Sound And Vision: David Slade

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Sound And Vision: David Slade

In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at several videos by director David Slade.

David Slade is something of a conundrum for me. I find it hard to connect the films in his oeuvre in a coherent way, outside of some visual flourishes. What do you make of an oeuvre that consists of a gnarly cat and mouse thriller (Hard Candy), a comic book horror movie (30 Days of Night), a teen vampire romance (The Twilight Sage: Eclipse), a choose your own adventure interactive scifi film (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) and an incredibly odd monster movie set in the sixties (Dark Harvest). All of them are genre films that deal with human nature in some ways, but they dont paint a very cohesive picture.

Now, David Slade as a music video director on the other hand? I can immediately recognize a Slade music video, if only from the coloring, let alone from the visual tropes. First there is the inky blood red that shows up in the costumes and backdrops. Many a David Slade music video has the band performing against a red wall or floor, or in a ton sur ton red outfit.There is also the slightly faded yellow, as if sepia or gray has been mixed in with the color. And there is the unnaturally plastic orange skin hue, that comes from the color correction but slightly looks like a bottle tanning situation gone wrong.

The plastic look seems deliberate, cause the first trope that shows up, time and time again, is that of toy characters. From the demented teddy bears in Aphex Twin's Donkey Rhubarb (see below), to the anime girl mask in AFI's Girl not Gray. And let's not forget the nightmarish teletubbies in Stone Temple Pilot's Sour Girl (see also below) nor the anime-inspired horror dolls in C.J. Bolland's Sugar is Sweeter. Suffice to say, David Slade loves to land smackdab in the middle of an uncanny valley, and deliberately so.

See for instance his music videos for Muse's New Born or System of a Down's Aerials, that feature slightly contorted faces that read almost like masks made out of human skin. It is a precursor for the monster in Slade's new movie Dark Harvest, which scans like his own version of Pumpkinhead. The culmination of the characters with mask-like visages is present in Muse's Feeling Good (see also below), which is filled to the brim with these sort of characters, running around in a room that, yes, has an inky red wall. Eventually the characters all crawl up that wall, while blossoms fall through the ceiling.

Two other tropes that are perfectly Slade-ian here are present: one is the defying of gravity. Floating characters show up in OM's Heaven is a Halfpipe, The Music's Take The Long Road and Walk It, Muse's Bliss, Starsailor's Poor Misguided Fool and Turin Brakes' Pain Killer, among many others. Blossom-trees, standing lonely on a hill, are present in Sour Girl and, Girl Not Gray. Girls like trees, I guess?

All in all, the oeuvre of David Slade as a music video director is almost singular in its hyperfocus on certain images and tropes, in a way that his films just aren't. Even when making music videos for hire, like P.O.D's School of Hard Knocks, that is a music video tie-in to Little Nicky, he still bangs hard on his favorite tropes. That they are less visibly present in his film work is no surprise, given that Hollywood gives less leeway when it comes to franchises than the music industry does when it comes to videos. But I would like to see Slade try his hand at something that is catered to him. Might I suggest an adaptation of Jodorowsky's The Incal? His video for Muse's Bliss, after all, already reads like an ode to that graphic novel's opening scene.

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