Perfect audio-visual accompaniments to the witching hour of the year, these musicians and their respective music video directors have found inventive ways to send chills down our spines in a fraction of the time it takes watch a feature horror film. If we were out to make you lose your lunch with guts and gore, we could’ve shown you Cattle Decapitation’s “Forced Gender Reassignment” and ended it there – but rather than rely solely on shock value, we’ve compiled a list of short films that will disturb, unsettle, and rock you to the core.
Aphex Twin – “Come to Daddy”
Richard D. James has a penchant for music videos that’ll make you shiver, but this one is arguably the ‘daddy’ of them all. Directed by legendary music video director, Chris Cunningham, the short film follows a gang of children – all of whom bear James’ grinning face, a trope found in the equally disturbing “Windowlicker” – before a towering demon worms its way out of a television set to scare the pants off a helpless old lady.
Chelsea Wolfe – “Feral Love”
If the dead eyes of the Californian electronic goth-rock songstress didn’t spook you, then the surreal slivers of quick-cut footage certainly will. The surreal horror short – directed by Mark Pellington, the man behind The Mothman Prophecies – flickers old family footage in between cuts of spattered blood, Bible-like brutality on picturesque shores, and a masked man missing his arms. A big, bad wolf indeed.
Marilyn Manson – “The Beautiful People”
While the self-proclaimed Antichrist Superstar’s shock rock antics have fizzled on the desensitised masses of late, there’s no taking away from the twisted visions Manson cooked up with the hit that shot him up from the underworld. Strapped into a number of medical devices and rallying up a fascist march, the towering dancing figures still give us the heebie-jeebies.
Broken Social Scene – “Sweetest Kill”
The image of a woman on her last legs as she tries to grab the attention of her lover – set against a pained yet soothing soundtrack – already hits close enough to home to frighten some. But the scenario becomes truly terrifying when her lover collapses, shortly before the broken beauty proceeds to chop him up Patrick Bateman-style in the living room in graphic detail. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Tool – “Schism”
Combining the band’s infamous claymation figures and otherworldly atmosphere, the song’s lyrical journey of relationships reaching breaking points is loosely translated through the shape-shifting alien figures that have come to characterise Tool’s visual output. Pulling faceless creatures from underneath their skin and sprouting branches through skinless muscle, the video reaches a frightening climax as the two become one.
Daft Punk – “Prime Time of Your Life”
The French duo’s demonic animatronic baby in “Technologic” is the kind of thing nightmares are made of, but the following music video was so haunting that it was banned from being aired on television. Contrasting the optimistic message of the song, the video initially has the viewer believing that the little girl at its centre is suffering from visions of skeletons – from TV commercials to her own family photos – before it takes on a much more terrifying metaphor for body shaming and self-harm.
METZ – “Wasted”
Where some artistes seek scares from shock value, the Canadian garage band’s unsettling music videos achieve an unmatched creepiness through subtlety. From the glitchy treatment and jittering frames (don’t worry, it’s not your computer), the song’s discordant progressions and urgent howling amplify the video’s bizarre nature. Throwing back to Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”, the subjects’ creepy grins, displaced facial features, and vacant stares make it feel like they’re staring straight into your soul.
Mr. Bungle – “Quote Unquote”
Seriously, when are clowns not scary? The avant-garde metal group, fronted by experimental icon, Mike Patton, puts Pennywise The Clown’s frightful antics to shame. A mélange of psychotic dance parties, ventriloquist dolls, religious perversion, and evil clowns shaking from the gallows, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the band’s sinister circus music – but certainly not recommended viewing before bedtime.
Converge – “Axe to Fall”
The song’s lyrics describe frontman Jacob Bannon’s emotional battle with himself, but the music video tells a very different story. Cutting clips as frantically as the blistering drum rolls and clashing chords of the instrumentation, the video’s depiction of torture devices hooked up to a couple to spawn an unholy creation harken back to “Come To Daddy” and is seemingly inspired by the gritty Japanese film, Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
ISIS – “Holy Tears”
Directed by Dominic Hailstone (see his short film, “The Eel”, for something truly terrifying), then now-defunct post-metal band’s music video doesn’t scare in the typical Halloween sense, but rather haunts for its depiction of real-life tragedy. As a man falls from a building towards the pavement below, the video switches to gorgeous imagery of the conception of human life at the cellular level, before snapping back to the man’s final moments. This one is guaranteed to stay with you long after the last note rings out.