After being buried in the Doja Pet Sematary, Doja Cat has returned with the video for her new single, “Demons.” The acclaimed musician, actress, and sometimes-cow offers fans a visual love letter to horror movies, with references to the last 50 years of thrillers scattered throughout. Here’s a look at a few of the throwbacks that we caught.
Terry Pratchett used to say that classic Japanese art couldn’t escape Mount Fuji – that every painting was either a landscape featuring Mount Fuji, a landscape at the base of Mount Fuji, or, if you couldn’t see Mount Fuji, painted from on top of Mount Fuji.
The Shining is the Mount Fuji of American horror, and it shows in Doja Cat’s “Demons” video. The shots of her working at a typewriter are good fun — nice to see Doja striking a healthy work/play balance — but it’s the spearmint-green bathroom set that’ll really mess with fans of Stanley Kubrick’s most expensive studio-financed cocaine bacchanalia.
Anyone still wondering who the woman in room 237 was, wonder no more: She was Doja Cat. Considering what we saw that guy in the Doja Dog costume doing to the Doja Businessman in the other room, it’s a miracle this video wasn’t Demon-etized.
Nobody did creepy TV static quite like Poltergeist, a movie about the difficulties inherent in home ownership. What’s more, nobody since has made it so unsettling to see a little kid watching television, although 2022’s Skinamarink gave it the old college try.
All of this begs the question: Why are we so freaked out by kids watching TV? It’s a free babysitter and a surrogate parent. Stop looking a gift horse in the mouth, people.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
There is a long and beautiful history of creepy stuff coming out of young women’s bathwater at the movies. Wes Craven — rest his soul — was especially fond of the imagery, debuting it in 1981’s Deadly Blessings before perfecting it in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
It’s the second and more well-known of Craven’s rubber ducky-adjacent spooktaculars that “Demons” takes its cues from, mimicking the angles and motions of one Frederick Samantha Krueger. It’s freaky, friends. Gnarly, clawed hands slinking up out of your scrubby bubbles is no one’s idea of a good time.
It’s probably someone’s idea of a good time. It’s not mine. I never liked baths, anyway. I clean myself in a pile of dust like a chinchilla.
You wanted obscure horror movie facts? You’ve got obscure horror movie facts. Also, I’m really sorry, but this is about to get educational.
That painting in Christina Ricci’s house in the “Demons” music video? The one of Boglin crouched on top of a perfectly nice woman’s solar plexus, striking a Thinker pose and looking like he hates Mondays?
Well that’s an 18th century oil painting by Henry Fuseli — stick with me, this is going somewhere — called The Nightmare. It was created in 1781 and became one of the most popular works of its era, recreated repeatedly by both its original artist and hacks trying to make a quick buck.
The painting was eventually used — and this is the relevant part — as the basis for the poster for Gothic, the 1986 horror film that you, statistically, never saw. The image is even recreated in the film, with a tiny dude and his powerful unibrow standing in for the demon.
If you’re not scared of goats yet – the kinds of goats featured around the two and a half minute mark of “Demons” – watch this video. If that doesn’t do it, watch 2015’s The Witch, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the world’s first pair of IMAX-aspect ratio eyeballs, and co-starring a goat as a goat.
Paranormal Activity/Silence of the Lambs
One of the great lost aspects of the horror genre, abandoned with the miniaturization of technologies like cameras and infrared sensors, is the Great Big Clunky Gadget That Someone Has To Carry Around. Traditionally, this would be a video camera – the kind seen in films like Paranormal Activity. In The Silence of the Lambs, it’s a pair of night vision goggles that look about as comfortable to wear as an Oculus Quest 2 with a second Oculus Quest 2 glued to the end of it. Both traditions live on in the “Demons” music video.
Two minutes and 57 seconds into the video for “Demons”, my brain started itching. For once, it wasn’t because of my insistence on bathing myself in volcanic ash instead of taking a shower. It was because that shot of Christina Ricci getting dragged away from the camera in night vision was so familiar.
That shot was pulled straight from 2007’s [REC] and, in turn, its 2008 English-language remake – Quarantine. If you bought a DVD in the late-2000s, you were going to have a hard time avoiding watching Jennifer Carpenter tearfully being yoinked out of frame in digital shades of infrared-sensing emerald.