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Tales of Unease: Calculated Nightmare – Orders from a Computer Empowered Bogeyman

Calculated Nightmare, part of the 1970 television anthology horror series Tales of Unease, is set in a corporation’s office block which is controlled by automated computer systems.

It largely centres around two executives who are working late at night as they, in a self-congratulatory manner, finalise details of redundancy plans for the company’s employees. They have drawn up the list of who is to be let go using the company’s computer system, which they are full of praises for and proclaim that via using this that the list has been objectively and rationally created, while also being dismissive of the effect that redundancy will have on people’s lives.

However, they are soon hoisted by their own petard as one of the employees on the list sets into motion an elaborate scheme that remotely utilises the building’s computerised systems to trap the executives in their office and freeze them if they do not send instructions to rescind the redundancy plans.

After their initial belligerent resistance to their captor’s plans, they give in to them when he threatens to use the same computer systems to kill them but even once they are let free there is a sense that the axe will soon fall on them.

Initially it’s implied that this may be via the lift they take to the carpark, which is viewed from within the elevator shaft, as such shots in horror orientated film and television rarely bode well for the characters. But no, in the end it’s the computerised security gates for the building’s car park which are used to act as a deadly portcullis and permanently puts paid to their redundancy plans.

It is difficult to have sympathy for the executives due to the way they are portrayed as smugly and indifferently playing with people’s lives and livelihoods and because they also seem thoroughly pleased with themselves for supposedly rationally discarding committed and longstanding employees in the pursuit of profit.

It’s a curious programme that is tense and unsettling and which feels like a horror film, perhaps one that might come to contain supernatural elements but ultimately it doesn’t and the terror proves to be man made but is no less creepy for that.

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