There is no denying that despite originally being released in the run up to Christmas, Michael Jackson’s Thriller stands as one of the greatest music videos of all time, and a guaranteed Halloween standard, but the John Landis directed mini-movie wasn’t the only time the King of Pop drifted into the horror genre in his music videos, although his other long-form offering is nowhere near as well remembered despite having a storyline written by Master of Horror, Stephen King . Ghosts was released 25 years ago this weekend, having originally premiered – as they did in those days – on October 25th 1996 before going on to play alongside King’s movie Thinner .
Ghosts saw Michael Jackson playing five different roles across the 40-minute long, special effects-driven supernatural tale which at its center contained the title song, as well as two other tracks, 2 Bad and Is It Scary . The project was original written under the title of the latter of those songs, and was to be directed by co-writer Mick Garris, who was known for working on a number of Stephen King properties such as the original mini-series of The Stand , but when he dropped out to direct another King project – the mini-series based on The Shining – special effects legend Stan Winston took over helming the project. All his led to a truly cinematic result, with a cinematic budget of $15 million, which is still the most expensive music video ever made, the who amount of which was paid exclusively by Jackson.
The storyline of the piece sees the Mayor of Normal Valley (Jackson) leasing an angry mob to the home of the Maestro (also Jackson), who has been telling ghost stories and showing magic tricks to the local children. While the Mayor plans to banish the Maestro for this, he is instead challenged to a “scaring contest”, with the first of the two of them to be scared becoming the one to leave. After a face off in which the Maestro dances with a gathering of ghouls and ghosts, possesses the Mayor and after transforming as a terrifying demon, the Mayor exits through a window, and everyone agrees they have had a good old time and they all go about their business.
Quarter of a century on and the mini-movie is certainly worth a watch for horror fans , and delivers a fantastic hit of nostalgia for a time before CGI took over everything and practical effects were king. There is very little that can be faulted in the effort of those involved with the project, but it isn’t remembered well for a few reasons. Around the time of its release, Jackson had only recently divorced Lisa Marie Presley and had been the subject of child abuse investigations, which for many didn’t sit well with the story of a creepy recluse entertaining children in his eerie mansion.
More than that though, being a three-song feature and none of them standing out as being exceptional tunes in their own right means that Ghosts is never going to manage to drag its carcass from under the monolithic shadow of Thriller . Also in honor of the 25th anniversary, Bloody Disgusting is hosting The Loser’s Club podcast , which goes in-depth on the forgotten horror oddity lingering in Michael Jackson’s closet.
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