And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver. For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller.
So I know you are probably thinking, a music video? That’s not a horror film.
This music video is almost 14 mins and a recommended length for a short film, by the New York Film Academy, is 10-15 mins. That makes this “music video” a short film, and perfect for our countdown.
It was directed by John Landis, most known for his film An American Werewolf in London, and he made the film because he wanted to bring back the theatrical short, you know the short film before the movie. Like Pixar and Disney used to do.
“I saw it as a chance to resurrect a genre that had once been a Hollywood staple. Music videos were new in 1983, and MTV was just two years old.”
They even tried to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Short Live Action, but the Academy didn’t have the same love for it as the rest of the world did. However in 2009 it was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being the first music video in history to receive that honor.
It takes place in the 1950s and starts off with Michael and his date (Ola Ray) are driving and the car runs out of gas. They get out to walk through the creepy forest:
Stay out of the forest!
Michael wears a red letterman that looks a lot like a certain jacket from a certain horror film:
He asks his date to be his girlfriend, and she agrees him giving her a ring to symbolize it.
But then he warns her:
Michael: There’s something I’ve got to tell you.
Michael’s Girl: Yes, Michael?
Michael: I’m not like other guys.
Michael’s Girl: Of course you’re not. That’s why I love you.
Michael: No, I mean I’m different.
Michael’s Girl: What are you talking about?
Nothing good is going to come of this.
And then the moon comes out:
And he changes into a Werecat!
And the makeup is pretty creepy. You can thank Rick Baker for that. Even though CGI is probably cheaper, I love seeing what people were able to make with such limited supplies and technology. It is unbelievable.
Back to the video. So Michael the werecat os chasing his date through the forest. Run girl, run!
Just as the werecat is about to grab her, we cut to a movie theater. Yes this is a film that Michael and his girlfriend are watching.
Michael loves the film but his date (Ola Ray) is not into horror films. Such a pity.
She walks out and Michael, being a good date, follows. As they are outside the music starts up and we get those perfect lyrics that are impossible to hate.
It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking
In the dark
Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops
You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before
You make it
You start to freeze as horror looks you right between
Now at first this is Michael just joking around with his girlfriend, teasing her. But it will soon change.
You hear the door slam and realize there’s nowhere left to run
You feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun
You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination
But all the while you hear the creature creepin’up behind
You’re out of time
I like how in his dance Michael Jackson throws in a Frankenstein monster move and hints at famous “thrillers”.
Night creatures call
And the dead start to walk in their masquerade
There’s no escapin’ the jaws of the alien this time (they’re open wide)
This is the end of your life
They’re out to get you, there’s demons closing in on every side
They will possess you unless you change the number on your dial
Now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together
All thru the night I’ll save you from the terrors on the screen,
I’ll make you see
Now in this scene it is very apparent that they are taking there time walking home in not the best conditions. There are no streetlights and a ton of fog. You know what’s coming, something bad.
I’m getting shivers
And then we have the best thing in the world. Just as Michael and his girlfriend go by the cemetery, we hear Vincent Price’s voice. Bringing us:
And then things begin to rise in the graveyard.
Darkness falls across the land
The midnite hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’awl’s neighbourhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
It’s funny to think that this music video never would have had such an amazing voice in it, I mean aside from Michael Jackson, if it wasn’t for writer Rod Temperton’s wife, Peggy Lipton. Temperton had wanted talking at one part and needed a classic horror actor to give the music the edge he desired. Lipton was a good friend of Price, asked him and he agreed.
So the rest of the dead are waking up; out of every grave, tomb, and casket.
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
Can you dig it?!
And of course, they head after Michael.
They are surrounded! Oh no! Michael’s girlfriend looks to Michael for help, but it is too late:
And then we have one of the most engaging dances ever to be created/performed.
They actually had to think long and hard how to create the scene where they dance that wasn’t childish or silly, but kept to the mood of the previous scenes; and I have to say they accomplished it. In fact, before Landis agreed to direct, he made it mandatory that all extras spend two weeks in rehearsals with the choreographer; something that had never been done before. This dance has been such a big part of our culture from Thrill Around the World to being referenced in numerous films and TV shows.
‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night
And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike
You know it’s thriller, thriller night
You’re fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller tonight
That it’s a thriller, thriller night
‘Cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would dare to try
Girl, this is thriller, thriller night
So let me hold you tight and share a killer, diller, chiller
Thriller here tonight
Michael’s date is horrified and runs into a creepy old house, with the zombies surrounding her on every side. Very Night of the Living Dead.
Too bad she doesn’t have a Ben to save her as they start destroying the house to get her.
Michael grabs her and bam. It turns out they are just in a home, Michael isn’t a zombie….Or is he? We close on Vincent Price’s amazing laugh with frozen still of Michael’s yellow werecat eyes.
That was Michael Jackson’s Thriller and it is amazing. From the song, to Jackson, to Price, to Ray, to the dancing, the makeup- I could go on and on but it is just perfect. I mean it gives you everything you want
Plus a fun dance to do. Check it out for yourself!
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to Every Three Thousand Years, the Stars Align. Unleashing an Army of Monsters: TMNT (2007)
For more on Michael Jackson, go to Haunted Harmonies of Halloween: Top 5 Songs to Play on Halloween
For more Vincent Price, go to A Man Without a Face: The Bat (1959)
For more zombies, go to Those Aren’t Men They Are the Living Dead: White Zombie (1932)
For more music reviews, go to Shook Me All Night Long
For more ’80s music, go to Back in Black
For more ’80s films, go to I’ll Be Back: The Terminator (1984)