Richard D. James (aka electronic mastermind Aphex Twin) is a creepy guy. Chris Cunningham isn’t exactly Mr. Sunshine and Ponies either. So, bring the two together and you’ll find a whole bunch of weird. While the two worked together on the creeps-take-on-Hollywood “Windowlicker” video and the equally disturbing “Rubber Johnny” (I’d recommend not watching the intro alone in the dark), “Come to Daddy” really takes the cake in the terrifying department. Start with a dismal, near-apocalyptic, urban landscape, and then add one dash scary children, one spoonful of violent outbreaks, and one package of demon and voila: “Come to Daddy”.
To preface, I’m not the only one that gets a bit freaked out by this video: It made the 100 Greatest Scary Moments list on Britain’s Channel 4. Anyway, as the video begins, James’ music is just starting to slip into focus. Ambient, wind-like tones gurgle in the low background as an old woman walks her dog through a pile of garbage and broken televisions. Just like the music, something small, something probably dark and menacing is lurking off in a doorway. The dog senses something’s up and starts barking like mad, just as one of the televisions starts bursting with static. The static coincides with bursts of electronic noise. The blue, distorted face that erupts from the static howls what is probably “I’m going to eat your soul!”
Lurching rhythms and squonking electronics pulse out a terror-beat that aches and throbs as the woman clutches at the walls, escaping from…something. The revelation of that something just over a minute and a half into the video would be funny if it wasn’t so unsettling. There, in the middle of the desolation, is a pack of children with James’ iconic grinning face. And they are bent on evil. Later, a demon comes out of a television, also becomes James, and leads the children in their destruction.
There’s fear of children, of urban decay, of technology, of one’s self being embodied by others. It’s part Poltergeist, part 28 Days Later, part Omen. The escalating, pushing adrenaline rush of electronic beats and random squawks and squeals leaves everything on edge, making the visuals that much tenser. James’ howling, decimated, barely there vocals loom in the center of the chaos, just out of arm’s reach, never becoming a substantial force that would be recognizable, understandable.
In a sense, this is the perfect fusion of video and music. Each would be less scary, less anxious, and slightly less affective without the other. Aphex Twin music is usually great stuff, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about the pairing here that takes the evocative nature of the music and surpasses so many expectations. Expand it into a movie and it’d be scary. Parse it down to just the music, and it’s kind of unsettling. Together, in the nearly six minutes of video, it’s terrifying.