When you think of scary music videos, what comes to mind? "Thriller" by Michael Jackson is most likely the first one you think of, and with good reason. Now that music videos are mostly for the artist's website, included as CD extras, or compiled for DVDs, artists are getting more and more extreme. I've decided not to go the easy route with this list. That's why you won't find "Thriller" or "Nightmare on My Street." I have shunned traditional "mainstream" horror suspects like Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, GWAR, Ozzy, and Cradle of Filth, and focused on older, more traditional music videos from the 1980s and 1990s (back when MTV used to play music videos). What we have left are five unlikely, but horrifying music videos.
Dir: Fred Stuhr
If a David Lynch film and a Tim Burton film had an abused, crack-addicted baby, that baby would be "Sober." A little, stop-motion zombie-like creature opens a pandora's box weirdness upon his bleak existence. The stop-motion was so effective for the band, they used it in most subsequent videos - to an equally skin-crawling effect.
Aphex Twins, "Come to Daddy"
Dir: Chris Cunningham
That damn cross-dressing man-child, leading his minions through a desolate landscape is scary enough. But that Silly Putty grin just takes it over the top. Compared to that freakshow, the vampire-demon birthed from an old TV is a soothing respite. I have vague recollections of this video giving me nightmares as a teen, and I know I had to throw away the horrifying CD cover. I went with this one instead of "Rubber Johnny" because the latter is really more of an art film. Plus, that one is a little too disturbing.
Billy Idol, "White Wedding"
If anyone knows who directed this one, leave it in the comments.
Billy Idol has a surprisingly creepy catalogue of music videos ("Dancing With Myself" was directed by Tobe Hooper), but the one that always sticks with me is "White Wedding." Idol's tattered shrouds, a wedding that looks like a cult ceremony, and a crypt-like setting all add to the overall unease of the video. But the part that always sticks with me is the ghostly bride, dancing in a kitchen while appliances explode all around her. Maybe that is where my hatred of cooking stems from.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Y Control"
Dir: Spike Jonze
It's almost like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs went through a scary music video checklist when making this video. Violent, destructive children with dead eyes? Check. Neatly-arranged rows of shoes (always a clear sign of a serial killer)? Yup. Vampires? Check. Dismemberment and disembowelment? You'd better believe it. Animal carcasses? Hell yes. A bleak, windowless warehouse setting? But of course. Juxtapose all that with a dancing, punky Karen O in a sequined disco dress, and you have some crazy shit. A little newer than the other tracks on this list, but it has a "classic" video feel.
Michael Jackson, "Ghost"
Dir: Stan Winston
Of course, everyone knows "Thriller." But how many people know "Ghost?" You should. It was co-written by Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. A frightfully feminine Michael Jackson heads up a ghoulish dance crew to scare the torches-and-pitchfork mob that have stormed their Victorian mansion. Michael wins them over with his sweet dance moves, and limbers up by ripping his own flesh off and doing a skeleton dance. Even the stodgy Reverend Moore-type who appears to be the mob's leader busts a hell of a move - which displeases a now-demonic Michael.