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Nightmarish Factory

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In the Rainbow Factory,
Where your fears and horrors come true
In the Rainbow Factory,
Where not a single soul gets through...

Factories made to look like one of the circles of Hell. This goes beyond the typical sweatshop aspects of long hours, slave wages, and No OSHA Compliance. Those things may happen through negligence, but this factory cranks all those aspects up on purpose, until the place is an enclosed Crapsack World.

People are walking zombies there, and may die at any moment, while the cold, lifeless (or are they) machines don't stop moving. For some people, death may be a release. Those at the top either live fat off their profits, or are suffering from the effects of the environment as well, likely going insane slowly, if they're not already dead. And expect various amounts of smog, smoke, and toxic waste being spewed outside.

This trope started when mainstream factories didn't have anything in the way of child labor laws or occupational safety standards, and then people were horrified by the meat factory descriptions given in the book The Jungle, and infamous Real Life incidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Overlaps with Eternal Engine in video games, and with Hellhole Prison wherever such places use convict labour. May take the form of a Steam and Flame Factory.

Super-Trope to Sickening Slaughterhouse.

Compare Dystopia, Industrial Ghetto, Polluted Wasteland, Industrialized Evil.

Not to be confused with the band Fear Factory.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • An entire city (at least) is like this in the Bad Future of Meet the Robinsons.
  • The Chop Shop in Robots is this, both in appearance and in how it's seen in-universe. The fact that the owner looks like a female robot Satan doesn't help one bit. Nor does Tom Waits' "Underground."
  • Swedish animated movie Resan Till Melonia has orphans forced to work in a Nightmarish Factory that covers an entire island. Kid Hero Ferdinand has escaped from there.
  • The characters in 9 make their way to a dilapidated version of this over the course of most of the movie. The villain is actually a Magitek robot driven crazy by running the factory in the first place.
  • In Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run, this is the setting when Cecil Turtle tries to "smelt" a Bound and Gagged Lola Bunny. Bugs Bunny saves her (with very little help from Daffy Duck).
  • In The Steam Engines of Oz, to reach the secret chamber where the Tin Man has hidden his heart, the heroes have to pass through the Great Steam Engine of Oz. It is blisteringly hot, everything is bathed in a hellish red glow, it is filled with smoke and steam, and coal keeps raining down upon their heads. Phadrig and Gromit both almost pass out from the exertion it takes to get through.
  • Much of the environment of the Surreal Horror Stop Motion Animation film Mad God has this dark industrial aesthetic, especially the city where golems made of crap labour in a gigantic engine.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The lower classes in Metropolis worked in a place like this, toiling like slaves to maintain the dangerous machinery that allowed those on the surface to live in luxury. To drive the point home, the movie explicitly compares the factories to Human Sacrifice by showing a giant machine turning into a shrine to Moloch and back again.
  • The Petpak pet food factory in the climax of Razorback certainly qualifies as one.
  • Through its use of cinematography and lighting, The Machinist makes an ordinary machine shop seem this way.
  • In Pink Floyd's The Wall the "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" scene shows the schoolchildren being marched into an industrial machine, coming out the other way with identical deformed faces, before they are sent down into a giant meat grinder.
  • The Good Guy Doll factory from Child's Play 2 is an effective Light Is Not Good spin on this trope. Instead of being dirty and ominously lit, the factory is an eerily clean and brightly colored environment, but it's completely void of life, with only one guy watching everything from a control room. It's also filled with safety hazards, which endanger the protagonists and end up giving Chucky a Rasputinian Death.
  • The Geonosian droid factory in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is a sinister automated industry that nearly kills the heroes before they are found and captured.
  • In a short segment in Head, The Monkees are being walked through a factory - as the guide extols the good life it brings, Davy keeps seeing unsettling scenes - an employee drinks blood from a spigot, a desk worker's head drops off - but the others impatiently tell him to keep up.
  • The setting of the slasher film Hazmat.
  • In Elysium Max works in a factory building robots. He's told to enter a radiation chamber to move a pallet that's blocking the door or lose his job. The door shuts on him and he receives a lethal dose of radiation.
  • In The Ripper (1997), Inspector Hansen chases the Ripper into a factory that seems to be doing nothing but belching out flame and steam.

  • The phrase "dark satanic mills" was coined by poet William Blake in his poem Jerusalem (1808) to describe the factories of the industrial revolution.
  • The meat packing industry in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle can be considered as the Trope Namer. That's more of a modern interpretation, which is, ironically, what the author intended. Sinclair, who was a committed socialist, originally wanted to showcase the flagrant abuse of workers, dangerous working conditions and owners' complete disregard of everything except their profits. Society of the day, however, latched on the (quite colorful, true) description of the industry's products, and unsanitary conditions in which they were made. The resulting outcry basically led to establishment of the Food and Drug Administration. As Sinclair himself said:
    I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.
  • The West German Steel Mill in Günther Wallraff's Ganz Unten (The Lowest of the Low) was described to be a true hell factory for the workers. Just wondering how it may have been in East Germany...
  • 19th century Swedish writer Viktor Rydberg wrote the poem "Den nya grottesången" ("The New Grotti Song"; the title is a reference to a magical mill in Norse Mythology that could mill gold out of nothing) to draw attention to the horrors of the industry of his era. Even little children are forced to work at the Grotti Mill, and the workers don't get food or water but are simply worked until they drop dead.
  • In its initial phase of production, the aboveground floors of "The Red Tower" were full of harshly grinding gears and levers, twisting pipes and deep vats. Then they were evaporated by the wasteland, leaving their spectral outlines behind. At no point is it clear that anyone actually worked there.
  • The narrator in Stephen King's story "Trucks" sees these in his imagination when he ponders how the eponymous machines can possibly reproduce:
    ....if I close my eyes I can see the production lines in Detroit and Dearborn and Youngstown and Mackinac, new trucks being put together by blue-collars who no longer even punch a clock but only drop and are replaced.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The demon-run factory in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Anne".
  • The factories of the galactic Company from "Doctor Who, "The Sun Makers". Pluto is Humanity's last resort, as both Earth and Mars are uninhabitable. The entire human populace, each day, is worked ever so much more harder by a galactic Company, to extreme exhaustion. (One character, Cordo, at the beginning of the serial even admitting that he already works double shifts!) Taxes are placed abound on anything from medical care, to basic living, to even breathing the air; heavy fines for ostensible offenses (such as being out in the light of the artificially-generated suns, or what is considered an airspace violation — the Doctor harmlessly landing his TARDIS on top of one of the city buildings), and workers are penalized, even with legitimate time off given by the Company, plus these fees and taxes are increased often, leaving them constantly in-debt and unable to pay these exorbitant amounts. Offenders are re-educated note , and dissidents are steamednote  The mysterious Collector running the whole operation seems to be a Money Fetishist, is obsessed with work, debt, finances, profit, transactions, entrepreneurship, percentage of workmanship and time, allotment, and everything coldly involved with business.

  • Industrial was given its name because early bands were signed to Industrial Records and its early sound used sounds that brought one of these to mind.
  • Chemical Worker's Song; AKA Process Man by Great Big Sea.
  • The Animated Music Video for the aforementioned Rainbow Factory features a factory that resembles a Steel Mill, but with liquid rainbow instead of liquid metal.
  • Patti Smith's Piss Factory is about her early manual job on an industrial production line. On top of the physical discomfort and repetitive manual labour, it becomes nightmarish in a very mundane sort of way. The everyday mundanity is the nightmare.
  • The Cog Is Dead have Burn it Down, set in a small town where the only work is in the factory. The conditions are deplorable, so one night when the boss is at home, they burn the place down. Subverted when it turns out the factory was literally necessary for their very survival...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Certain hive-cities and Forge Worlds in Warhammer 40,000. It's not certain how bad any given Forge World or Hive Factory actually is, but given the techno-gothic construction techniques and the Imperium's propensity for slave labor and cyborg mind-control, it can't be very nice.
    • Just to illustrate, one of the Ciaphas Cain novels (which tend to paint the Imperium in nicer tones), has Cain find himself on a Forge World. An announcement for workers is heard at one point, reminding them that in just a few decades of labour they might afford themselves a cybernetic body upgrade that would render the ambient air more or less breathable.
    • Their Chaotic counterparts, Hell Forges, even more so. For added fun, since many of the factories of Chaos reside inside The Warp, they can manufacture actual nightmares, or at least turn them into guns and tanks.
  • The entirety of Autochthonia, Realm of Brass and Shadow, in Exalted. It's the interior of a machine-god, and it's large enough to be a self-contained world.
  • The Quiet Furnace from Magic: The Gathering is an interesting case. While the factory is run by the Phyrexians, and its purpose is to burn the dead and reforge their metallic bodies into more Phyrexians, its leader Urabrask allows Mirran Resistance to take refuge there.
    • Classical Phyrexia was a much straighter example, since it lacked the benevolent traits infused by the inclusion of significant non-black mana, especially red.
  • Iron Kingdoms: Ever wonder what a factory that makes combat units out of machine parts and large chunks of dead bodies looks like? Presumably the workforce doesn't care because the Cryx presumably use those same cyborg zombies for a workforce.
  • The Umbral Realm of The Scar is made up of a whole bunch of these in Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Legend has it was once a realm devoted to the promise of cities; then the Wyrm got in, and it slowly turned into an eternal paean to the worst excesses and horrors of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Hadestown has the Underworld reimagined as a mining town where the dead slowly lose all sense of self and memory as they toil endlessly in the factories and mines while building an endless wall for Hades. The set is designed to resemble a massive, rusty oil drum that everyone is trapped in.
  • In Jasper in Deadland, Lucifer is in charge of a factory full of enslaved souls. It's easily the most hellish part of Deadland.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife (1996): Two of the highest Sloth punishments in hell are different flavors of these.
    • The "Beat the Dickens out of You" factories are more Victorian-themed, with a note that demons are quite fond of the industrial revolution: "It was a time when pollution ran unchecked, giant machines regularly mangled innocent workers, entire families were placed into indentured servitude to rich, thoughtless corporations, and the concept of trade unions hadn't even begun to form in people's minds." As such, they aim their best to replicate and surpass the worst of the era.
    • "Sisyphus Factories" are a little more modern, in that while apparently safer most of the modernization is taken in the worst direction possible: Millions upon millions of individual goals are given out and worked on with back-breaking labour, only to never get achieved right at the end due to some minor matter, thus dashing down all the hard work that took to get there. It's explicitly stated nothing is ever finished, and no product has ever left the factories.
  • Every Glukkon factory in Oddworld. Every corner that can be cut is sliced off, the machinery is actively dangerous, and workers are enslaved and often double as Human Resources.
  • The Fallout 3 DLC The Pitt is set in the industrial ruins of Pittsburgh, PA, which are ruled by ruthless Slavers up top and infested with pollution-mutated Trogs below.
  • The infamous factory stage on Shiver Star in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards.
  • Sunless Skies has the Brabazon Workworld. Imagine the worst excesses of Victorian industry, and then imagine them with the power to ensure that for every hour that passes outside the factory, an entire year passes for its workers.
  • In Alice: Madness Returns, the Hatter's Domain is this after being taken over by the March Hare and Dormy.
  • The penultimate stage in Half-Life 2, The Factory, is an alien version of this.
    • There's also the antiquated waste processing area in the original Half-Life, which has pounding crusher pistons and glowing tanks of acid.
  • Contra:
    • Stage 5 of Hard Corps: Uprising can be this. After sneaking in through what appears to be an ordinary (and poorly lit) base, the heroes are attacked by mechanical monsters that are constantly being dumped out onto conveyor belts. When defeated, they fall backwards and explode into pieces that can damage a character. The boss is a flying alien-looking fetus thing inside a case with mechanical arms and weapons attached to it. Bahamut experiences the real 'Nightmare' part of this trope. Playing as Krystal (and reading her storyline loading screen after this stage) reveals that those mechanical monsters used to be people, and that she could see Bahamut was visibly disturbed about gunning down what may have been be his ex-comrades.
    • The second half of Stage 3 of Contra: Shattered Soldier also fits this. After you have destroyed the small Helicopter Blender, you enter the factory, facing the grinding machine and the chubby alien thing that produces inanimate molds. Defeat it and it gets into grinding machine along with the molds, getting grinded into the grinding machine. Next, you will see an alien snake (looks like Devil Dragon Emperor Java) that spits the hazardous bubbles as well as poisonous acids. Beat the alien snake, and two rolling turrets following it, and you will face a giant robot that breaks the wall and chases you.
  • This is essentially what the Star Forge is in Knights of the Old Republic. It's able to churn out an endless amount of warships and so forth without any issues as it only requires a single type of fuel. What is that fuel? Nothing more than dark side energies emitted from sentient beings. And if that isn't enough, Darth Malak mentions that the Star Forge is akin to a living creature, always hungering for dark side energy. And if the individual isn't as resilient/strong enough to control it like Malak and Revan were, it consumes them for fuel as well. It's no freakin' wonder why Revan voice-locked the Ebon Hawk's navicomputer since, depending on the choices answered to Atton at the beginning, even if the Star Forge was destroyed via the LS option, the technology that built it could be used to rebuild it again over the years.
  • The pipe factory in Beneath a Steel Sky, where the Corrupt Corporate Executive in charge doesn't even bother to provide a radiation suit for the employee working with the nuclear reactor. Unsurprisingly, the employee in question is later found dead from radiation poisoning.
  • Grunty Industries of Banjo-Tooie. To make matters worse for Banjo and Kazooie, the parts, factory workers, and drones all want to kill them.
  • Quake:
    • Quake: The runic-themed levels have this feel to them. They feel like a cross between a molten-steel plant and a steel-based castle with runes, skulls, and crucifixion emblems adorning the walls and doors. The hot liquid behaves like lava, and the motif has the feel of an underworld villain's lair.
    • Quake II: The Processing Plant in, where you get to watch your comrades get turned into Strogg chow. The main objective of the level is to hit the shutdown button for every single one of the processing machines. This concept was expanded in QuakeIV into the Stroyent Production Facility, explaining that victims are liquefied into essential nutrients for the Strogg.
    • Quake IV:
      • The Strogg Medical Facility is one of these, despite the name. Captured human soldiers are put through Unwilling Roboticization where they're doped with steroids with massive, dirty needles, dismembered, and fused with cybernetic limbs and tools to make them into Strogg soldiers. You get to see this in First-Person, too (although for the PC Kain, it's a Mid-Season Upgrade and level in Badass that gives him 25% more of everything since the mind-control implant in his skull was never fully activated). The really unfortunate prisoners are subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture as intense as having their organs removed to see how long they survive.
      • The aforementioned Stroyent factory arc in the same act continues the factory theme with corpses being liquefied into essential nutrients. There's a room with giant cogs and discarded piles of human bones to really emphasize the point. Subpar cyborgs also get discarded here in the basement acting like Zombies.
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars: Smithy's Weapon World is an entire dimension that's been turned into one of these. The factory's "outskirts" are decrepit and full of scrap, with several ghostly enemies lurking around, and similarly drab and dull machinery with conveyors that move around copies of previous Smithy Gang bosses.
  • 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue: Cruella DeVil's toy factory at the penultimate level, which manufactures the evil robotic toys you've been fighting throughout the game. The place is replete with several types of dangerous crushing devices and unprotected conveyor belts. And let's not forget that giant "super-gloop" cannon that Cruella uses on you in the level after that.
  • Obsidian has a powerless factory holding a massive robotic spider, a level that IS a character's nightmare, which you get to experience firsthand thanks to nanobots who built it. The goal of the area is to repair said spider by solving puzzles based on an alternate version of the four elements, and by extension bring the spider to life. The person who first had this nightmare said that it ended horribly for him, and you get a front row seat to this ending as the spider crushes everything in its path and decides to eat you alive. But, being a dream, you are simply sent to the next realm.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, there's Frantic Factory. It's set inside K. Rool's island fortress and is inhabited by killer robots, toys that attack the Kongs, and dangerous machines. Oh, and Chunky Kong's held captive there and the boss is a massive Jack in the Box thrown in the "rejected toys" bin.
  • In Super Mario World: Piranha Island, Blood Muncher takes place in a hellish factory owned by the Piranha Plants and Munchers. Mario has to ride upon the gears and avoid falling into the deadly lava. However, catchy remixes of Bloodlines and Beginning play in this level and invigorate the player with their catchy beats.
  • The Magitek Factory in Final Fantasy VI is a sprawling factory producing Mini-Mecha and killer robots out of machine parts and magic forcibly (and improperly) drained from Espers.
  • The fifth Palace in Persona 5 is a mix between this trope and a space station. Robotic drones (representing how Palace owner Kunikazu Okumura views his employees) are forced into endless mind-numbing work with only a few seconds of break time. Whenever one of them breaks down from the stress, their body is melted down and turned into fuel. His actual factory in the real world is a less extreme version, having harsh work conditions and poor safety practices.
  • Heisenberg's factory from Resident Evil Village is one. The underground facility is gigantic and filled with Soldat zombies, cyborg zombies of Heisenberg's creation that are extremely tough and dangerous because of their drill arms.
  • In World of Goo, Majority of Chapter 3, "Cog In The Machine", takes place in the factory designed to create and launch the mysterious Product Z. These levels are significantly darker in both tone and atmosphere, compared to the rest of the game, the fittingly unsettling music solidifying the hopelessness the place gives off.
  • Magical Tetris Challenge: Averted. Mickey Mouse, the hero, works at a factory, and it's not a particularly scary place. The factory boilers, which are alive, look friendly enough.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Family Guy episode "The Road to the North Pole" had Santa's workshop turn into this after being unable to keep up with presents to a world with such a huge population.
  • The Futurama episode "Attack of the Killer App" starts with them going to an entire planet that's like this. Also, Santa's workshop. (Of course, in Futurama, we have a Bad Santa.)
  • The Simpsons: The arts and crafts workshop at Kamp Krusty – in the eponymously-titled Season 4 premiere – is literally this: Nothing more than a sweatshop where Mr. Black and his stooges (Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney) abuse and torture the kids, make them work long hours and far beyond exhaustion, threaten them with bodily harm and rake them across the coals for even tiny, otherwise unnoticeable mistakes in their work as they make cheap goods to sell on the black market.
  • Parodied in The Venture Brothers: in Dean's hallucination in the Season 2 finale, he frees enslaved orphans forced to turn a mill so that their misery can fuel the power of the Insect King (a robot/insect version of the Monarch).
  • The VeggieTales episode "Rack, Shack, and Benny", based on the Biblical story of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego, uses this trope as a stand-in for the Hebrew captivity and enslavement in Babylon. The main characters are underpaid workers in a grotesquely unsafe chocolate factory run by the Corrupt Corporate Executive Nebby K. Nezzer (who is also a talking zucchini, this being Veggie Tales). Mr. Nezzer's megalomania gets to the point where he demands all his workers join him in worshipping a giant chocolate bunny. After Mr. Nezzer's Heel–Face Turn at the end of the story, however, he starts treating him employees better and the chocolate factory becomes a much better place to work.


Video Example(s):


Chop Shop

The Chop Shop in Robots is this, both in appearance and how it's seen in-universe as it is a place where parts of outmoded robots are taken to be melted down and turned into something else. The owner of the place Madame Gasket even looks like a female robot Satan and the Tom Waits song Underground perfectly captures the unsettling nature of the place as well.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / NightmarishFactory

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