It’s the time of the year again: Time to curl up with a Pumpkin Spice Latte, stock up on Halloween candy, and watch as many scary things as you can. Even though your instinct will tell you to Netflix a horror classic or run to the movies theater to see Annabelle or Ouija, let us suggest another option: music videos. Specifically these 13, the scariest music videos ever made. Needless to say, many of these are extremely NSFW, as well as NSFN (not safe for nighttime).
13. Bat for Lashes, “What’s a Girl to Do”
Nighttime bike-riding on a seemingly endless road. Silent people in animal masks, including a Donnie Darko–esque bunny, who appear and disappear. Two people (children?) standing at the edge of the woods in Halloween costumes. A creepy childlike musical refrain running through the entire thing. Scary!
12. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”
You’d think that by now, the effect of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” would have diminished, but we don’t call it a classic for no reason. From the ominous title-card to Jackson’s startling transformation into a werewolf, and later, into a zombie, “Thriller” is a great and spooky 13-minute short film.
11. The Prodigy, “Breathe”
Any ‘90s child can attest to the terrifying nature of this music video. Between the nonstop flickering lights and members Keith Flint and Maxim’s extreme onscreen performances — to say nothing of the cockroaches and alligator crawling around the decrepit apartment complex — this memorable clip still induces the jitters.
10. Metallica, “Enter Sandman”
Scenes of drowning, running away, plunging to your death after falling off of a tall building, and snakes crawling all over you in bed are literally the stuff nightmares are made of. All of that shows up in intense bursts throughout Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and if those ideas don’t freak you out, the strobe-light delivery should do the job.
9. Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”
The original version of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” video had to be edited for TV because of its onslaught of unsettling imagery, but thanks to the internet, fans can now watch it in full. It opens with a scene of an anatomic heart beating and only gets more sinister from there: a monkey tied to a crucifix, cockroaches, a hanging bull skull, and, scariest of all, lead singer Trent Reznor’s stone-cold stare and performance in front of an open carcass.
8. Aphex Twin, “Rubber Johnny”
Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project have got nothing on this Aphex Twin video. Shot in infrared, the video features a deformed teenager named Johnny who is locked in a pitch-black basement with his Chihuahua. Its shaky-cam close-up interludes are the most startling, keeping you in suspense as to what Johnny will say or do next. Watch and fear for that poor Chihuahua’s life.
7. Marilyn Manson, “Born Villain”
Marilyn Manson wrote the guidebook to disturbing imagery in music videos. Yet of all his work, this 2012 clip for “Born Villain” ranks highest on the horror scale. In it, Manson performs a ritualistic haircut and surgery on a number of naked women, but his most shuddering move of all is piercing a woman’s face and letting us see it in all its unflinching glory. Good luck getting through all six minutes of this without cringing.
6. Mr. Bungle, “Quote Unquote”
Just like many of the videos on this list, Mr. Bungle’s “Quote Unquote” is a trippy, psychedelic video full of disturbing images such as creepy dolls and masked men. The most controversial part of this video, though, is the extended shot of the band members hanging, lifeless, on meat hooks. It was so alarming that MTV refused to air it.
5. Skinny Puppy, “Worlock”
This video is guaranteed to scare viewers because it takes graphic scenes from a number of horror movies, including Deep Red, Altered States, Combat Shock, Hellraiser II, Bad Taste, and Dead & Buried. The power of one horror flick is frightening enough; imagine what the goriest scenes of that many movies in a row might do to your senses.
4. Dir En Grey, “Obscure”
Japanese filmmakers have their own notable brand of outlandish horror, and that aesthetic also extends into Japanese metal band Dir En Grey’s music video for “Obscure.” The combination of the band’s extreme sounds and flashes of severed bodies, bloody geishas, and vomit galore is enough to send anyone off the edge with terror.
3. Health, “We Are Water”
Getting chased in the woods by a machete-wielding murderer is a common horror trope, yet it remains effective. L.A. noise-rockers Health take this concept and bring it to an unexpected climax in their video for “We Are Water.” A man in his underwear goes after an androgynous Goldilocks in the dark and all hope seems lost, but the protagonist strikes back in an unlikely way and in an unlikely spot.
2. Depeche Mode, “Wrong”
What starts off looking like an auto commercial rolling in reverse soon reveals itself to be something way eerier. A masked man (played by Liars drummer Julian Gross) is bound and gagged in a moving car, and while he struggles to break loose, he hits another car, a pedestrian, traffic cones, and a number of other objects.
1. Aphex Twin, “Come to Daddy”
Aphex Twin is the virtuoso of scary music-videos. Shot on the same grounds as scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, “Come to Daddy” evokes the same menacing mood, only tenfold, as a group of children bearing Aphex Twin mastermind Richard D. James’s face wreak havoc, and eventually, a demon emerges from a television. We guarantee you won’t be able to turn the lights off after watching this.