Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Directed by John Landis
December 2nd, 1983
Starring: Michael Jackson, Ola Ray, Vincent Price
Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was a music video that affected not only a generation, but also an entire culture and how music videos were perceived entirely. After selling 9 million units, Guinness World Records listed it as the "most successful music video" in 2006. In 2009, the video became the first music video ever to be admitted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It received this honor for falling into the "historically, culturally, or aesthetically" significant category. Of course, the "Thriller dance" was instantly a pop culture icon and continues to make it's appearance in the media today.
The narrative of Thriller is truly what sets it apart from the normal music video. The beginning of the video has us spooked when we see Michael Jackson turning into a horrible werewolf right in the middle of his date. However, once it is revealed to only have been a scene from a horror movie that the "real" Michael Jackson is seeing with his date, the viewer takes a sigh of relief. As Michael's date gets scared, the two of them leave the theater and Michael begins to sing the Thriller song while teasing his date. Next, after the two pass a graveyard the voiceover of Vincent Price is heard and we see the graveyard monsters coming to live right before our eyes. With the spooky voice of Price still in the viewer's ears, we see Michael taken over by the zombies and turned into one himself. Alas, the infamous Thriller dance begins with a "human" Michael leading the pack. While they shake and shimmy through the moves we all secretly know by heart, the thrill of the film is kept in tact with a horrified date screaming about her new zombie boyfriend and running off into a haunted house. As the zombies finally are closing in on her she closes her eyes and opens to find herself sitting on Michael's couch back his house. After Michael's sweet smile assures her that it was all a dream and that he will take her home now, we see Michael begin to lead her out only to turn back and flash us his "monster eyes" to finish the film.
It is hard to describe such a cultural revolution when I was not around to experience the full effect of the actual experience. Thriller actually was one of the first music videos I had ever seen growing up which caused me to notice instantly that every music video I saw after that was not the same at all. This video is really almost just another short film and was even released alongside a special theater showing of Disney's Fantasia so that the video could qualify for an Academy Award. When we ask ourselves the question of what makes a short film, how does this video fit into that category? We have the narrative, we have a plot, and we have a genre. While most music videos do not extend the same length that Thriller does, we are still forced to ask ourselves if music videos could themselves be considered short films? I believe that a music video like Thriller is absolutely a short film because it does indeed provide me with a storyline and characters, all while giving me great dance moves to bust out at the next Halloween party I attend.