but because the only people psychopathic enough to oversee these cruelly profitable systems would ultimately gain undeserved power through product and rule poorly.

    Comic Books 
  • One horror comic ("The Pit of Horror", Adventures Into Weird Worlds, 1952) has the Devil see that demons are getting lazy and complacent, so he brings in a human expert. The expert soon has them torturing souls with sadistic enthusiasm, so the Devil gives him his reward, a chest of jewels, and returns him to Earth at the same time and place he was taken from... which was a few seconds before he was scheduled to die. And guess where he's headed... Read it here.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Ferngully The Last Rainforest, the forest is threatened by a gigantic automated logging machine capable of converting acres of pristine wilderness into barren wasteland and piles of wood. The human operators are Obliviously Evil, but the Big Bad turns out to be a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • In Meet the Robinsons Doris the hat has turned the future into one giant Matrixesque factory creating bowler hats, with everyone enslaved by bowler hats like it.
  • Played for laughs (somewhat) with Lord Business' "Think Tank" in The LEGO Movie. It's a giant structure where the LEGO world's Master Builders are plugged into a Hive Mind matrix to think up new instructions.
  • The Pie Making Machine in Chicken Run, from the chicken's point of view. Seing how the farm was already a pretty clear allusion to a concentration camp, the implications get even more horrifying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Machines in The Matrix famously turned humans into batteries (physics notwithstanding, due to executives thinking viewers wouldn't understand a Wetware CPU). And keep in mind that this was the machines being merciful to the humans who had treated them like crap.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, the evil Necromongers have a highly automated process to convert the inhabitants of conquered planets.
  • Conspiracy (2001) is a dramatisation of the Wannsee Conference where the Final Solution was planned. It's largely a discussion of logistics, money and technology, with the only objections based around largely practical concerns, and the use of euphemisms such as "storage problem". Most notable when Eichmann reads out an account of a mass killing by gas chamber as if he's describing the test of a new piece of factory machinery, right down to a projected estimate of Jews killed per year with the new system. One of the participants explicitly compares it to a production line.
  • Metropolis is probably the Ur-Example of this trope. The lower-class workers are enslaved maintaining the highly dangerous machines that allow the upper classes to live in luxury. At one point, the hero imagines one of the machines as a shrine to the Biblical Moloch, consuming the workers killed in its upkeep like human sacrifices.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: The organization needs to ensure that, every year, a group of at least five young people accidentally induce their own destruction as part of a ritual sacrifice. Bad things will happen if the sacrifice is not made. Solution? Stick five teens in the woods and hope for the best? No. A cabin rigged with pheromone sprays, intelligence-reducing drugs and other special effects to enforce Genre Blindness when the basement full of artifacts of doom is finally discovered? Still not enough. Instead, the organization has dozens of horror projects across the world, killing multiple victims every year (including children in some cases), for possibly thousands of years to ensure they get the sacrifices they need. If in doubt, repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • The focus of the Cube film series is on a network of giant, mechanical Cubical mazes built up of thousands of smaller cubes, some of which are boobytrapped. It's inferred that they're some way of testing human behavior under stressful conditions, punishing dissidents of the regime and/or testing chemicals and other weapons, with one captive deciding that they have no purpose but were simply the product of a senseless, secretive bureaucracy gone mad.
  • In Jupiter Ascending, galactic society's most lucrative commodity is a Longevity Treatment produced by harvesting the human populations of entire planets for Human Resources. As one aristocrat explains, when money truly can buy more time, it's the most precious thing there is.
    "Abrasax Industries: Humanely Sourced — Ethically Harvested"
  • I Care a Lot: Marla tortures Jennifer but does so through legal means, like putting her on minimal meals and reducing her time outside to almost zero.

  • In the Discworld book Eric, the new lord of hell tried this approach — since souls don't actually feel pain, he established a lot of rules that changed hell into a tedious, bureaucratic horror. Even the demons were horrified (but somewhat proud of humans for having devised such tortures) and quickly arranged to have him Kicked Upstairs. Hell gets considerably better after that, because both souls and demons now know things could be a lot worse.
    • Similarly, the Magpyr family in Carpe Jugulum. They turned their predation upon the local townsfolk into a mechanical process in which everyone, including children, were drained slightly, transforming the fear of them from an occasional thrill to a daily banality of horror. When given the chance, the people turned against them very quickly.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Mordor and especially the post-Face–Heel Turn Isengard are depicted in an early industrialization stage. This is an oft-repeated trope in J. R. R. Tolkien's work because Tolkien had an intense dislike of industralization.
    • In one of the discarded editions of The Silmarillion orcs used tanks during the siege of Gondolin.
    • This is specifically Sauron's MO. This makes sense, since Sauron before his Face–Heel Turn was employed by Aulë the smith of the Valar.
  • In Cloud Atlas, the Archivist uses this trope's very words to refer to Sonmi-451's description of fabricants being slaughtered and recycled.
  • The Big Bad of The Gates of Sleep has a very ingenious way of sacrificing souls to Satan: she hires impoverished girls to work in an Edwardian paint shop that doubles as a brothel. The girls' souls are corrupted by degrading sex work while they waste away from lead poisoning.
  • In The Time Machine, by the year 802,701, the machinery and industry operators have become Morlocks, beast-like creatures who live in darkness underground and surface only at night to feed on the helpless Eloi. This is evoked as social commentary on the brutalization of the Victorian working-class.
  • In the setting of Pact, magical power is gained primarily by making deals with various supernatural creatures, or Others. The type of currency varies with the Other, but a lot of the more unpleasant ones enjoy human suffering of some stripe. Johannes Lillegard, a lone practitioner already possessed of impressive power, took this rule and applied some basic economic theory to it by creating a vestige, a copy of a large section of a mid-sized town, where the population could be tormented until death and then restored, and then marketing it to Others as a sort of amusement park, where they can hurt people all the time without concern for The Masquerade.
  • Timeline-191: Jake Featherston, Adolf Hitler analogue and President of the Confederate States of America takes an industrialized approach to his population reduction of the CSA's African-American residents, experimenting first with mass shootings, then trucks that asphyxiate the prisoners during transport, and finally, with Auschwitz-style gas showers. One of his henchmen, Jefferson Pinkard, tests each of these methods in turn, doing his best to bring logic and efficiency to the process of mass murder and genocide.
  • In the Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka, describes a torture and execution machine that is designed to kill the condemned through pain and blood loss over a period of twelve hours (pausing briefly to let the condemned rest and, still strapped in to the machine, eat a bowl of porridge). The beauty of the machine is, supposedly, that it is inhuman in a "good" sense: it is impartial, precise, persistent, and, of course, without hate towards the condemned. The horrible ordeal transforms the mindset of the condemned so that he will die at ease, feeling that justice has been served, even if he regarded himself as innocent before.
  • In Paradise Lost, the fallen angels attempt to recreate God's thunder by creating war-machines and cannons from the Primordial Chaos that precedes the Earth. Satan and Belial immediately brag that these machines make their victory eternally certain, just before the loyal angels figure out that giant hills (i.e. symbols of nature) make better projectiles than cannonballs.
  • Since all humans go to Hell in Damnation 101, once a human is throughly and viscerally introduced to what the rest of eternity will be like for them, they will eventually be placed on an assembly line, carried by a meat-hook through the jaw as a demon student enacts physical trauma onto them with whatever tool they choose.
  • The Line, from The Half-Made World, isn't simply evil industrialized, but industry made evil — the valuation of profit and production over everything else, including human life. Imagine a megacorp if it existed during the late 1800s: all smokestacks, oil drills, churning gears and pistons, concrete and barbed wire, and harsh electric lights. Its name comes from the railway line that links its ever-expanding list of Stations together, factory-cities where people are as standard-issue and disposable as the machines they handle. Its leaders are the trains that travel the line, having become sentient Mechanical Abominations under the influence of the Weird West.
    Lowry: The smallest youngest Station of the Line produces more goods in its factories in an hour - produces more goods by mistake every day - than Kloan and Greenbank and Gooseneck would ever have produced in ten years, in twenty. As you are to the Folk, we are to you.
  • The Dawn Empire in Shadow of the Conqueror. Led by Emperor Dayless, they harnessed the Phlebotinum of their world to create Magitek guns, factories, skyships, and other technological wonders, including those that could wipe out entire cities. Easily conquering several nations, they turned half the world into a hellish USSR-styled industrial state where tens of millions were slaughtered in purges or warfare, with Dayless himself ruling over them all as an iron-fisted Evil Overlord with absolute power.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "A Taste of Armageddon", the Enterprise discovers two planets are involved in a bizarre war in which computers simulate the conflict, and civilians deemed "killed" in the simulation are required to report to Disintegration Chambers. The people willingly go to their deaths, believing that in doing so, they are preventing an actual war from breaking out. Kirk and crew's revulsion at this is that there is an actual war where people still die from it, and this "simulation" setup removes the War Is Hell aspect that makes war something to be avoided (that and they decided that the Enterprise and crew became a casualty in their "simulated" war and had to report to the disintegration chambers).
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Wish" shows how The Master might have adapted to modern times by "evolving" vampire practices, replacing hunting humans with a literal abattoir.
  • On The 100, Mount Weather "harvests" people for their blood and bone marrow with routine, clinical efficiency. When one of their human dialysis machines gives out, they dump the body down a trash chute and rig another person up in their place.
  • Squid Game: The organisation behind the games runs a very tight ship. Every aspect, from the players to the workers' schedules are carefully regimented and ordered. The killings are brutal but efficient, and the corpses from every game are immediately disposed in industrial ovens in a very clear alusion to Those Wacky Nazis.
  • In Supernatural, when Crowley becomes the new King of Hell, he gets rid of all the usual torture in favor of a giant line in a shabby corridor where all the damned queue up only to go back to the beginning once they reach the end (“That’s efficiency”). As Crowley explains, conventional torture tends to attract masochists. No one likes waiting in line.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has The Guild, which engages in a variation of this, transporting thousands of slaves to the homes of The Fair Folk at the edge of the world (where their souls are consumed) for profit. They even get to take the Empty Shells off their hands and put them to simple hard labour.
  • In Infernum, a major change in infernal society came with the shift from artisanal torture of damned souls to heavily-automated torture palaces.
  • Rifts:
    • The Vampire Kingdom of Muluc generates blood for its vampire population through a "blood pool." Humanoids are drained of most of their blood each day, and then they're magically healed to restore their blood supply, to be drained again the next day. Horrifyingly, an inmate at the blood pool can live on for several years before finally giving up the ghost.
    • The Vampire Kingdom of Mexico is a subversion. Every humanoid is required to donate a pint of blood every three weeks, but the process is routine and painless, Mexico's leader is practically a poster child for Pragmatic Villainy, and Mexico is one of the safest places to be a human in Rifts Earth.
  • Given the scale of Warhammer 40,000, this crops up a lot. Most notable are a number of Chaos factions: the Word Bearers enthusiastically work entire planetary populations to death building monuments to the Chaos gods; the Iron Warriors herd captives into sacrificial trucks just to establish the maximum range of the guns of fortresses they're besieging - and that's the easy way out compared to what their slaves get; the Emperor's Children render down entire cities for combat drugs. Of course, the "good" guys aren't much better - to be a citizen of the Imperium is to be just a tiny, replaceable cog in a galaxy-spanning war machine, and citizens are worked to death, slowly poisoned with industrial toxins, or sacrificed for a minor tactical advantage on an hourly basis, to the point where more than one world has been left to its own devices in the face of an Ork invasion because the mines didn't have enough material left in them to justify committing troops to defend it.
  • One Pathfinder adversary, Alling Third, is a cyborg lich whose ritual to enter that state involved feeding an entire barbarian tribe, one by one, to a machine designed to torture them to death.

    Video Games 
  • In Prey (2006), the Sphere pretty much runs on this, by abducting organic lifeforms and using them either to make cyborg enforcers or to render them down into biofuel.
  • In Quake IV, the Strogg takes captured humans and puts them through a industry line that saws off body parts and attaches cyborg limbs. The player even goes through this, in first person.
  • The Reapers in the Mass Effect franchise. Ambiguously Robotic Mechanical Lifeforms operating on Blue-and-Orange Morality, every fifty thousand years they awaken from their slumber in the dark space between galactic spiral arms to "harvest" all star-faring civilizations. Their process is extremely methodical, with their own Mass Relay technology left behind as Lost Technology for ascendant civilizations to find as part of a Batman Gambit to nudge those civilizations into developing along predictable lines. This helps ensure that galactic leadership becomes centralized at the Citadel space station, which is the first thing they take control of in a surprise attack, simultaneously decapitating galactic leadership and giving them access to the records of how those civilizations have been spreading. The Reapers will then sweep away all space-born resistance and prioritize targets based on what can offer the biggest military challenge. Following this, a combination of Mass Hypnosis and military dominance allows them to round up survivors and render them down into organic liquid that will then be "archived" into new Reaper hulls. When all is harvested, they retreat to dark space, go back to sleep, and wait for the cycle to begin again, like clockwork.
  • The infamous "merperson farming" in Dwarf Fortress. It involved making a pool filled with merfolk, then draining it, leaving them (including the children) to suffocate so you could collect their valuable bones. Even the game designer and fandom, both normally huge fans of Video Game Cruelty Potential, found the practice sickening, with the developer greatly lowering the value of merfolk bones in the next update.
  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs unsurprisingly is focused on traversing the titular machine - a giant, sprawling monster of pipes, gears and pistons, buried beneath the streets of London that was designed to automate mass human sacrifice. Furthering the trope, the protagonist first designed the machine as his own answer to the approaching horrors of the twentieth century (that he had seen in a vision), such as the great World Wars. He viewed that as an even more terrifying industrialization of inhumanity and became so disgusted with mankind, set out to "make pigs of them all".
  • Minecraft of course with "mob farms" or "xp farms", which are all centered around the idea of breeding, trapping, and ultimately killing massive waves of living mobs with little effort on the player's part so the player can gain experience and cool loot.
  • The whole Oddworld series is built on this, with the first opening in RuptureFarms No. 1029, an enormous slaughterhouse that is consuming the region's fauna to extinction. Spying on a boardroom meeting, Abe the Janitor learns that the company is so villainous, they're going to turn the Mudokon cleaning staff (Abe included) into meat products for higher profits.
  • World of Warcraft's expansion Warlords of Draenor, features the Iron Horde, an Alternate Timeline version of the original, antagonistic Horde from Warcraft and Warcraft II. However, instead of utilising Black Magic like its prime universe counterpart, the Iron Horde instead uses the technology taken from the main Warcraft universe by its founder, Garrosh Hellscream - and takes it to a new level, turning its homeworld into a wasteland through industry just as surely as the original Horde did through demonic magic. For example: whereas the Warcraft II orcs used ogre magi, dumb brutish creatures given magical ability and intelligence through corrupting elven runestones, the Warlords of Draenor orcs use ogre ''gods'' with battleship-sized cannons mounted to their backs and supported by tanks.
    • The Burning Legion itself is no slouch at this. Its brand of evil industry, unlike the more conventional technology of the Iron Horde that only devastates the environment, is Magitek, and it runs on souls. Throughout the Legion expansion, you will encounter engines where mortals are gathered and killed so that their souls could be recycled for fuel.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 4 introduced Dark Chips, powerful but highly corruptive battle chips that are powered by hatred and evil. Come the next game, the villains' headquarters are a factory dedicated to mass-producing the things.
  • In RuneScape this is how human born vampires are made. During the quest River of Blood, the player discovers a factory where humans are placed into cages on an assembly line which are lowered into a pool of vampyre blood and then carried over a mound of a magical mineral, turning them into vampyres.
    • The way Vampyres extract blood from their victims also qualifies as this trope; pure humans living in the regions of Morytania controlled by the Vampyres are required to pay regular 'blood tithes' to their Vampyre overlords. Fortunately(?), of the six settlements in Morytania, only one, Meiyerditch, is simultaneously inhabited by living humans and controlled by the Vampyresnote  The people of Meiyerditch, however, are forced to live in filth and squalor under the ever-present threat of Vampyre tithers stopping by to collect their blood with the cold efficiency of a tax man. Many of the 'tithers' are themselves, for that matter, mortal humans who were promised a better life for themselves and their families if they went to work for the Vampyres.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: In the final boss' chamber, the Hyron supercomputer, used by the Illuminati to predict how to control humanity, is revealed to be built out of a hive mind of enslaved brain-augmented women, all of whom beg to be put out of their misery. It's implied that the realization that this horrifying process and its results were going to be applied to the rest of the human population is what caused Darrow to snap and commit genocide in a desperate attempt to wipe all traces of this and other human-resources technology.
  • In DOOM Eternal Hell essence, which fuels demons and is refined into Argent energy, is derived from tormented souls of the damned. As the natural process for creating it is slow, the Maykr erected massive slaughterhouses throughout Hell. The damned are delivered in massive crates and assessed, with the unworthy discarded into slurry pits and the worthy processed on. The souls are tormented until ready and then are extracted as Hell essence while the soulless bodies are discarded to become demons. In order to ensure the flow of essence never ends, the Maykr have guided demonic invasions to populated worlds while ensuring enough of a population survives to allow for future harvests. Of course, she claims she has some way to turn Argent back into individual, sapient souls, but Doomslayer ain't buying it (and we never see the machinery for doing so).
  • In DUSK the portal to the Nameless City is powered by offerings of flesh and bone on concrete altars. To facilitate this, the cultists of the town of Dusk have erected a gigantic human sacrifice machine known as The Thresher. You have to go inside.
  • In XCOM 2, the aliens, purely out of benevolence for their new human charges, have set up clinics where people can benefit from the aliens' advanced genetic technology to cure diseases and infirmities and generally improve their quality of life. Or that's what they want you to think. In truth, the clinics are a front for genetically profiling people, and the ones who are a match for furthering the aliens' end goal tend to disappear and wind up as Human Resources in hidden black sites. Then XCOM starts having some success in fighting back, and the aliens decide to accelerate their timetable and "process" all of humanity.

  • In The Order of the Stick, the vampire and Sinister Minister Malack drops his Affably Evil act when he reveals to Durkon that once he inherits the rule of the Empire, he intends to sacrifice a thousand sentients every day to his God of Death. He's thinking of developing some sort of special chamber for maximum efficiency so that he can harvest the blood for his vampire ruling class. Word of God is that this is a reference to the Real Life meat industry; The Giant is a vegetarian.
  • In Hell Inc the business of damnation is run according to the standards of a modern corporation. Sure, there's still fire and brimstone, but there's also an orderly check-in procedure, forms to fill out, an accounting department, an IT department and an entire class of white-collar demons who keep Hell running from their computer desks without ever getting their hands dirty

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legends of Treasure Island, at one point Long John Silver is killed and sent to Hell. He's given the tour of place and shown the demons "torturing" (in the Bowdlerized way you'd expect from a kids' show) the damned. Silver scoffs at this and claims he can implement a much more evil system in exchange for being released from Hell. He is allowed to do so, and when he is finished, we see that he has basically turned Hell into a huge machine where the damned are placed in conveyor belts. The machine itself doesn't even seem to do that much torture, which the head demon comments upon. Silver replies that that's the whole point: the damned are simply shuffled around from place to place by an indifferent machine with no rhyme or reason and fully aware of the pointlessness of it all. The head demon calls it brilliant and Silver is returned to Earth.
  • In one Itchy & Scratchy short in The Simpsons, Scratchy has died of illness. Itchy, sad that he'll never see his frenemy again, is inspired by a news story about scientists cloning a sheep, and builds a machine to clone Scratchy... so he can keep killing the clone again and again. However, the clones come out so fast that killing them all gets tiring, so Itchy sets up a killing machine right next to the cloning machine to automatically kill the Scratchies as they emerge.