A great horror movie will delight you as well as terrify you. But can you learn something practical while shivering? In some cases, you can.
Here are five horror movies—some old, some new—that offer chills, thrills, and a personal finance lesson or two:
1. Tall Man (2016): Read the fine print
Poor Terrence is going through some serious economic conflict. His financial woes were so bad he filed for bankruptcy. So when a mysterious company sent him a credit card application, he completed it and didn’t stop to read the fine print. Soon he was charging the account and even using it to impress a lover by buying an expensive, flashy car.
Terrence (played by Dan Crisafulli) then loses his job and finds that the interest calculated on his credit card balance is compounding rapidly, causing his debt to escalate out of control. When he couldn’t manage the account and fell behind, the demons started to hunt him down. Can Terrance escape these black-suited, bandage-faced debt collectors from hell?
Lesson: While it’s tempting to take out your credit card and charge you something you can’t afford, you have to know the interest rate and make sure you can process the payment. Plus, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from unfair collectors—as long as they’re from this world.
2. The Shining (1980): Don’t borrow money from strangers
“I have exactly two 10s and two 20s in my purse,” says Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), dragging him out as he orders a drink from bartender Lloyd. When Jack finds out that he has no money at all, he asks if he has good credit with the United.
“Mr. Torrance, you have good credit,” said Lloyd with a meaningful glance. But when he told Jack he didn’t need to pay at all, Jack became suspicious. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to know who’s buying his drinks, Lloyd,” he said.
The bartender assured him that it was all right. There is wine at home. Jack acquiesced. By accepting a free drink, he determined his fate – and transformed himself into one of the most terrifying axe-wielding lunatics on the big screen.
Lesson: When you borrow money or accept something for free, there are almost always strings attached. If you can’t pay your bill up front, make sure you understand the terms before accepting a deal that sounds too good to be true, whether it’s a line of credit or a drink from a friendly stranger.
3. “Squid Game” (2021): Don’t take money to play games
How far will you go to win huge prizes? What if that meant taking part in a series of modified childhood games?
That’s what happened to Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae). An immature (but loving) divorced father with a gambling habit accepts invitations to play in a series of children’s games, where the winner is rewarded with a huge sum. The problem is that Seong has to compete with hundreds of others in similar financial situations. To make matters worse, the loser of each game dies until the last man standing can claim the funds.
Naive games are getting harder and harder. The alliance was formed, and enemies abounded. Seong persevered, but his humanity was drawn thin. Does the end justify the means? This Korean horror series will have you waiting until the next episode until late at night to find out.
Lesson: If you’re in financial trouble, take steps to get out of debt. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a position where you have to think about doing something unethical to get back on track — and that’s never going to end, especially on a horror show.
4. “Emily the Criminal” (2022): Finding a Legal Way to Pay Student Loans
Many college graduates face a dilemma. With high student loans and low income from work, how can they pay off the loan, let alone remove the balance in a short period of time? It feels impossible. This is Emily’s case, but she also has a criminal record, which makes finding a good job more challenging. Emily (played by Aubrey Plaza) works for a food delivery company and is just barely making it. Job interviews for better positions didn’t go as planned.
Desperate Emily takes a lucrative but illegal job buying items with stolen credit cards. In the beginning, everything went smoothly. Her tasks are fun and worth the time and effort. Ultimately, however, being a “virtual shopper” becomes dark and dangerous. While not technically a horror movie, Emily the Criminal is definitely scary, suspenseful, and violent. Will she survive the next show? does it worth?
Lesson: If you need to patiently put student loan payments on hold, don’t hesitate. It’s hard to make a living and be successful by finding a legitimate job, but with perseverance, you can do it. Never do this through credit card fraud.
5. ‘Psycho’ (1960): Avoiding crime and creepy roadside motels
In this Hitchcock classic, Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) makes an impetuous, very bad decision when it comes to stealing money from the office. She knew she needed to run fast. Unfortunately, she ends up in an old motel off the beaten track, where she is greeted by the odd Norman Bates, the clerk who checked her in. He explained that his mother owned the motel and the two of them lived in the grand but rundown mansion right up the hill.
At first, Marion seems happy that she’s taking the boss’s bastard, but she eventually realizes it’s not a good idea. She decided to refund the money, but it was too late. While she was taking a shower before checking out, someone entered the steam room and we saw the shadow of a knife.
Lesson: Once again, there is no reward for sin. Plus, use your rewards to get a free night at a great hotel chain. If you have to live in a creepy roadside motel, lock your bathroom door (like anyone who’s seen the movie).