More often than not, music videos seem to rely on the same tropes to bring in viewers. Often, they are used to further establish the theme of the song or video, and sometimes, even push the “image” of the band even further than they are trying to push the song or the material itself. And most genres seem to fall into similar categories when they make videos. Rap videos have the guns and the girls and the champagne and the thugged out lifestyle played up. Dance videos have the sexiness and the clubs and the hipster people dancing. Rock videos have live performances and on rare occasions,
high concept videos. Alternative has edgier videos with darker influences. Pop music tends to take all of the above and just throw them together. But every now and then, in between all the normal videos we had seen so many times over, we get the rare example of an incredibly original horror themed music video. And in the three minute or so time frame that most music videos fall into, it is the perfect amount of time to deliver a few scares without having to milk a story for 90 minutes. Here are just five examples of horror used in music video to great effect.
Michael Jackson - Thriller
How can you talk about horror music videos and not talk about the first horror music video that truly made an impact on people? From back in his prime, Thriller is the very definition of an awesome music video. Part zombie movie, part werewolf movie, but all kickass. Thriller was the long form music video that propelled Michael Jackson from super star to megastar.
And it was also one of the most expensive videos ever filmed up to that point. Wanting to cut no corners, Michael hired John Landis (who was famous for American Werwolf in London) to direct, and the end result is one of the scariest and greatest music videos ever made. Also, the zombie dance scene is possibly the greatest thing any zombies have ever done besides eating people.
Kanye West - Monster (ft. Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj)
This video definitely freaked a few people out when it dropped a few years back, and seeing Kanye West in bed with dead girls was definitely enough to get some people up in arms about the intensity of this music video, but per usual, everyone attacked West without actually realizing how much artistic merit the video had. And the darkness of the video was something that was rarely breached in hip hop before this,
so it stood out. Though it did not help to dispell any rumors that Kanye West and Jay Z worshipped the Illuminati and Devil, we are sure he did that on purpose to mess with people. It was high concept, high fashion horror. More like moving still shots than an actual story, the Monster video is incredibly effective, and works wonderfully with the subject matter of the song.
Aphex Twin - Come To Daddy
So it was late at night one night, probably around 3 a.m, and we had just stumbled in from a long night out, ingesting various substances we probably should not have. We sit down, put on our MTV, and this video proceeds to melt our eyes out of our sockets and blow our minds all over the walls. While the res of these videos are creepy when they need to be, and dark when they need to be, this one is downright scary at times, and has some of the most chilling imagery I have ever seen put to film, music video or otherwise. It is also made that much scarier
and harder to watch by the fact that it is an old woman getting harassed by this gang of creepy old kids, who all have the face of the lead singer of the band, who is not actually the lead singer but actually the entire band. Yes. Aphex Twin is one guy. His name is Richard David James, and he is insane and brilliant, all at the same time. Easily the scariest video on the list, and honestly, one of the creepiest things we have ever seen. When the demon comes out of the TV and screams at the old lady, it tears into our soul and we lose a year off our lives everytime we see it.
TOOL - Prison Sex
Although Tool have many arty, scary videos, (some about fisting, some about religion ) there are none that can compare to the subject matter in the song and video for Prison Sex. The theme in Prison sex is molestation, and this is told through stop motion animation (think Nightmare Before Christmas) where the perpetrator is a larger faceless figure, and the
victim is a small, broken doll. When the larger one wants to offend the smaller one, he simply removes the smaller ones legs and hangs them on a hook on the wall so the small one cannot get away. It is an image that has haunted me since the first time I saw it. As much high art as horror, the video is both cruel and utterly compelling, but it stays with you.
Korn - Clown
You knew we had to put Korn somewhere on the list, because in their prime, even their music was scary. This song and video prove that in spades. Klown, from their debut album. While almost cheap looking, it is that bargain basement feeling to the song and video that make it feel so, well, much like a snuff film.
Everything feels grimy and wrong, and in this case, that makes it right. While definitely softening their edge over the years, there was a time when Korn were the go to guys for this type of music.