I’m a horror junkie. But I’m not going to bore you about how I became one, only that it goes back to my childhood and that tall sturdy shelf that housed VHS tapes. Perhaps I was too young to have a broad palate: low-budget, slapstick horror movies were just as enjoyable as the ones done with serious maximalism. At this point, I have to say that the Lamberto Bava-directed ‘80s horror classic Demons remains one of my old-time favourites.
That said, I’m beginning to see horror movie tropes in Nigerian music videos, something that I hope will become a trend. And if you are not tired of seeing gyrating, almost-naked women being subtly devoured by the patriarchal claws belonging to male artistes, then you have a cold heart. Furthermore, you are no fun at all. There are many horror movie tropes and, in Maleek Berry’s video for 4 Me, it’s the beautiful enchantress we are presented with. As the name goes, she is beautiful, attractive, and with a deadly, single-minded purpose. Which is mostly always to lure men and destroy them, often during a sexual encounter. I will not blame you if you are thinking of the Nollywood movie Karishika. Sleepy Hollow, Species, and countless horror movies and TV shows have used the beautiful enchantress trope to achieve horror shock value.
In the opening scene of Maleek Berry’s 4 Me video, our beautiful enchantress drifts into an outdoor night party scene awash with blue-red lights. She is enveloped by an air of mystery and Maleek Berry spots her among the youthful crush of people because it’s his video and should be the only one allowed to spot her. She is different, he is sure; he is probably thinking of her as wife material, the kind of woman he must take home to mama. But first he dances with her, quite intimately, and I’m almost certain Berry can smell his own lust. A little more dancing and she drifts away from him and the party, making her way through a crowd-free path. She pauses and with a slight upward tilt of her head, her eyes momentarily turns a frosty white. She disappears out of view, and Berry is shown trying to figure out where she went.
Finally, he makes it to the exact location our beautiful enchantress was last seen, gaining supernatural power from the moon (that was how I interpreted it). It looks as if Berry is sniffing the air, suspecting something is wrong. The camera then flicks to the woman that had stolen his heart a while ago. She is within a small distance, and not alone. She lures Berry into her coven of beautiful enchantresses and, in a real horror movie, this is where Berry should die. But he doesn’t die. Instead, he is dancing with these women in an artificially-manufactured rain, squinting, perhaps from the fall of the water droplets or from a finger from one of the women that had accidentally penetrated his eye.
Another video worthy of note is Reekado Banks’ Link Up, which features Ycee (with his signature mop of hair). The video, a house party sort of, employs the haunted house trope and The Evil Dead nostalgics like me can see the references. It’s a relatively impressive blend of atmosphere and horror aesthetics, as shown in the scene where Ycee is done urinating and sees a hand writhing about in the toilet bowl, followed by the appearance of a white-frocked ghost in the hallway and a slew of other scare tactics that marginally escaped cringe-fest territory. The video climaxes with Reekado Banks and Ycee surrounded by a seemingly sinister circle of women who slowly close in on them, predatorily. But Banks and Ycee are only dreaming; it seemed that way at least. They wake and realise that they are in the premises of the house, in Ycee/Banks’ car. They drive out quickly, to escape the house (who wouldn’t?) and we get to see the same white-frocked ghost from their dream sitting comfortably at the rear of their car, following them without their knowledge. It made me laugh.
Horror tropes/themes in music videos aren’t new. Shakira let out her inner wolf in her video for She Wolf, the lead single off her eight studio album of the same name. Rihanna’s Disturbia has got dark imageries that might disturb your sleep if you are horror-sensitive. And there is something about Lady Gaga and horror that fits perfectly together. Her Bad Romance video, though arguably a composite of devilish symbolisms and subtexts, is deliciously freaky (those outlandish shoes that looked like they were crafted by aliens!). Michael Jackson’s Thriller throws a huge nod to the zombie sub-genre and it’s a grandly executed work of horror.
I’m still uncertain if horror tropes in Nigerian music videos will be here to stay. If they are, it will offer a different creative direction. Importantly, it will be a breath of fresh air.