Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Creepy Music Videos Better Than "Thriller!"

A slate of horror-themed videos you DEFINITELY need to check out this All Hallow's season...

In 1983, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" -- probably the first true long-form music video -- was played on MTV. Depending upon the ebb and flow of teen suicide rates, it usually bests "Smells Like Teen Spirit" in the periodic best music videos of all-time countdowns. It was even added to the National Film Registry, meaning the U.S. government considers it a worthwhile work of art on par with D.W. Griffith's and Stan Brakhage's finest.

Now, I've never been a huge Michael Jackson fan, but even on an objective level, I've never really understood what all the big fuss was about. Yeah, it's got zombies and werewolves and Vincent Price and all, but it all seems so cartoonish and full-of-itself, as if director (and remorseless child killer) John Landis just wanted to spend money for the sake of spending money. That, and it entails what is quite possibly the single most intelligence-insulting premise in the history of modern cinema: it asks viewers to actually believe that Jackson ported about something that even remotely resembled heterosexual longings.

With Halloween right around the corner, you're definitely going to be hearing, and seeing, quite a bit of "Thriller" for the next 30 or 40 days. While the video and Jackson will undoubtedly continue to receive postmortem praise (and largely, from the same people who were making chi-mo jokes up until the Gloved One's final hours) I figured it was worth our collective whiles to celebrate a few music videos with a decisive horror bent that don't get the same kind of recognition that "Thriller" does -- although, as you will soon see for yourselves, they most certainly deserve it.

The Greg Kihn Band 
"Jeopardy" (1983)

Never heard of the Greg Kihn Band? Well, they're the band that does the "The Breakup Song," itself one of their spookier-sounding pop hits from the early '80s. While "Jeopardy" is a slightly cheerier sounding tune (complete with a bass line more or less stolen from Stevie Wonder's "Superstition"), the music video for the song is pure, Reagan-era horror cheese at its finest.

For one thing, its one of those old school music videos that actually looks like it was filmed on somebody's home camera. Secondly, the atmosphere is just goddamn terrific, providing us with the absolute best kind of horror music video: the kind that starts off fairly non-horror-ish, that you can just sense is going to spiral into genre madness at any moment.

So, the premise here is simple: a dude with a mullet is having apprehensive thoughts at his wedding. He imagines his arguing parents' having their hands welded together like some kind of "Elm Street" special effect, he pulls back his wife's veil for a wedding smooch and BAM! The entire reception turns into a zombie apocalypse, complete with the groom having to use a piece of wood to fend off an aluminum foil hell monster. And then, he proceeds to play the makeshift stake like an air guitar, because that makes way more sense than trying to escape from a cathedral crawling with the living dead and shit. And oh man, how about that pseudo-misogynistic happy ending where he drives off with the wedding bubbly without his bride?  This is just all of the archaic, stupid stuff that made Pre-AIDS America awesome -- for my money, THIS is the spooky music video from 1983 we should've been celebrating for all these years.

Twisted Sister and Alice Cooper
"Be Chrool to Your Scuel" (1985)

My musical tastes have changed a lot over the years, but no matter what aural phase I've gone through, Twisted Sister's "Stay Hungry" has remained one of my all-time favorite albums. Likewise, Alice Cooper is one of my favorite musicians ever, and a man whose ouevre is so rich, he's probably the only person in history that could be able to release an entire album filled with nothing but songs he's contributed to shitty B-horror movies.

So what happens when you combine the two? Well, you get pure awesomeness, that's what, and that pure awesomeness is called "Be Chrool to Your Scuel."

In this eight-minute(!) opus, Bobcat Goldthwait plays a jaded high school teacher, who mumbles stuff about SAT scores and number two pencils with an intonation that sounds like John Travolta trying to gargle marbles. After rambling about tacos and squirrels not picking him up at the airport for three and a half minutes, he runs to the teacher's lounge , plugs in a Twisted Sister tape, and as expected, the proverbial shit hits the metaphorical fan. Not only are the zombies in this one way more grotesque than the living dead in "Thriller," I think they look better than any of the zombies you'd have seen in "Day of the Dead" -- and since Twisted Sister and Alice Cooper ain't pussies, you actually get some pretty good gore in this one, too, including two zombies literally sucking face, a couple of arms hacked off and even a sequence where a zombie student has his larynx carved out by a zombified nurse!

Death In Vegas
"Dirt" (1997)

1997 was an important year for the music video format, for two reasons. For one, that was the year MTV decided to drastically cut back the number of programming hours dedicated to actual music videos, representing what would eventually be the network's slow descent into becoming a channel that shows "Teen Mom" 23 and a half hours a day.

Secondly, it was the year "electronica" was supposed to kill rock and roll for good, as highly-touted groups like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were given all the hype and corporate backing in the world to supplant all of the crappy, post-Nirvana grunge-pop acts. As part of the not at all engineered techno-rock ploy, Death in Vegas was one of the soundalike groups that got momentary MTV stardom in the late 1990s -- although, as with Aphex Twin, just about everybody remembers them for their freaky-ass videos and have no recollections whatsoever of what the band actually sounded like.

All-in-all, I'd say "Dirt" is pretty much the exemplary pseudo-Dadaist, semi-intellectual, stream-of-conscious-pretentious-corporate-rock-techno-surrealist-shit that the timeframe gave us. With its self-indulgent black and white imagery, cryptic Holocaust visuals and blunt anti-religious imagery (complete with a funk-rock bassline tailor made for late '90s sneakers commercials), this music video is just about the finest tribute to the "Titanic" era zeitgeist you'll probably ever encounter.

Robbie Williams
"Rock DJ" (2000)

Forget Weird Al and all of that shit Spike Jonze directed -- this is far and away the greatest satire in the history of music videos.

With a face that residing somewhere between Jackass's Johnny Knoxville and Mr. Bean, Robbie Williams epitomized the era's flash-in-the pan Brit-pop manufactured stars, whose promotion was clearly designed to ride in on the coattails of pretty boy (and painfully closeted homosexual) Ricky Martin. Perhaps catching a whiff of its own syntheticness, this brilliantly subversive video posits Williams as a golden idol the masses just can't wait to consume ... literally.

As with "Jeopardy," the video really excels at making you feel that something weird is going to happen, no matter the generic trappings presented upfront. If you ever wondered what would happen if Clive Barker was selected to direct a George Michael video ... well, I'm pretty sure "Rock DJ" is what we would've ended up with.

Strapping Young Lad
"Love?" (2005)

Devin Townsend -- the Canadian death metal guy who looks suspiciously like Brad Douriff, pre-Voodoo soul transfer in "Child's Play" -- is an absolute musical genius, as evident by albums like "Terria," "The Human Equation" and "Ziltoid the Omniscient." Best known for his work in Strapping Young Lad, 2005's "Alien" is probably the band's best overall offering, and as far as SYL songs go, I can't think of one I like more than "Love?," a really weirdo ballad about a dude off his meds talking about how interpersonal intimacy is just a neurological coping mechanism.

So, imagine my surprise a few years back, when I did a Google search for the song, and not only did a legitimate music video pop up, but the entire fucking thing had an "Evil Dead" motif!

Needless to say, this thing is just amazing, from start-to-finish. From the laughing moose heads from "Dead by Dawn" to the infamous Deadite hand infection to the zooming camera shots so spot-on they feel like Sam Raimi was filming it himself, "Love?" is far and away the best homage to "The Evil Dead" in modern media. Sigh ... why didn't they let Devin Townsend make a musical reboot instead of that god-awful remake we got last year?


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