Ever since the music video was born, there have been artists making clips that set out to get under your skin. These videos are often creepy, disturbing, and sometimes down right scary. But then there’s that group of videos that start out tame, making you think you’re in the safe zone. Out nowhere there’s one image or scene where things take an ugly turn whether it’d be scary or chilling. These videos aren’t horrific, but there’s one instance where things get batshit crazy. Here are 12 seemingly safe videos with creepy moments. Not all of the scenes are scary, but they’re weird, unsettling, or just unexpected.
12. “Heart & Soul” – Huey Lewis and the News
This Huey Lewis video starts out like any other from the 80s; in a club with ridiculous fashion choices. Lewis strides in talking about a woman who has caught his attention, along with the attention of everyone else in the club. Everyone’s dancing, Lewis is singing, and then without warning there’s a shot of a vampire waiter. No explanation. He makes an appearance and is gone again. He makes another brief return near the end when he’s sucking blood out of one of his victims. Okay, so the vampire isn’t scary, more like baffling. What was the point of having him there? It just doesn’t make any sense. It feels so random in this seemingly generic video.
11. “Rockit” – Herbie Hancock
There’s a lot going on that’s unsettling in this video, but I never considered any of it as intentional. It more seemed like one of those 80s videos taking advantage of new technology. Watching it again, there are a lot of scarring images from this video: disembodied legs walking around, faceless robots making jerky movements, and a weird bird snapping at the window. But the thing that’s worse than all of these are the mechanical bots with weird, fleshy like skin over their faces. They don’t do much in the video aside from slowly rotating their heads. It’s like they’re trying to disguise themselves as human and it’s disturbing. When that’s the most horrific thing in a weird video featuring creepy robots, you know something is wrong.
10. “Sweet Dream (Are Made of This)” – Eurythmics
This video already has some weird stuff going on, but the concept seems simple: Annie Lennox looks like a dictator as she points to a screen where a missile heads toward the earth. It seems as normal as a Eurythmics video could be until midway through. Lennox and Stewart appear in weird costumes and masks “playing” a cello outside and being generally creepy. Out of nowhere comes a close up of a cow, a cow that roams around for the rest of the video. The clip ends with them in a cow pasture for some reason. It may not be scary, but there’s something creepy and unexpected of seeing a cow close up wandering aimlessly. There’s something unsettling and weird about it, especially in a video that’s already strange.
9. “InBetween Days” – The Cure
Oh look, it’s The Cure being kind of goofing and actually looking happy. They all look like they’re having a good time with the upbeat music and – what the fuck is that?! With some clever glow in the dark make-up The Cure turns this lighthearted video into a nightmare. As Robert Smith is singing the second verse, his image is slowly replaced with another image of him in eerie green and blue make up. What we’re left with is a monstrous looking version of the singer. It’s so simple, but it’s made all the more terrifying with his head movements and his glowing red eyes. Then the video returns to normal as if nothing happened, making you question if it really happened. The Cure pulled a similar move in their video for “Boys Don’t Cry.” You gotta love a band that wants to creep out their fans.
8. “Oh Father” – Madonna
This beautiful black and white video is semi-autobiographical for the singer. It follows a little girl dealing with the death of her mother, while surviving her father’s rage. It’s somber as Madonna walks through a snowy cemetery and the little girl is constantly yelled at by her father. But the image that has stayed in my mind since I first saw the video at the tender age of 6 is the little girl’s mother in the coffin. When she steps up to give her a kiss, she see’s her mother’s lips sewn together. The image isn’t gruesome in any way, but it’s unsettling especially for someone who didn’t understand death or funerals. Madonna provided another unsettling image in her “Bedtime Story” video where she has mouths for eyes. Thanks for the nightmares, Madonna.
7. “Land of Confusion” – Genesis
Do I really need to explain what makes this one terrifying? The fucking puppets. It’s supposed to be a parody of current events of the 80’s along with the hot celebrities, but they all look like the result of an experiment gone horribly wrong. The keyboard player looks like a dehydrated Mick Jagger and Phil Collins looks like a giant potato. Everything about the video is horrible from how the puppets move to a scene where Puppet Regan drowns in his bed. The result is even worse when they put puppet heads on human bodies. And the scene with Regan slowly emerging from the water is nightmare material. I guess Genesis wanted to make their feelings clear about the president, but couldn’t they have done it in a less terrifying way?
6. “Puttin on the Ritz” – Taco
This one of those moments from the 80’s that makes you question people’s taste. The song was quite popular and the video is weird. The concept isn’t that bad; it’s Taco strolling through alleyways and downtown singing. But the video loses its mind near the end. There close ups of living mannequins singing and people in creepy old men masks. All the while Taco robotically sings and makes strained faces making him look like someone you shouldn’t trust. To make things worse the uncensored version has backup dancers tap dancing with Taco in blackface. It’s one of those moments that makes you question “did I just see that?” The video was horrible enough on its own. Why is this bit in there? It’s unsettling and baffling especially for a clip in the 80’s.
5. “Plug in Baby” – Muse
Videos from the 80’s aren’t the only ones that lure into a false sense of safety. Muse’s clip for “Plug in Baby” seems standard: the band performs the song mixed with footage of dead-eyed models. Classic rock star stuff. It’s until a brief shot of a pair of disembodied legs that you begin to question things. Eventually it’s revealed all the models aren’t human and have what look like tentacles or wires sticking out from their bodies. The pulsing effects on the tentacles are kind of cheesy, but it still gives you shivers when you see legs with only tentacles attached thrusting in the air. What the fuck, Muse.
4. “Self-Control” – Laura Branigan
Laura Branigan talks about the pleasures of the night in this weird clip. It starts out pretty sane with the singer walking through the streets and hitting up a night club. Along the way she spots a guy in a Phantom of the Opera mask, but that’s not what makes this video unsettling. He eventually takes her to a weird basement party where everyone is rubbing against each other wearing masquerade masks. Even that isn’t why the video is on the list. It’s when Branigan finds herself at home with these same people rubbing, caressing, and stroking her that it reaches uncomfortable levels. No matter how many times I see this video it always creeps me out. And yeah, it’s not particularly scary or anything like that, but something about their unnatural movements with those still, eerie masks makes this video horrid. Who thought this was a good idea?
3. “Wild Wild West” – Escape Club
This INXS wannabe video starts off with each of the members playing the song while faux Michael Hutchence gyrates in the corner. Seems like a standard bad 80’s video until the camera pans out shows disembodied legs and arms playing the tambourine. What makes it even worse is they’re connected making it look like one long body limb. It’s just fucking creepy looking. All they’re doing is clapping their hands and tapping their feet, but it looks obscene not attached to a body. It gets even worse when a pair of the legs tries to be scintillating by first rubbing on the singer and then rubbing on its own legs. Who let this monstrosity happen? It’s a video made to give you nightmares.
3. “Jeopardy” – Greg Kihn Band
A wedding day is the focus of this clip. We see Greg Kihn getting ready to get married and trying to get over his cold feet. Sounds pretty standard so far until Kihn looks around him and sees other couples literally joined together. One couple’s arms are fused together while another couple are like odd Siamese twins with a pulsing organ between them. Kihn tries to shake it off and is relieved to see his bride his normal. Until her face changes into a rotting skeleton and her jaw falls off. The rest of the video goes batshit crazy where the entire church turns into zombies and a disembodied tentacle tries to devour Kihn. It all turns out to be a dream and Kihn returns to reality. What is up with videos from the 80’s starting out sane and going nuts at the end? It’s like the director got high in the middle of filming and changed the script.
2. “Shock to the System” – Billy Idol
It’s hard to imagine anything scarier looking in this video aside from Billy Idol’s hairstyle but there is. After Idol gets beaten by the cops in a dystopian future, his body starts absorbing the electronic debris surrounding him. As if the image of wires being sucked into his hand wasn’t creepy enough, we then get a close up of Idol’s contorted face. He grimaces in pain as one eye steadily bulges out further and further from his face. Finally, it pops revealing itself to be a camera lens. Then Idol is transformed into a literal mechanical man full of gears and wires sticking out of him. The video itself may be confusing and laughable but the way Idol jerks and shakes with all those buts sticking out is disturbing. Who greenlit this idea?
1. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
So, this may be cheating a little bit, but this video is too insane to not include. Every moment of this clip is batshit crazy. In the span of five minutes, you see ninjas, Cirque du Soleil dancers, football players, fencers, swimmers being splashed with water, rejects from Grease, and Bonnie Tyler fighting a wind machine. So much is happening in this video you think you’re prepared for anything. That is until Tyler runs into the possessed children’s choir with glowing eyes. The effects are pretty cheap by today’s standards, but that moment when a single boy flies towards the singer will make your heart jump. Why is this happening? This video makes absolutely no sense. It’s like they had a huge budget with no concept and said “Fuck it, it’ll look good in the end.” If I had to pick one video to represent the excess of the 80’s this would be it.
“Talking In Your Sleep” – The Romantics
This video didn’t make the list because nothing really happens: the band walks around singing in what looks like a factory full of women sleeping upright. It’s weird, but nothing that creeps you out. But it gets an honorable mention because of singer Wally Palmer. Something about the way he attempts to dance to the music while having the same dead expression on his face is unsettling. It’s like he’s a robot pretending to be human and decided this is the way humans move and dance. It weirds me out every time, especially when he tries to make sensual (?) expressions.
Which one of these videos gives you nightmares? Is there a video I missed? Let me know in the comments!