[Mourning Jams] Day 24: “Disturbia”

October 2019 is a celebration of horror and musicThis October, Daily Grindhouse is celebrating the collision between music and horror with a series of posts under the banner of Rocktoberfest 2019. There will be daily features, recurring bits, and some special posts around the subject.

Mourning Jams is your daily kick off every morning with a different music video that has some horror elements to it. Crossing genres, decades, and more, it’s a good way to get in the spooky mood this Halloween month.

No—the song (and music video for) “Disturbia” by Rihanna has nothing to do with the 2007 REAR WINDOW re-imagining DISTURBIA. Which seems like a missed connection—this song was released in 2008, and it would’ve been great to bring back the ’80s staple of titular songs (especially those titular songs that play over the end credits). It also makes me think the songwriters just saw the billboard for DJ Caruso’s movie and were like “….yeah. I can work with that.” One of those songwriters, by the way, is notorious crap demon in human skin Chris Brown. So this intro is already off to a fun start.

“Disturbia” was a new addition on Rihanna’s re-release of her album Good Girl Gone Bad, titled Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, with the video being released exclusively on iTunes in 2008. Anthony Mandler co-directed “Disturbia” music video with Rihanna—he’s worked on 16 of the singer’s music videos, from “Unfaithful” in 2006 up to “Diamonds” in 2012. Mandler has also worked on videos for others including Beyoncé, The Killers, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Tyler the Creator, and Lana Del Rey (including her Tropico short film). He also helmed the 2018 film MONSTER which premiered at Sundance and has since been retitled ALL RISE.

“Disturbia” is a freaky Frankenstein’s monster of assembled bits that are jarring and somehow off, without any specific narrative to tie it together. There’s no elaboration on the lyrics, which seems to be about feeling crazy or anxious over falling for someone, but instead weird vignettes that show Rihanna chained to a bed, or in a cell with weird eyes and a wig, or chained to the floor in a tiny room, or hanging out with a tarantula. There’s also odd imagery and cinematography that creates illusions of amputation and dismemberment, all while still having a strong rhythm and throng of dancers moving about. There’s also a fun use of a specific in-camera effect first developed by Adrian Lyne on JACOB’S LADDER in 1990—shooting actors moving their bodies and heads at a low frame rate, so when it’s played back normally, it is eerily sped up in a spastic and seemingly unnatural fashion. “Disturbia” is another example of the fun that’s possible when pop stars don’t let themselves be relegated to only a glossy image and inject their visual projects with a healthy amount of nightmare fuel.

Tune in tomorrow and every morning in October for a new music video to help start the day on the frightening foot as Halloween swiftly approaches.

Rob Dean
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