This post is brought to you by an actual nightmare I had last night.
I’ve been a life-long fan of horror films, indeed my favorite cinematic genre, but rarely, if ever, do they actually scare me. As much as I enjoy fright flicks, they don’t haunt me. I often think its weird when people say that they have nightmares about Jason or Freddy or Michael Myers. To me those guys are famous larger-than-life characters who don’t really relate to the truly frightening things we experience or think about experiencing in real life.
I believe many of our deepest fears are things that were filed away as children. I think this is, perhaps, why Stephen King is such a successful author: he understands that the images that frighten us as kids (like, say, clowns) hold the most power in frightening us as adults. It may have something to do with the way the brain processes and files information, storing it deep down in the folds before the frontal lobe has a chance to fully develop in our mid twenties.
So, while horror villains don’t really haunt my nightmares, there are definitely certain images that do. Case in point, the images I had the misfortune of dreaming about last night. They come from what is perhaps the most frightening music video ever made (or at least it was the most frightening one I had the displeasure of viewing as a kid and having my brain irreparably damaged by.)
Remember ‘80s one-hit-wonder, Kim “Bette Davis Eyes” Carnes? She had an almost-second-hit which went to number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart titled “Draw Of The Cards.” The video for this song is a fucking nightmare, and I’m not the only person who thinks so.
The video for “Draw of the Cards” was directed by famed ‘80s music-clip director Russell Mulcahy of MGMM productions. We talked about MGMM here at Dangerous Minds recently in our article about the middle-aged bald guy that appeared in a ridiculous amount of ‘80s music videos. Incidentally, a thorough scanning of “Draw of the Cards” failed to turn up a spotting of the infamous middle-aged bald guy. But that’s not important right now.
What is important is this ghastly dreamscape that Mulcahy has created for a song which was inexplicably released as a single. I say “inexplicably” because the song is devoid of hooks, it’s slow—but not a ballad (or sexy), the bass and synth lines are creepy, and Carnes performance sounds like a failed Rod Stewart attempt at slam poetry. It’s not necessarily that it’s bad (it is), it’s just a bizarre choice for a single release. The only song I can think of that was ever a “hit” with a similar creepy/brooding vibe was Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” and I’ve always been sort of baffled how that one ever became a hit, let alone a classic rock staple—but, hey, it was the ‘80s and things were kind of weird. Speaking of weird, THIS VIDEO.
In the opening post-apocalyptic scene, Carnes is surrounded by interpretive dancers in Carnival and harlequin garb, giving the proceedings a bit of a voodoo feel, which is a fine visual representation of what’s happening with the bass and bongo rhythm section of the song.
The action then moves to a location that appears to be a ballroom which might be described as “Buckminster Fuller through a Dr Caligari lens.” In this dreamscape, gravity is selective, and various denizens inexplicably float up into the air—which is rather off-putting. People begin to do zombie-like spastic dances as a witch doctress tarot-reader looks on. In the video’s defense, I will say that few pieces of film (Eraserhead comes to mind) so successfully capture the mis-en-scene and bizarro-logic of the dreamstate (though, thankfully my own dreams are relatively devoid of modern interpretive dance).
Things take a turn for the worst when Carnes goes through a looking glass and comes out the other side in a freaky back-alley, populated by herky-jerky dancers with contorted faces, some of whom are randomly ON FIRE.
In this ghoulish hellscape, gravity does not apply to saxophone players.
After the jump, the mutant-populated back-alley scene!