Thrills Beyond "Thriller": 10 Creepy Music Videos For Your Halloween Playlist
The music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller," released in December of 1983, was nothing less than a watershed cultural moment for not just Jackson as an artist, but for pop music and music videos as well. "Thriller" was MTV's first world premiere video, and the fact that big names like director John Landis, make-up artist Rick Baker, and actor Vincent Price signed on to make the short film really helped legitimize the new(ish) medium as a legitimate art form. But what about the spooky, creepy, and downright disturbing music videos that have come in the wake of "Thriller"? This list counts down my top 10 favorite thrill-ing music videos (other than "Thriller").
Trigger Warning - although all of these videos are unsettling, some include sexual violence and gore. Viewer discretion is advised.
10. Radiohead - "Just"
Okay, so this one is more disturbing in an existential sense. There are three aspects of this video that make it creepy (according to my very personal, not-objective standards):
1) the idea of contagious nihilism - some knowledge so distressing that even uttering it causes people to shutdown
2) they won't let the damn guy take his sidewalk siesta - just leave him alone, you nosy bastards!
3) Thom Yorke's dancing.
9. The Weeknd - "Starboy"
Yeah, yeah, I get that the whole 'killing yourself' aspect of this video is metaphorical - The Weeknd was going through a sort of personal renaissance when the Starboy album came out - but that doesn't make watching someone get suffocated with a plastic bag any more pleasant.
8. Die Antwoord - "I Fink U Freeky"
Die Antwoord's entire aesthetic is 'freeky' - dirty, distorted, and intentionally (sometimes humorously) ugly. That the group is obviously playing with and constructing a particular image (at least somewhat satirically) doesn't make that image any less gross and off-putting. The close-up shots of dirty, crooked teeth, bugs, probing eyes, and squirming rats is enough to make anyone feel a bit freeked.
7. Tyler, the Creator - "Who Dat Boy"
Pretty much everything Tyler, the Creator does is disturbing on a visceral level, but this video in particular really unsettles me. The oscillations between bright, sunny suburbia and creepy, dark laboratories occur quickly and with no notice, and how could I fail to mention the utterly uncanny and terrifying 'whiteface' Tyler dons (ostensibly) to avoid the police.
6. MGMT - "Kids"
Most of the 'scares' in this video are purposely exaggerated and cartoonish, managing to capture that nebulous feeling of childhood fear and isolation. I'm also pretty sure that the director legitimately tortured that poor kid to get those reactions, which adds another layer of fucked-up-edness to the video.
5. Childish Gambino - "Telegraph Ave."
Although Gambino is no stranger to horror-inspired music videos (see 2011's "Bonfire"), "Telegraph Ave." is especially interesting because of the sudden, disturbing twist the video takes at about 4 minutes into the 5 minute run time. There are definitely hints dropped early in the video that something eerie is going to happen, but that doesn't diminish the shock of seeing Gambino transform into an eldritch horror.
4. Broken Social Scene - "Sweetest Kill"
What is it about Bijou Phillips that gets her cast as murderers (I mean, really only in this video and her recurring role on Raising Hope, but still)? Maybe it is that she has the right blend of innocent beauty and quiet intensity to elevate videos like this one from "eww" to "oh my god." The mixture of calm (maybe even a little boring) music, a serene setting, and close-up shots of dismemberment make this video equal parts repulsive and attractive.
3. Massive Attack - "Voodoo in my Blood"
This probably isn't the most traditionally 'scary' video on this list, but I personally find it to be one of the most disturbing due to the allusions to sexual assault. The abstract nature of the video leaves it pretty open to interpretation (some viewers have taken it to be an allegory for drug use, invasive technologies, psychosis, and so on), but the penetrative and physically controlling capabilities of the orb, and the emotionally-wrought reactions of actress Rosamund Pike, point to me that this isn't just portraying violence, but sexual violence.
2. Health - "We Are Water"
Directed by Eric Warheim (of Tim and Eric fame), this video plays on the expectations of slasher fans by pitting an exaggerated 'final girl' against an underwear-clad, machete-wielding killer. The intense synthesizer and hi-hat combo at the start of the video sets the scene for throwback horror, but of course there is a twist. By directly attacking the killer's center of power - the phallus - the final girl destroys him. The gratuitous bloodshed at the video's end is somehow both campy and totally serious.
1. Aphex Twin - "Come to Daddy"
Disturbing music, layered with screams, rattling, and the repetition of the lyrics "come to daddy" sets the scene for what might be the most uncomfortable music video I've ever seen. I really don't even know what to say about this one, but I'm pretty sure the *thing* that is birthed from the TV at 3:58 lives in my closet, though.