With videos from the 1980’s up to 2015, this is not an exhaustive list. You will notice that Michael Jackson’s all-time classic “Thriller” is not included. I made the assumption that everyone reading this will already be familiar with that pioneering video. If not please feel free to check it out as well.
As both a horror and music lover, I am fascinated by the crossover and I’ve tried to make this list as diverse as possible with regard to both music and horror styles. I hope you enjoy at least some of these as much as I do. Carmilla.
10 – Einsturzende Neubauten – Sabrina. Director – John Hillcoat (Director of The Road in 2009 and other films and music videos) Year released 2000
This video is included, in spite of the lack of violence, because it is beautiful and includes an amazing Minotaur style monster. Performed by what are perhaps the most talented alternative musicians ever known, the song is an essential part of the creepiness of this video. The setting is a flooded bathroom, and a desperately unhappy monster applies lipstick while gazing critically into the mirror. It is likely that everyone has experienced wallowing in such self-pity at one time or another and recognises the horror of that feeling on a very personal level.
9 – The Cure – Lullaby. Director – Tim Pope, 1989
Lullaby is a nightmarish song and a video full of surreal dream imagery that compliment each other perfectly. Each moment is tiny, precise and fecund with meaning. It never fails to make my skin crawl, but it’s one to avoid if you suffer from arachnophobia.
8 – She Wants Revenge – Written in Blood. Director Justin Warfield, 2007
This video is made in the style of classic vampire film “The Hunger” complete with a homage to Bauhaus’ performance in the night club. A sexy couple, representing Deneuve and Bowie, proposition a woman in the night club and take her home with predictable results. We are only missing the screaming monkey for the scene to be complete.
7 – Coil – Tainted Love. Director – Peter Christopherson, 1984
The earliest video on this list, deals with the horror or the AIDS epidemic and includes scenes of anger and desperation. Imagery includes that of Aleister Crowley. It has the honour of being the first music video to be added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
6 – Death in Vegas – Aisha. Director – Terry Richardson (also responsible for Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball video among others). Year released 1999.
This gorgeously shot video follows the “Last Girl Standing” as she runs terrified through a forest and towards an isolated mansion. Her satin dress is red, her underwear white, the scenery predominantly green with a white house as her destination. It shows the cross over between violence and sex with plenty of torn clothes and painful looking tumbles, shot in a way that allows the viewer portrayed as both voyeur and pursuer.
5 – Broken Social Scene – Sweetest Kill. Director – Claire Edmondson, 2011
“Hell Hath No Fury” the gentle, melancholy song feels at odds with the video. Together the implication is that this is a woman scorned rather than a psychopath. A woman drugs her young boyfriend/husband and and dismembers him with an axe and handsaw then buries him in a very shallow grave on which she prostrates herself afterwards. In spite of the graphically shown dismemberment it feels strangely gentle compared to the other videos on the list. I suspect this has more to do with the musical track than what we are seeing and the passivity of the drugged victim. There is no fear, only sorrow and regret, which lends it a weird charm.
4 – Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money. Directors – Megaforce and Rihanna, 2015
Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal) stars as “The Bitch” in this torture filled pop video. I’ve seen more controversy around this video than any of the others on this list. It’s been called misogynistic by many, but I disagree. It’s shot like a Robert Rodriguez/Quinten Tarantino Blood Fest. Rihanna is a betrayed and homicidally furious gangster who kidnaps the wife of her accountant before killing the man himself. It’s funny, it’s class war, it’s very violent and I believe it is a modern classic of its genre. Plus Mads Mikkelsen, I mean, who could resist, right?
3 – VAST – Pretty When You Cry. Director – Philipp Stölzl (German director who also directed the music video for Rammstein’s Du Hast). Year released 1998.
Perhaps the most powerful of all the videos on this list. We begin and end with a young girl either asleep or drugged on the back seat of a paedophile’s car as he drives though a deserted forest. The implication is made clear by the skillful acting and his lecherous smile. However between these two touchstones in a fairytale world of dreams, or the man’s personal hell, he pursues his victim, who is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, to a gingerbread cottage, where he is tortured and killed. It is an amazing short film accompanied by a beautiful and haunting song.
2 – Aphex Twin – Come To Daddy. Director – Chris Cunningham (also responsible for the music video of Madonna’s Frozen). Year released 1997.
Frequently listed as the creepiest music video ever made, the musical track is by far the most disturbing of the ones listed here, with frenetic drum and bass and distorted vocals that could easily be interpreted as demonic. The location is an impoverished sink estate, the type you would avoid if you could. An elderly woman with a weak heart allows her dog to piss on an old TV set, dumped amidst other rubbish, and all hell breaks loose. A group of “children” who look like they arrived from the set of “Don’t Look Now” run amok. Terrifying residents and vandalising property, even attacking each other, summoned by the demon inside the possessed TV set. It is truly terrifying, surreal and very, very creepy. A 90’s classic.
1 – Skinny Puppy – Worlock. Year released 1990.
Fast and furious clips from horror flicks including Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebrae, Combat Shock, Phenomena, Opera, The Beyond, Hellraiser II, Bad Taste, Dead & Buried, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and From Beyond. So much blood!
In summary – With serial killers, demons, death and dismemberment – these horror themed music videos have something for everyone. Would you disagree with any of the inclusions or do you have other videos you would like to add? If so please leave a comment.