Masked killers are a common trope in horror movies — a concept Laura Jane Grace flips on its head for the Covid-19 age in the video for “The Swimming Pool Song.”
The brief slasher movie, directed by Emulsion Lab, starts with a bloodied woman in a flowered dress (poet Hannah Gamble) fleeing a figure in black across a barren field. When the woman falls to her knees and the masked figure (Grace) draws near, we see Gamble laughing as Grace retreats toward the camera, cocking a finger at the viewer. It’s a nice bit of experimental theater that seems to turn the victim into the monster, and the monster into the pursued.
“Like how in a dream, sometimes whatever fear it is that you’re running from isn’t actually anything to be afraid of at all,” Grace says of the video. “Or like how in life sometimes we couldn’t be more wrong about first impressions and the way things will turn out.”
“The Swimming Pool” song appears on Grace’s surprise solo album, Stay Alive, which she recorded with Steve Albini during lockdown as a way to fight the malaise and terror of the pandemic. That track specifically was inspired by an actual haunted swimming pool in the basement of a Wisconsin venue called the Rave.
“It’s the spookiest fucking place ever,” Grace told Rolling Stone. “In a small section of the pool, they have a piece of Plexiglass over a place where Mac Miller signed the wall; I think it was maybe the second last or one of the last places that he played. It says: ‘I once lived and now I am dead. My soul remains here. Enjoy. P.S. I sold this place out three times.’ The whole thing struck me. And [I was there] the same week that Notre Dame burned down. I was just thinking about those things and thinking how things are ever-changing. So, like, right now it might seem like the world’s ending and all this has come down, but it’s just … not over yet. There’s still more to it. And you just have to hold onto that hope.”