Short Film Review: Thriller (1983)

"Michael Jackson's Thriller is an almost 14-minute long music video for the song of the same name released on December 2, 1983 and directed by John Landis who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jackson.

"Thriller was less a conventional video and more a full-fledged short subject or mini-film: a horror film spoof featuring choreographed zombies performing with Jackson. The music was re-edited to match the video, with the verses being sung one after the other followed by the ending rap, then the main dance sequence (filmed on the 3600 block of Union Pacific Avenue in East Los Angeles) to an instrumental loop, and finally the memorable finish: the choruses in a 'big dance number' climactic scene. During the video, Jackson transforms into both a zombie and a werecat (although makeup artist Rick Baker referred to it as a 'cat monster' in the 'Making of Thriller' documentary); familiar territory for Landis, who had directed An American Werewolf in London two years earlier. Co-starring with Jackson was former Playboy centerfold Ola Ray. The video was choreographed by Michael Peters (who had worked with the singer on his prior hit 'Beat It'), with Michael Jackson. The video also contains incidental music by film music composer Elmer Bernstein, who had previously also worked with Landis on An American Werewolf in London. The video (like the song) contains a spoken word performance by horror film veteran Vincent Price. Rick Baker assisted in prosthetics and makeup for the production."

I was going to eventually review this 14-minute music video, but in light of Jackson's untimely death, I figured this would be the best opportunity to do so. Born in Gary, Indiana, few have achieved the level of success as the King of Pop. Even the Guinness Book of World Records considers him to be the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" with 13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles in his solo career, and the sale of 750 million albums worldwide. He is also one of the few artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

As far as the actual video goes, the short story is material from the great horror films, even including the voice of Horror King Vincent Price. The make-up and sets are highlights as well, though nothing can hold up to Jackson's presence and mastery of footwork. The real show starts when the dead rise from their graves (with Price's voice heard), surrounding the couple, and Jackson himself becoming a zombie. Thriller's dance sequence and costumes have inspired many others in movies, namely Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 13 Going on 30, The Wedding Singer, Shaolin Soccer, Beverly Hills Cop, Return of the Living Dead Part II, and Dead & Breakfast (which you can find the video of in my earlier review). Very few zombie movies can capture the creepiness Michael conveys with his eyes during this sequence, and you just can't help but love Thriller. The shorter version is up top, but you can watch the full version here.

Best quote: "Any similarity to actual events or persons living, dead, (or undead) is purely coincidental."

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