Office Worker (1997): Cindy Sherman’s Disappointing Debut

One of the worst American indies of 1997, Office Killer is the disappointing directing debut of acclaimed photographer Cindy Sherman.

It’s also a low point in the otherwise distinguished career of producer Christine Vachon, who is closely associated with the New Queer Cinema and, among other directors, has made all of Todd Haynes films.  Without a doubt, Office Killer was the worst film I saw at the 1997 edition of the Toronto Film Fest; more than half of the critics walked out during the press showing.

Rambling in plot, dull in ideas, and static in tempo, Office Killer is a wannabe satire of sexual politics as it pertains in the beloved sub-genre of the slasher horror exploitation flicks, with an unsuccessful effort to infuse the proceedings with offbeat humor.

Carol Kane plays the middle-aged Dorine Douglas, a femme who has spent 16 years at the bottom of the hierarchy as a copy editor for Constant Consumer magazine.

Due to sudden budget cuts, she’s downsized into a contract employee and forced to work out of her home. Dorine isn’t happy about the latest development and so when she’s called back into the office to help obnoxious writer Gary (David Thornton) fix a glitch in his computer, she’s not upset that he’s accidentally electrocuted.

Dorine brings Gary’s corpse home to join her in front of the TV. When pushy publisher Virginia (Barbara Sukowa) orders Dorine and overly ambitious Kim (Molly Ringwald) to salvage Gary’s story from his notes, Dorine snaps, and soon Gary has some company in Dorine’s increasingly crowded home office.

You cannot blame the ensemble of actors for this tedious, almost unwatchable exercise in film. Office Killer also stars Jeanne Tripplehorn and Michael Imperioli as Dorine’s co-workers.

Reportedly numerous writers, including Todd Haynes and Tom Kalin (Swoon) have tried to salvage the scenario, but to no avail.  As a novice helmer, Sherman shows no discernible instincts for telling a story in visual terms and her mise-en-scene is both stiff and stuffy.


Running time: 83 minutes.

Directed by Cindy Sherman

Released:  December 3, 1997

On DVD:  Jun 4, 2002