A Music-Video History of Jonathan Glazer Creeping People Out

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Jonathan Glazer's eerie sci-fi thriller Under The Skin hits theaters Friday, his first full-length film in nearly a decade. In fact, it's only the third film of his career. The British filmmaker famously got his start in music videos, where he produced visions just as surreal and unsettling as his features, and prove Glazer is a master of creeping people out. .

Maybe you've seen the trailer for Under The Skin. Maybe it made your skin crawl and your insides twist, and made you genuinely petrified of Scarlet Johansson. It is a downright disturbing two-minute teaser that doesn't so much tell you what the movie is about, but certainly conveys the feeling of the film. And that feeling is unnerving as hell (they use the word right in the trailer). 

Glazer's music videos are the same sort of visceral, perturbing experiences. A short jaunt through his video directing career leaves one creeped out, confused, and for the right kind of viewer, anxious to see what he does in Under The Skin

The 1995 music video for Massive Attack's "Karmacoma" was his directorial debut. 

It has the same sort of "what the hell is going on here" vibe as the Under The Skin trailer, and features a lot of close ups of sweaty, hairy men. Also this guy:

The art of seduction, brought to you by Jonathan Glazer (Virgin Records)

The video includes a lot of heavy Stanley Kubrick imagery (there's a reason the UTS trailer likens Glazer to the 2001 director), from the hotel setting right on down to The Shining's twins. There's nothing particularly coherent going on, rather just a bunch of weird scenes simultaneously occurring in one fucked-up hotel. 

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Glazer's next, a video for Blur's "The Universal", isn't so bad until you notice the disembodied legs lining the walls. And oh look, more Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, anyone?)!

Glazer might be most well known for Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" video, for which he won an MTV Video Music Award. 

It's all right there in the title. The video the band's singer Jay Kay performing in a sparse set, while the floor moves underneath him. It's a bit of visual insanity, if you'll excuse some A+ wordplay, enhanced by the others' white jumpsuits (which Glazer seems to have a thing for) and the stalking roaches throughout. It's less explicitly creepy than the rest of the Glazer canon (aside from the giant bugs), but still has his hallmark surrealism. 

And then there's the "Karma Police" video. It turns out that putting Glazer and Radiohead together is pretty damn close to a perfect match. There's not a whole lot going on, at least compared to some of Glazer's other videos, but the premise is typically eerie: A car whose drive we never see (because it's shot mostly from the driver's perspective) slowly approaches a jogging man, apparently to run him over. 

Thom Yorke materializes partway through, looking utterly bored with the fact that the car he's riding in is about to mow someone down. 

Look alive, Yorke. (Parlophone)

He then disappears again just in time for the car to go up in flames. The combination of the bleak nighttime setting, the gasping man on the edge of death, and the there-and-gone Yorke certainly makes for a "what did I just watch?" feeling, like so many of Glazer's videos.

Anyone coming to Under The Skin unfamiliar with Glazer's previous work might be freaked out by its unnerving surrealism, but he's made an entire career out of giving viewers an eerie feeling they can't shake. Whether it's turning Scarlett Johansson into a murderous alien or making Thom Yorke bored with vehicular manslaughter, the only question is what happens when Glazer has a full-length film to work with, because we know how creepy good he can be with just a few minutes. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.