Halloween Lullaby: how the Cure shaped my love for horror

“On candy-striped legs, the spiderman comes…”

Because I’m always thinking about “why horror?” for a generation of artists, filmmakers, and cultural production, I often ask myself, why horror? I mean, how did I get into this mess in the first place? While there are many layers in answering that question, amongst them being the magical lure many of these films have, actually pinpointing my obsession with horror aesthetics and narratives has come down to this…The Cure’s video for Lullaby.

Twenty-two years after its release, The Cure’s Disintegration (released May 1989) is not only one of the best albums of the late 20th century but also a formative influence in my life. I vividly remember watching The Cure’s music videos, ranging from the earlier and silly Love Cats to the love lorn Love Song to the powerful Fascination Street featured on Disintegration, on MTV with such intensity. Their goth allure appealed greatly (and still does) to my inner depressive and most likely also cemented my enduring love for England and black eyeliner. After recently re-watching The Cure’s Lullaby video, directed by Tim Pope, a flood of memories rushed back and I realized that even before my first horror film scared the pants off me (Halloween 5),  Lullaby was where it all began.

Of course now I recognize the filmic references within the video that escaped me at the time. Now I can’t look at it without thinking of German Expressionists Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) or even many years later Werner Herzog’s stunning Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). The dark-rimmed eyes, creeping human-like figure, foreboding death, being repeatedly consumed, and the fear of sleep are all at play with these films and culminate, with all its British goth pop glory, into Lullaby.

On candystripe legs the spiderman comes / Softly through the shadow of the evening sun/ Stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead / Looking for the victim shivering in bed / Searching out fear in the gathering gloom and / Suddenly! / A movement in the corner of the room!

And there is nothing I can do / When I realise with fright / That the spiderman is having me for dinner tonight!

Quietly he laughs and shaking his head / Creeps closer now / Closer to the foot of the bed / And softer than shadow and quicker than flies / His arms are all around me and his tongue in my eyes / “Be still be calm be quiet now my precious boy / Don’t struggle like that or I will only love you more / For it’s much too late to get away or turn on the light / The spiderman is having you for dinner tonight”

And I feel like I’m being eaten / By a thousand million shivering furry holes / And I know that in the morning I will wake up / In the shivering cold / The spiderman is always hungry…

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