Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 31 Days of Halloween: Day 15

Halloween is the best time of the year. It's a wonderfully indulgent time, where your inner ghoul is given societal license to be put on display. To celebrate it to it's wicked fullest, the Midnight Cheese will be posting every day in October with excellent ways to enjoy the season. Whether it's horror films, video games, books or activities, check back every day for some new Halloween fun.

Michael Jackson's Thriller

Now we're in it. We're half way to Halloween and it's time to kick this count down into overdrive. There's only one right way to do it proper and that's with the most influential and important music video of all time. I don't care if you absolutely hate Michael Jackson (no one did in 1984), you're gonna put that distaste aside for the next twenty minutes and listen to me. This massively influential achievement deserves your love and you deserve it's spectacle.

Thriller is a collaborative effort between director John Landis (of An American Werewolf in London fame) and The King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The singer contacted the director after watching American Werewolf and quite frankly it couldn't have worked out any better. Thriller is really a short form horror piece with a dance number. It's a love letter to horror films wrapped in expensive paper and accented with a schlocky bow.

The opening is in a 50's timeframe, with Jackson in his varsity jacket and his date in a poodle skirt. An excellent touch to this whole scene, a movie within a video, is that there are film damage pops to give it a more stressed look. After the two exchange a promise ring, Jackson transforms into a werecat, giving Landis the chance to show off some of the effectiveness of his on screen transformations. Here we pan to the audience watching this film, in the 80's, with Jackson noshing on some popcorn and his date disgusted by the werecat attack. She leaves and we're treated to the outside of the beautiful Palace Theater, with Thriller staring Vincent Price on the marquee. As you're watching this part, check out some of the excellent vintage posters in the background.

The walk home is where the actual singing kicks in and really, everything is going fine until they decide to walk past a cemetery shrouded in fog. Wouldn't you know it, Vincent Price is on hand to recite his now famous "rap", to which the zombies emerge to stalk out happy couple. Before you know it, they're surrounded. What follows is the most repeated part of the video, the amazingly choreographed zombie dance sequence. So famous that it's been performed by daring wedding parties, repentant prison inmates and creative protesters alike. Just check out YouTube, there's so many that I'm surprised there hasn't been a reality contest show centered around it. So You Think You Can Thriller. (I want a cut of the profits)

Why am I spending so much time discussing a fourteen minute music video? Believe it or not, Thriller might have had the most impact on me as a child as perhaps any other single piece of media. It came out when I was very young, it was in rapid rotation on an MTV that was only in the business of showcasing videos (it played once every hour for the whole first year after it's release), it scared my sister and I (we would hide behind the recliner in the living room- it had a brown, yellow and orange afghan) and it was fun. Always the most important factor. The truth is that both my sister and I still have a lingering fear and a tremendous love of zombies- our favorite flavor of horror. This isn't an isolated happenstance, it's a culturally ingrained dynamic. It was important to me, it still is.

I'm gonna leave you with a link so you can watch it yourself. It's a Halloween treat and like I said, it kicks our countdown into overdrive. From here on out, everything we showcase will have a sharper Halloween focus. Enjoy.

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