Horror Themed Music Videos
DISCLAIMER: Before you wonder why The Misfits, Gwar, or other horror inspired bands aren't on this list we just wanted to make it known that, when compiling this, we decide to omit any band that actually used the genre as one of their main drawing points. We wanted to pick videos by musical acts not usually associated with horror.
SKINNY PUPPY - WORLOCK
The memory of the first time I watched this video is still as clear as day. I was friends with an employee of Nettwerk Records back in the early 90s and I remember visiting him at work and having the opportunity to watch the uncut version of this video in the back room. As I was not as familiar with a number of the movie clips that are incorporated into the visual barrage of violence, I was convinced that I had seen part of a snuff film (thanks in part to some misinformation on behalf of my friend). I have since recognized many of the scenes from Suspiria, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Opera, Tenebre, Bad Taste, and more but at the time, this was whole new world. Couple these images with an already creepy song featuring Charles Manson samples and you have a true exercise in horror. Puppy had many great moments both aurally and visually. This is one of their best.
DURAN DURAN - NIGHT BOAT
Back when I was a tween, Duran Duran were at the top of their game. As I was really into music videos at the time, I got my hands on their VHS video compilation which had the videos most people know like "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" as well as videos for a number of songs that were never released as singles. The compilation was played over and over again (particularly the extended version of "Girls on Film" as I entered puberty). It was only when I revisited this tape in my 20s that I came to appreciate the video for "Night Boat" as it is an obvious homage to Lucio Fulci's Zombie. Duran Duran became cool again and I have come to love this spooky song and atmospheric clip that shows the band members turn into the undead on a remote Caribbean island. Director Russell Mulcahy was behind most of the classic Duran Duran videos and went on to make genre movies like Razorback, Highlander, and Resident Evil: Extinction.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Y CONTROL
If Isaac and Malachai had decided to make a music video, it may have ended up something like this. Evil children pop up from time to time in horror movies but this is the first time I have seen a group of twisted tykes featured in a music video. Director Spike Jonze goes for a documentary feel that combines shots of singer Karen O energetically bouncing around between the children with disturbing scenes such as the kids playing with a dead dog, chopping off a limb, and engaging in self-disembowelment. The whole thing is pretty unsettling and it is an interesting contrast to the music which will be in your head for days. The fact that there are kids doing really bad things is sure to offend some people and at the very least will have you talking about it. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a tremendously cool band who have made consistently interesting videos reminding me of the time when videos really were an art form in addition to being just a promotional tool.
GREG KIHN BAND - JEOPARDY
This is the first video I thought of when the idea for this list presented itself. I thought this clip was the best when I was 14 because it has weird effects, skeletons, and a monster. Watching it now, it plays more a like a metaphor for Kihn's commitment problems as he has a vision when at the altar about to be married. Just when he is about to kiss the bride, she turns into a skeleton, the guests turn into zombies, and a giant tentacled monster erupts from the altar and grabs Kihn pulling him towards the opening. Along the way, Kihn grabs some wood from a pew as a weapon, breaks free from the monster, and plays air guitar with the weapon. I still find this pretty entertaining in a b-movie kinda way and girl he makes his escape with is severely cute.
MICHAEL JACKSON - THRILLER
I can't in good conscience complete this list without including "Thriller" as it is so iconic and contains all the elements that you would expect from a great horror-themed video. This set the bar for the art form in general and was an extremely risky move for Jackson when he released a 14-minute clip that combined a music video with a short film and could potentially alienate part of his audience. The gamble paid off and it became hugely successful and influential. Jackson hired An American Werewolf in London director John Landis to take the reigns and special make-up effects legend Rick Baker to create the zombies and werewolf and the rest is history. This holds up today just as it did when it first came out and it shows what a visionary Jackson was and how much respect he had for our beloved genre.
YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Y CONTROL
Now this is disturbing. Take the basis of every "killer kid" movie and mix in anarchic undertones. When the tykes in the video aren't staring menacingly into the camera holding axes and various hardware implements they're either flipping off the camera, playing with a dead dog, reenacting things like Dracula, or (in the most outrageous, bizarre moment) asking each other to cut their hands off in subtitles. If you can't handle childhood innocence gone horribly wrong then you can't handle this video. Karen O's repeated refrain of "I'm just one poor baby" seems apt considering all of the imagery director Spike Jonze (Her, Being John Malkovich) assaults us with. It was a risk making this video, and it understandably was controversial, but it gets under your skin every time you watch it.
THE FAT BOYS - ARE YOU READY FOR FREDDY?
At around the same time New Line Cinema decided to make Freddy Krueger a slapstick slasher movie comedian they also decided around part four, The Dream Master, that they also needed soundtrack albums as well. The first inklings of this was Dokken's "Dream Warriors" in part three, and that would be the obvious choice for this list, but it's when the fifth entry, The Dream Child, arrived that things hit their ridiculous peak. And by ridiculous I'm talking about The Fat Boys' "Are You Ready for Freddy?" Sure, Will Smith delivered a Freddy inspired rap song with 1987's "Nightmare on My Street" but was he actually able to get Robert Englund to bust out a few verses? Nope. However, the Fat Boys did. And that's why this is such an awesome (cheesy) video. You first have our rotund rappers pulling up in from of the Elm Street house on their scooters to meet a lawyer (familiar B-movie face Bert Remsen - TerrorVision) who tells them they have to spend a night in the house to inherit it. Cue the beat boxing, Freddy laughs, and Fat Boys' comedically running away from razor-handed Freddy. This one truly has it all - if you're into shitty 80s movie tie-in songs that is...
TOOL - PRISON SEX
A stop-motion nightmare, "Prison Sex" by Tool has so much messed up imagery going on it's hard to pick out what's more disturbing. Could it be the mannequin-like creature who's trying to gather a complete body or maybe the S&M gear wearing alien being who seems to be there just to torture and pull apart our doll captive. There's also a baby-headed centipede, meat creature, and enough body modification horror to almost make David Cronenberg blush. This wouldn't be the last time the band would deliver this style of video but this one just affected me the most due to its curious mix of imprisonment and manipulation. There's also a theme of molestation running throughout which matches the song's child abuse themes - it's heavy, disturbing stuff to be sure.
THE DICKIES - KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
Jokester Los Angeles punkers The Dickies were a good choice to do the theme for 1988's Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Considering they did a cover of the "Banana Splits" theme song and have never taken themselves seriously they fit right in with a movie about murderous alien clowns who turn people into cotton candy and proceed to eat them. The video continues the film's unserious tone as our punk band of ragamuffins run afoul of our clowns as they've cut in scenes from the movie, the clowns on trail for being naughty, our band jamming out in a prison cell and even some psychedelia during the guitar solo. What makes this video even better is that the Chiodo brothers (who created the clowns and made the movie) had a big part in its creation and brought the same fun vibe to it. To this day people still complain that the video wasn't included on the DVD or Blu-Ray versions - but it was a pleasant treat at the end of the VHS tape.
MICHAEL JACKSON - THRILLER
In 1982 I loved Michael Jackson. Like most kids around that time I thought he was the absolute coolest dude on the face of the planet. This is probably why the video for "Thriller" destroyed my young mind. Directed by John Landis, who had just made the awesome An American Werewolf in London, when the video premiered it was the most cutting edge thing ever seen on MTV. Where most videos around the same time were performance footage, "Thriller" was lengthy 14 minute homage to horror flicks. It actually had a story, there's a werewolf transformation in the first few minutes, Vincent Price lends his memorable and creepy voice as narration while some zombies rise from the grave - and proceed to bust a move with Michael in what's probably the most famous dance sequence put on film - and there's some awesome effects by Rick Baker and company. Even watching it thirty-plus years later nothing has managed to match it and I remember wearing out the VHS tape I had of it when I was a kid. It's unfortunate that Jackson became a brunt of too many jokes as the years wore on because he's responsible for what I think is the greatest horror-themed video ever made.