How is something that plays on our most basic negative emotion so attractive? Fear is not pleasant yet people love to get scared — It’s like some cruel paradox planted in our genes to keep life interesting. It is likely due to this simple truth that horror has been a staple genre since movies were first around. There’s no surprise music videos would decide to borrow this motif as well.
Keep reading for our list of the 10 best horror themed music videos to get you in the Halloween mood.
The Killers – “Bones”
The Killers enlisted director Tim Burton to direct the video for their aptly-titled song “Bones”.
Switching between a Las Vegas 50s-era drive-in and an idyllic beach, we see humans, CGI skeletons, and half-skeleton humans running around, frolicking and generally enjoying life.
Classic horror movie buffs will get a kick out of the occasional clips seen on the drive-in screen.
The arrangement on this track is top-notch. Subtle xylophone riffs give the perfect aesthetic backdrop, as lead singer Brandon Flowers moans lines like “Don’t you want to feel my bones, on your bones…”
The fact that Tim Burton directed “Bones” was reason enough to include this video on our list. It helps that the video actually turned out to be good… but would you expect anything less?
Backstreet Boys – “Everybody”
This is an interesting example of a song that has absolutely NOTHING to do with Halloween but got a high budget horror-themed video.
The (in)famous Backstreet Boys find themselves forced to stay the night at a haunted castle after suffering a tour bus breakdown. As the full moon rises to its peak, they all transform into a classic Halloween creature.
I found one of the Boys’ werewolf costumes to be interestingly reminiscent of Tyler Durden from Fight Club. Epic costumes, the customary pre-song intro scene and killer choreography make this video one of the Backstreet Boys’ finest.
Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me”
The video someone once described as “Thriller’s little brother”. “Somebody’s Watching Me” tries to recreate Thriller’s scary success – it even features the King of Pop on the hook. In just 7 words, MJ completely outshines Rockwell without even making an on-screen appearance.
The video follows Rockwell throughout his abode while he frets and sweats at the constant threat of a potential killer stalking him. Even though this mashup of incoherent horror tropes looks like it was directed by a high school student, its iconic hook and laughably spooky video did more than enough to land it on our list.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Soul To Squeeze”
Soul to Squeeze substitutes horror for a healthy dose of creepy. This carnival-themed, black and white, conehead-filled trip into the psyche of Anthony Kiedis is equal parts entertaining and unsettling. The band members take turns sharing the spotlight with all kinds of characters that you would expect to inhabit a traveling carnival – including clowns, elephants and the classic angry manager chewing on a cigar.
The song, although overtly having nothing to do with a carnival––or even Halloween––is a perfect fit for the melancholy aesthetic. Well done RHCP, well done. (Oh yeah, and Medusa Anthony!)
Justice – “Stress”
While not an explicitly Halloween-themed video, I couldn’t help but include “Stress” on our list. More of a mockumentary than a music video, we follow a troop of pre-teen boys not even old enough to drive (even though they do at one point in the video). The boys roam the streets of Paris, terrorizing every adult, cop, and piece of private property they come across.
All throughout, the eerie soundtrack delivered by French duo Justice places the listener in an uncomfortable situation, keeping them there for the duration of this almost-7-minute joyride of delinquency and chaos.
Rob Zombie – “Living Dead Girl”
“Zombie Captain Jack Sparrow in a Tim Burton movie set in 1900”.
This is probably the best way to describe the video for “Living Dead Girl”. I’m not implying this is a bad thing either. In fact, the over 50 million views would tell you the opposite. We could have chosen nearly any Rob Zombie video and it would have been perfectly at home on this list; “Living Dead Girl” just happened to be the one.
Rihanna – “Disturbia”
If you didn’t pay close attention to the lyrics, you would be surprised at the dark theme of the video for “Disturbia”. The shiny pop-style production, Auto-tune heavy vocals and array of synths is so sweet, you’d expect the video to be set in a candy shop.
While lacking any traditionally spooky characters like vampires or werewolves, “Disturbia” still manages to depict a cast of creepy figures, while Rihanna herself is seen in a myriad of costumes that would fit right in at any occasion on October 31st.
This video is the perfect backdrop for its surreal and spooky lyrics, while also providing a strong contrast in comparison to production. The roughly 20-second intro gave me chills, and beautifully set the tone for the rest of the video.
Thirty Seconds To Mars – The Kill (Bury Me)
Thirty Seconds to Mars blatantly rip off a horror classic and, honestly, I like that. From the opening scene of the band pulling up to a spooky deserted hotel, to their greeting letter warning them to “stay out of room 6277”, the music video for “The Kill (Bury Me)” reeks of The Shining.
Throughout the video, countless homages are paid to the film. Antique typewriters, convos with strange bartenders and more twins than you can count are just some of the ways this video mirrors the infamous movie. 10 points to Gryffindor if you can catch every reference (I counted 9).
Kanye West – “Monster”
Monster dives into the darkest parts of Yeezy’s psyche to both disturb and awe us. Probably the most explicit of all the videos on our list, the original posting of Monster on Kanye West’s website in 2011 was prefaced with:
“The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and it shall be taken as such.”
Met with heavy criticism during its release, Monster pushed the envelope in usual Kanye fashion, paying homage to horror pieces across many mediums – including movies like Saw, music videos like “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and even infamous painting like “The Hands Resist Him” by Bill Stoneham (c.1972).
The highlight of this video, by far, has to be Nicki Minaj’s verse. Thanks to clever camera tricks, a leather-clad dominatrix Nicki is shown dancing around another, innocent-looking Nicki in a frilly white dress and pink wig. She delivers her iconic verse while producing some of the most entertaining facial expressions I’ve ever seen a human make.
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
The ultimate. The OG. THE horror music video. In this 13-and-a-half minute music video, Michael Jackson laid the foundation for countless memes, homages, interpretations, copycats, reenactments, spoofs, etc… the list goes on. The musicless interludes of Thriller allow Michael to really show off his acting chops. Although they prove to be mediocre, his peerless dancing effortlessly sewn throughout the video more than makes up for it.
I can’t praise this classic enough for its innovation. Music videos up until today still copy its formula of movie-style intros that flow into the song itself, with brief pauses throughout to further the plot.