What is wrong with humankind? We fear death and danger but we love to fantasise about it. We are terrified of our mortality and threats to our safety and yet, here we are, with an annual holiday on which we indulge in the most terrifying, grotesque and sinister cosplays and motifs.
Ah, well. To celebrate Halloween this year, we decided to spend an entire work day on YouTube, looking for the creepiest, darkest, and most iconically frightening music videos of our time. Did we miss some? You're damn right we did. But here's a slightly comprehensive shortlist.
The Prodigy – "Breathe"
Obviously. Obviously! I know. I'm sorry. But like… obviously? "Breathe," directed by Walter Stern, won the Viewer's Choice at the 1997 VMAs and went on to be the inspiration for nightmares round the world for years to come.
Rihanna – "Disturbia"
When the video for "Disturbia" was first released, rumours leaked that it was directed by renowned photographer David LaChapelle, though it was later reported that Anthony Mandler—who had worked with Rihanna on many clips in the past—was behind it. This was the video that seemed to cement Rihanna as a boundary-pushing pop star; willing to go beyond sweet and sexy, to corner people into paying attention. Extremely creepy and great.
Marilyn Manson – "Beautiful People"
What would a music-geared Halloween-inspired clickbait list be without this man? That's right: slightly less good. The ultimate #freak, Manson really knows how to get you feeling like you've walked into a weird fetish club looking for amyl but now you're thinking about staying. Now that I think about it, though, I'm pretty sure this is a huge Rihanna rip off. Unfortunate.
Silver – "Freak"
"Those were the days," I say from my rocking chair covered in cobwebs, wearing my prized original 1996 Big Day Out tour t-shirt that's all moth eaten and falling to pieces. "This was the golden era of Australian rock." My skeleton hands cling fast to my compact disc copy of Freak Show as the magpies begin to peck at my remains.
Madonna – "Frozen"
Crows, flared black sleeves, floating, ominous clouds—this one's got it all. "Frozen" or as it's known in The Industry, "The One Where Madonna Went a Bit Goth for a Minute." A classic.
My Chemical Romance – "Helena"
A screaming rock band and synchronised—possibly mourning—dancers at a funeral? Extremely spooky. Historians should put this video in a time capsule labeled "2005" because it's basically all you need to know about that year compacted into a very digestable 3 minutes and thirty seconds.
Skrillex & Rick Ross – "Purple Lambourghini"
Knives hanging from the ceiling! Walls spattered with blood! Jared Leto doing some of his famous method acting! Love the song, love the vibe. Am a little concerned about filming a video clip in the middle of a crime scene, though.... Seems compromising to both justice and safety.
ICP – "Night of the Chainsaw"
I never thought I'd say this—though I must admit I hoped I would—but this year is the year of the clown. They're back. Which is why these dudes made it in. Also because this video is absolutely filthy. I'm not saying ICP are the best music group of all time, and I'm not saying this is the best video in this list, nay, in the world, because that would be favouritism. But I also am saying that.
Aphex Twin – "Come to Daddy"
Wow. Richard David James? Youse a freak. 100%. And I love it.
Die Antwoord – "UGLY BOY"
Disgusting. Truly horrible. An absolute disgrace. Big fan.
Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Jay Z – "Monster"
Vampires, Frankensteins, Zombies, swinging lamps, dead, naked women. This is my kind of video. Back in 2010 when the world met—and bowed at the feet of— My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, some sweet hacker leaked the unreleased video to "Monster" which almost lead to Kanye jacking the video and shelving it for good. He came to his senses and released it, though, which then—of course—lead to a lot of White Noise at publications like the Huffington Post, where people seemed extremely personally offended by its violence.
Backstreet Boys – "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
"Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" was apparently meant to be a "parody" take on the horror film clip trope a la "Thriller" and the like. Very Weird Al, boys. I never saw it that way as I was legitimately 9 years old and absolutely mortified to see A.J. with half his face burnt off and Kevin as some kind of pre-illuminati reptilian shapeshifter. Zero complaints about Nick Carter as the iconic sexy mummy, though.
Apparently the Backstreet Boys' record label were extremely uninterested in such a theatrical and tongue-in-cheek music video and wouldn't sign off on the concept, which lead to the band funding the video out of their own pockets. And look at it now! Take that, you bureaucratic stiffs!
The Cure – "Just Like Heaven"Leave it to The Cure to make a film clip for one of the most beautiful and uplifting pop songs I've ever fucking heard and manage to make it look like a complete and utter nightmare.
Britney Spears – "Everytime"
What do I even say… This music video haunted a generation for years on years. The worst and most upsetting thing about this video's making is that Britney initially wanted the video to end in her character AKA her committing suicide in the bath, until it was scrapped for appearing to "glamourise" suicide. So she just bled out from a head wound instead.
Meat Loaf – "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)"
So Meat Loaf is basically The Beast from Beauty and the Beast—but with a motorbike because it's the 90s and it's Meat Loaf—and this disproportionately attractive woman is the Beauty. It then veers a little off course with some murder, some sexual experimentation (terrifying) and, eventually, a sunset bike ride into the horizon.
On a different topic altogether: What won't he do? What won't he do??? Somebody please tell me.
For frighteningly bad content, follow Issy on Twitter.