Exclusive Premiere: Jennifer Grassman's "Haunting" Is Scary Good
The last time we visited the cinemaudio work of Houston's own Jennifer Grassman it was because her and her filmmaker sister Kaitlin had cobbled together the suicidally fantastic music video "Bedroom Door." The work showed off Jennifer's penchant for vintage Americana as well as her angelic, ethereal voice and Kaitlin's stunning knack for atmosphere and mystery.
Now the sisters are back with a new video for Jennifer's song "The Haunting," and it shows a major leap forward in their ability to bring stunning songs to visible life. Filmed in a downtown Houston hotel, Jennifer's link to 1920s jazz-baby flapper culture gets even tighter. Dressed to the nines in period clothing, she leads a cast of dozens in the Charleston while playing the keys. Glitter and be gay and all that jazz.
"But wait!" you say because the people that read my column talk out loud to the monitor, "Why call some jolly, pre-depression romp, 'The Haunting?'" Well, let me tell you about the ghosts. The video is more full of ghosts than Caspar's family album.
Jennifer is backed by an amazingly rendered spectral band, the result of Kaitlin's experiments with green-screen technology.
"It's exactly how I imagined it," says Jennifer. "Kaitlin went above and beyond with the ghost scenes. I honestly thought the ghosts wouldn't be feasible, so I wasn't even going to ask, until Kaitlin pulled out her green screen and suggested it herself. Great minds think alike!"
Even if Kaitlin didn't manage to portray the dead as a superb dancing skeletons like Lex Halaby and Toben Seymour did in Islands' "Hallways", her special effects work is pretty damned good.
The living state of Jennifer herself in the video is open to interpretations. The upbeat song hides a sadness and longing that could easily be the keening of a forsaken spirit. It's also possible that the whole thing is just a metaphor for a woman left by a man. At times we see her singing from inside a painting, and at others her misty figure is yelling at a man oblivious to her presence.
Jennifer does this a lot, making you wonder whether the subjects in her videos are alive or dead.
"Most women at one point or another have felt that their husband or boyfriend was ignoring them," says Jennifer. "And of course, most people are dead. So the song should particularly appeal to two very large demographics.
"Sadly, that latter demographic doesn't do a lot of shopping, or concert-attending... at least, not in this realm."
"The Haunting" has a lot going for it -- great costumes, a full-on group dance number, and an intriguing, distinctive look. Plus, you always get high marks here when you end your video by having everyone fall to the floor like Riff, Magenta and Columbia just finished singing "Time Warp."
That being said, like "Bedroom Doors," the video slants just a little too long. The characters' progress moves very slowly, something much more noticeable with the jumping tune. Too many people let the length of their song dictate the length of the video, and it shows in "the Haunting" by dragging a bit by the time you hit the three minute mark.
"You just have a short attention span," replies Jennifer. 'The Haunting' was originally two songs. There was 'The Haunting,' and there was 'A Perfect World.' I wrote them both on the same day during a sort of creative downpour.
"They were like sisters," she adds. "In fact, they were like twins, each finishing the other's sentences. So, I grafted them together and that was that.
"When it comes to dictating the length of a song or film, or really any creative project, you have to let the art breathe," Jennifer explains. "If you chop things off too early just so your song will fit some bureaucratic industry ideal for the perfect cookie-cutter, 'radio-ready' track, you end up doing a disservice to the music and your listenership."
To recap, my only complaint about the video is that there is too much of it. Check it out below.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.