Behold, The Scariest And Most Twisted Music Videos Of All Time
Consider yourself warned.
Warning: Graphic themes and violence
Everybody gets into Halloween in different ways. Some people take the opportunity to revisit a classic Treehouse of Horror episode of The Simpsons.
Some get into their scary-movie collection and relive a few jump-scares for old time’s sake. Others… well, they leave nice notes for children to read.
Over here at Music Junkee, though, we turn to one of the great mediums of this or any other time: the music video.
Ahead of the spooky season kicking off in earnest next week, here’s a look at some of the more disturbing, frightening and nightmare-inducing clips that have ever kept you up all night after turning up on Rage unannounced.
Consider yourself warned.
Aphex Twin — ‘Rubber Johnny’ and ‘Come to Daddy’
We kick off with a double-shot from an artist that has never shied away from confronting, disturbing imagery, however fantastical it may seem.
The former is a short film styled video which has actor Chris Cunningham transmogrified into a twitching, coke-snorting, wheelchair-bound alien. As for the latter, you’re probably already well across this absolute freakshow if you’ve read this far.
It’s filled with bearded schoolgirls, rabid dogs, televisions that give birth and a poor old grandma who has to witness this hell unfurl before her very eyes. Rarely has an artist celebrated the grotesque the way Aphex Twin does.
Slayer — Repentless Video Trilogy
On Slayer’s twelfth studio album, the thrash metal veterans expanded their vision with a trilogy of music videos directed by BJ McDonnell, who’s normally a camera operator for big-budget stuff like Ant-Man and HBO’s Ballers.
The videos are an exercise in ultraviolence — even B-movie legend Danny Trejo gets in on the action as the fake blood waterfalls down and various crooks, Nazis and prisoners get their just deserts.
It’s not a particularly pleasant watch by any stretch of the imagination, but seeing the band rip it up interspersed with bodies literally getting ripped up is quite the metal spectacle.
The Prodigy — ‘Breathe’
Only ’90s Kids Will Understand: we should have listened to our parents and gone to bed when they told us to.
Remember seeing this for the first time and having no idea what was happening? Crocodiles, creepy-crawlies and both frontmen getting right up in the camera’s grill made this one of the more dark, unsettling clips to terse the mainstream in the ’90s.
It might seem a little tame and even G-rated by today’s standards, but you need to appreciate the context that many people were seeing this for the first time in. As a dipped toe into the dark side, it works perfectly.
Die Antwoord — ‘I Fink U Freeky’
In the same spirit, a new generation was inevitably freaked — ahem, freeked — out by the South African hip-hop duo going all out on this single from their second studio album.
Whether it’s Yo-Landi Vi$$er going full Wes Borland with full-eye black contact lenses or her partner Ninja staring down the barrel while covered in rats and snakes, the Zef lords don’t do things by halves in their Roger Ballen-directed clip.
For a group that always thrived off tension — ahem, Ten$ion — it’s no surprise that this still stands as one of their most intense audio-visual experiences.
Squarepusher – ‘Come On My Selector’
Another terrifying offer from Chris Cunningham, who complements this drum-n-bass cacophony with a tribute to Japanese horror.
It’s a slow-build, and you might be wondering for the first couple of minutes if there’s an endgame. Trust us, there is — and you’ll want to stick around for the whole thing.
There’s a dark humour to this one, which in other circumstances would relieve a bit of the intensity. The way Cunningham paces and matches the song’s breakneck rhythm, however, means you’re transfixed from the second the Amen break drops. Twenty years on from its release, ‘Selector’ keeps on coming on.
Meshuggah — ‘Bleed’
Here, the Swedish metal merchants offer up a five-minute fever nightmare that is bound to mess with your head if you’re not in the right space when you press play.
At first it’s unclear how the protagonist ended up in this freakish underworld of screaming trees, meditating overlords and some sort of undead bride. Eventually, however, all of the pieces fall into place — making this one of the only videos on the list to sport some sort of discernible plot.
The band itself may have been memed into oblivion, but they’re still sharp as a tack on those jump-scares.
Portal — ‘Curtain’
This offering from Australia’s own Portal is a throwback of sorts — it’s an adapted visual interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Conquerer Worm. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security, however — not even for a second.
Truth be told, this primarily black-and-white video has some of the most disturbing and dark imagery out of this entire list. As Portal’s distinct take on death metal chugs along, you’re transfixed on their multitude of characters and the woes that befall them.
It’s entirely compelling, often frightening and a great example of vintage horror executed considerably well.
UNKLE feat. Thom Yorke — ‘Rabbit in Your Headlights’
By means of contrast, there’s nothing inherently — at least, classically — horrifying about this beloved Jonathan Glazer video. There’s no witches, demons or hellfire to be seen. Instead, this is staunchly, primarily realistic — a reflection on inhumanity and bystander apathy.
The video’s central figure is wandering down a tunnel in the midst of oncoming traffic. He’s clipped and straight-up hit a few times, getting back up and continuing on his path each time as he mutters and screams gibberish to himself.
If you’re a music video afficionado, you know where this leads. If you don’t, take the journey.
Nine Inch Nails — ‘Pinion’
Between their huge debut album Pretty Hate Machine and the even-bigger follow-up The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails put out the incredibly-underrated Broken EP.
To push the boundaries even further, a short film was made to accompany the EP in its entirety. This is the opening minute of that — and that’s more or less all we can show you, given most of the other videos were banned by MTV and never given an official release.
Trust us when we say that one minute with this will be all most people will need at all. This is truly nasty business.
Leon Karpatze — ‘The Original Monster Mash’
No musically-inclined Halloween list would be complete without the Mash.
It’s 55 years old this year, and is still as big a graveyard smash as it was then. It’s certainly very tame, however — that is, until Funny Or Die uncovered rare footage of the original version. It’s performed by Leon Karpatze, the song’s co-writer who bares more than a passing resemblance to Doughboys‘ Nick Wiger.
You’ll truly be spooked and horrified by what went down the first time our hero was working in the lab late one night — it’s quite the shock when the big reveal goes down.
David James Young is a writer and podcaster who could never think of a spooky version of his name to use for Twitter. Make suggestions: @DJYwrites.