13 Spooky Music Videos to get you into the Halloween Spirit
In a perfect world, there would be way more horror-inspired music videos. Sure, you could go with the run-of-the-mill “band rocks out in front of a cool background” set-up, but nothing quite captures your attention (and your mind) like colorful blood splatters, creative monsters, and the straight-up horrific. As a wise person once told me, music videos often lend itself to genre conventions, and horror-themed music videos fill in a lot of narrative blanks. That’s just smart filmmaking.
So to celebrate October, we’ve selected a few music videos that we’ve loved over the years to get you in that spooky state of mind!
Beabadoobee – “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus”
When you have a song like “I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus” where you have a clear narrative right there in the title, it would be so easy to make an on-theme video. A prospective video would probably see beabadoobee (Bea Kristi) throw in a few Pavement references and maybe rock out in front of some kind of cool background before calling it a day. But then again, that would be too simple.
Instead, the beabadoobee’s music video for her Pavement-stanning song finds her getting abducted by aliens, thrown into an insane asylum, and locked in a room where she’s being monitored by clipboard-wielding scientists. It all ends with the singer getting gifted a floating guitar where she rocks out (this is probably the part where she’s channeling Stephen Malkmus) and kills her onlookers via sick guitar chords. I have no idea who’s coming up with these music video ideas, but they better keep them coming.
Japanese Breakfast – “Road Head”
While Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast might be better known for her charming “Boyish” and culturally defying video for “Everybody Wants to Love You,” it’s important to note that she’s dipped into directing other video genres as well. On 2017’s “Road Head,” one of the catchiest songs from Soft Sounds from Another Planet, Zauner tries her hand at horror and depicts monster coexistence in its chic-est form. Borrowing the aesthetics of 80s B-horror films, “Road Head” and its red, orange, and green splashes are a head-noddingly visual treat. Whoever designed the monster did a great job at making it a haunting visual spectre, and it works well to bring a ghastly presence on-screen. As the two buddies (are they buddies?) take turns smoking, eating cup noodles, and chillaxing, Zauner shows that being friends with a monster is a viable option. However, as these things usually go, fun doesn’t last forever.
But viewers need not worry–it turns out Zauner is much more terrifying than any monster there is.
Jay Som – “Nighttime Drive”
Anyone who has driven down a long stretch of highway late at night can tell you that it can play tricks on your tired mind. What better way to give the supernatural a space to fester? In Jay Som’s “Nighttime Drive,” off of her recent album Anak Ko, bandleader Melina Duterte encounters extraterrestrial beings within her dreams on the road. Imagining her band as a group of alien hunters à la X-Files (complete with suits, ties, and badges), Jay Som plays their sleepy tunes as they dream about a remarkably fluid alien hula-hooping in a stone labyrinth. The alien is ridiculously endearing… and might I add, it’s got some MOVES.
Apparently aliens are just sorely misunderstood–as “Nighttime Drive” might suggest, they’re really just here for a good time.
Mai Lan – “Vampire”
In recent years, vampires have been depicted in a fashionable and chic sort of way thanks to the power of Twilight, Underworld, and other bankable vampire franchises. There’s something about the mythos of the vampire that lends itself to sexiness and allure that other movie monsters (sorry zombies and werewolves) haven’t quite figured out yet. Mai Lan’s video for “Vampire” only helps build that case.
A story told in four parts, “Vampire” follows Mai Lan and her vampire friends as they seduce and trick a big boss-figure out of his riches. The video features vampiric dancing, vampiric lounging (I guess the vampires here aren’t afraid of sunlight) and lots and LOTS of blood. Mai Lan and her coven look like they’re having the time of their undead lives as they frolic around a giant courtyard and throwing blood around with no regard for anything other than themselves. Leave ’em alone… vampires just want to have fun!
Mitski – “Happy”
Even now after three years since its release, the music video for Mitski’s “Happy” never fails to give me goosebumps. Beautifully blending the haunting, choked melodies of Mitski’s most uneasy song with stylish Asian American flair, “Happy” is anything but.
The video first masquerades as an anxious melodrama between a woman and her partner, but there’s more than just hurt feelings here. Within the last minute of the song, director Maegan Houang pulls the rug out from under you with a twist that will cause your hair to stand on end. It’s a horrific piece of film that is guaranteed to evoke a strong reaction from its viewer, and a masterful piece of visual storytelling that does more in four minutes than most narratives can do in ten. “Happy” is horrific, terrifying, and hard to watch, but there’s such careful attention paid to the craft that it’s hard to look away.
NIKI, 88rising – “Indigo”
88Rising, the music collective under which Rich Brian, Joji, and NIKI are signed, is currently on a hot streak. Recently they’ve released their follow-up to their mainstream hip-hop/R&B album Head in the Clouds, properly named Head in the Clouds II, with a few videos and many, many media collaborations. But is all of that necessary when they have NIKI’s “Indigo” in your arsenal? A sleek, swaggeringly confident R&B pop song, “Indigo” secures 88Rising’s place in the pop world, aided by its frighteningly Get Out music video to boot.
On the surface, the video seems simple: NIKI goes on a date with a potential bae. As NIKI charms her suitor with supernatural snapping and some intoxicating rhythms, there’s a sense that not all is right with the scene at hand. There are little signs—strangely robotic butlers, a brushed-off warning, and a startling head smash—that signal the workings of something sinister. By the time our protagonist has figured it out, it’s already too late. There’s an immensely satisfying reveal at the end, coiled and clever, that show some real creativity.
OHYUNG – “PARK SLOPE”
There’s a film out there called Greener Grass that’s meant to be a comedy. In it, suburban moms battle to see who can have the best lives (every adult wears braces because there’s always room for improvement), kids turn into dogs, and infants are given away with a simple verbal affirmation. But even with all of its absurd and surrealistic humor, there’s a part of the film that’s just deeply unsettling. Part of it probably comes from how fake and “perfect” everything seems to feel. There’s an upsetting emptiness that lies under that smiling veneer. It also helps that its saliva-dripping poster makes me gag every time I see it.
That’s the kind of music video that OHYUNG’s “PARK SLOPE” is. On the surface it’s powdered and clean–the video itself is airbrushed and glows with a soft white light–which only contrasts with the visceral mush that clouds its frame towards the end of it. OHYUNG’s video centers around a white Park Slope couple who decide to engage in strange smoothie blending and relaxation as OHYUNG himself gleefully looks on from the backyard. But although the video concept seems tame, you’ll realize that what you’re looking at it not quite right. It soon morphs into something visually disgusting—a complete subversion of the squeaky clean domesticity in the vein of Greener Grass. OHYUNG, who never his minces words in his genre-pushing hip hop, shows just how well that works when it’s fronted by bizarre, queasy imagery.
SASAMI – “Jealousy”
Are witches good or evil? These days, it’s hard to know for sure. Having personal agency and power over one’s self can be quite the attractive offer. That’s not to mention the draws of feline companionship and the appeal of lounging around in gothic clothing, judgement-free.
In SASAMI’s self-directed music video for “Jealousy,” the singer gives us a glimpse into a witch’s life. Joined by a tiny dancing companion, witch SASAMI casts a spell on her unassuming victims. Her chorus, which is a jeering repeated chant of the word “jealousy,” turns the phrase into a spell, liberating her victims from their body image issues. Surprisingly, her victims are much happier after they’ve been bewitched (there’s even a giant cake for one of them)! Complete with hand-painted cave sets, wispy white fog, and dramatic stage makeup, “Jealousy” is a refreshing take on the old-school witch mythos.
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – “Astonished Man”
On Thao & The Get Down Stay Down’s excellent 2016 album A Man Alive, bandleader Thao Nguyen grapples with her strained relationship with her father through twelve wildly innovative folk, indie rock and electronic sounds. There are moments that show her caught in the middle about the relationship—not knowing whether to find peace or anger, love or hatred towards him. “Astonished Man,” the album’s opening song, is a great introduction to these torn feelings that permeate throughout the album—as does its fantastic, stylistic video for it.
In director Brook Linder’s music video, all of Nguyen’s emotions seem to manifest in the form of a fourth-wall breaking horror film. With a camera that seems to endlessly zoom in and push out, Thao is framed at the center of all of the horrifying violence that surrounds her. You’ll catch the spectre of a menacing figure wielding a cleaver in one instant, and in another a hook is sharpened in preparation for the kill. Thao, however, remains calm and stoic, subjecting herself to these fears at hand. She even breaks the fourth wall more than a few times—in one instant she plays around with some bloody makeup and in others the camera zooms all the way to reveal a set. Though there is chaos surrounding her, you can be at ease knowing that she’s in control of it all.
yeule – “Pretty Bones”
Crossing goth, cyberpunk, and the straight-up occult, Singaporean dark electro-pop artist yeule seeks to shock. Any one of her haunting music videos–from the ghastly “Pocky Boy” to the techno-horror flick “Pixel Affection”–could do very well on this list. However, it’s “Pretty Bones” that showcases the best marriage of the artist’s dark pop and gothic aesthetic.
Directed by Joy Song, the video for “Pretty Bones” drips with tantalizing shots of decadent fruits, cakes, and fairy-tale delicacies. Each treat is carefully adorned with gems–bound to make even the Queen of Hearts herself jealous. But of course, this eye candy isn’t for naught. As the beat kicks in and the song reaches its full swing, Yeule herself makes an appearance by providing some disturbing facial expressions that soon devolve into a red-colored madness. As the video slowly spirals into a whirlwind of insanity with the help of some very well shot and edited time-lapse (breathing, rotten fruit is a key term here!), the video draws a very visceral reaction that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. That’s not to mention that the way these fairy-tale style cakes are so ruthlessly abused should be a visual crime in itself.
Even here, where the fine line between life and death is blurred, yeule makes it beautiful. Creepy, but beautiful.
Here’s a few videos that we’ve covered in the past that fits perfectly on this list as well!
Honorable mention: Munimuni – “Sa’yo”
While I was looking up some of these videos, this video by Filipino folk band munimuni came up. Even though it’s a very calm song sung in Tagalog, they’ve chosen to accompany their music with footage from the very first zombie feature film ever made, White Zombie (1934). It’s an interesting choice to pair the song and video together (I have no idea the logic behind it), but it’s a lovely song worth pointing out!