Basically, when a perfectly mundane or simplistic name is used for dramatic and sinister effect. When the writers don't want to invoke Doomy Dooms of Doom, this makes a nice substitute. Something about a realistic name brings the plot closer to home and if done properly, is scarier than Spiky Cliffs of Evil Soul-Crushing Damnation. (Often, if the name is taken out of context, it wouldn't sound scary at all.)
This trope is also the reason you ought to watch out for anyone named "John Smith". Unless he has a blue box. No, especially if he has a blue box. Compare Tom the Dark Lord and Special Person, Normal Name, two versions specific to people, and Trouble Entendre, which is casual conversation with sinister hidden meanings.
- Area 51, a famous American Air Force base that has become the root of any number of alien conspiracies.
- Higurashi: When They Cry: the story's Japanese title, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni translates to 'When the Cicadas Cry', which essentially holds the implication of 'in a hot summer day', while still holding a vague hint of menace, since the Japanese word 'naku' has the same double meaning as the English 'cry'. Unfortunately the English translation went with much more unambiguously creepy title, When They Cry - mostly because large parts of the Western world don't have that sort of cicada, meaning the implications fall completely flat.
- District 9 is named after a ghetto for alien refugees in Johannesburg, with all the squalor, gang violence, and Fantastic Racism that that entails.
- John Wick, a seemingly mundane name that causes criminals all over the world to quake in fear and stockpile as many weapons as they can.
- Exploited in advertising for Men in Black, which promoted its lead actors as Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith.
- The X-Files has The Syndicate, which is the show's Omniscient Council of Vagueness, and things associated with it sometimes.
- The Man in the High Castle has SS Obergruppenführer John Smith.
- Star Trek has Section 31, the top-secret black-ops division of Starfleet. It's clear from their introduction that they're The Unfettered when it comes to protecting The Federation.
- Half-Life 2: City 17 and the Combine themselves.
- The Resident Evil series sees The End of the World as We Know It, courtesy of the Umbrella Corporation.
- The chief Republic spy agency in Star Wars: The Old Republic is the prosaically-named "Special Information Service", which sounds about as dry as the Government Accountability Office or countless other tell-the-Senators-the-facts bureaus. (This is in stark contrast to their nemeses, the no-nonsense Imperial Intelligence.) The in-game codex entry suggests that, every so often, the Republic espionage community gets in some scandal or another and reinvents itself with an even-more-innocuous name to avoid people thinking of them as a danger.
- The Covenant from Halo, which is named for the pact (i.e. a covenant) forged between the alien conglomerate's two founding species, the Elites and Prophets. Despite the voluntary-sounding name, the Covenant is a theocratic and authoritarian empire, with most of its member species having been forced to join on pain of death. Also, their religion tells them to kill all humans and activate ancient superweapons that will kill all sentient life in the galaxy, including themselves.
- Grim Fandango has "The Meadow", where Hector Le Mans keeps the bodies of what must be hundreds of people he's "sprouted", either for getting in his way or failing him.
- Dragon Age: Origins takes the Warden and their friends to the mountain village of Haven. It sounds like a pleasant place, like a religious retreat or something. It's actually home to a murderous Ax-Crazy cult of dragon worshipers. (By the time of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which returns to the same location, it's become much more like what the name would imply.)
- Tooth and Tail has "The Kitchens", which are the headquarters for the military faction. Sounds like a very unfitting name, unless you know that all the characters are cannibals.
- Steven Universe:
- Many things associated with the Homeworld gems have exceedingly simple names to demonstrate their brutally utilitarian tendencies—just for starters, their home planet is never called anything but "Homeworld".
- The place where Gems drain the life from the environment to make more of themselves, which almost caused The End of the World as We Know It and started a war that lasted a thousand years, is called "Kindergarten".note
- Their superweapon, a giant ball of fused-together Gem shards meant to break Earth in half with its creation, is just called "The Cluster".
- Homeworld's People Zoo is simply called "The Zoo".
- The Manhattan Project, the development of the most devastatingly powerful class of weaponry the world has ever seen.
- Any top secret project, really. This is done very deliberately to ensure that the name gives away nothing about the project.