I am big Michael Jackson fan, even as a child I’d dress up like him because he was my idol. I’ve been to two concerts, ‘Dangerous’ and ‘HIStory: Past, Present and Future’ and have the big concert books to show for my efforts!
I also believe that although I’d read loads of horror fiction as a child and watched movies I shouldn’t have, I was influenced by Michael Jackson’s music videos, namely the horror and supernatural themed ones.
Every Birthday, Halloween and Christmas, my mum’s best friend would set up his home cinema for me and put on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller,’ (he had the special VHS edition). And of course, I’d just watch it on repeat whenever I was visiting as I didn’t have my own copy. Perhaps it was also because it was known as ‘Simret’s video.’
I also enjoyed his few movies ‘Moonwalker,’ and ‘The Wiz,’ and in my later years Michael Jackson’s ‘Ghosts’, whenever they aired on television.
Recently I had an epiphany where I realised that I was terrified by some of Michael’s videos and yet inspired all at the same time. Almost every music video felt like a short movie, they had a strong sense of narrative with fantastical themes, suspense, mystery and of course horror. There were always character motivations and you knew who was the villain, heroine, god or goddess in Michael’s music videos.
It’s with my love for Michael, that I want to dip back into my childhood nostalgia and share my favourite Michael Jackson music videos which also inspired me to love and appreciate the horror genre. It’s not just the arresting visuals in Michael Jackson’s videos, but the lyrics in his music which have an even more haunting effect on the soul now that he’s no longer here.
Enjoy the list and re-watching the King of both Pop and…otherness in music videos.
Leave me Alone
When I was 10 years old the video ‘Leave Me Alone,’ reflected well on the troubled time I was having at school, feeling isolated sometimes because I wasn’t like the other kids. I was into graphic writing, reading macabre short stories and dark art.
Michael riding on the rollercoaster resonated with how I felt; pressurised because I didn’t like shopping for clothes and Barbie, like some girls my age. I was only allowed He-man and Cindy, and even then I drew hair all over Cindy’s private parts and legs with a biro pen. I also shaved all her glitter hair off and gave her a crew cut.
Remember the time
This song is from my favourite album ‘Dangerous’ and at the time, was known as one of the longest music videos in history.
The video screams extravagance and beauty, encapsulating the decadence of Egyptian culture and also revealed visions of an occult magical world.
Michael plays a mysterious wizard who’s invited to entertain a bored Egyptian Queen played by supermodel Iman. Eddie Murphy who stars as the King, realises that his Queen is becoming too enamoured by Michael’s powers and, consumed by jealousy, unleashes his guards against the wizard. An exciting chase ensues teamed with sexy, groovy funk-jazz-swing choreography, phallic-dance-attire, erotic undertones, passion lust and magic.
The ‘Ghosts’ music video is incredible, with Michael’s popularised dance moves, his hard working musicality, precise quality of rhythm in motion with a jazz funk style of posing, posturing, grooving, shuffling and spinning.
‘Ghosts’ was actually a short film written by both Stephen King and Mick Garris, and directed by Special Effects lord Stan Winston. It’s no wonder I loved this haunted house music video with its outlandish scares and terror-punches.
There’s some stand-out visual effects, and when you watch this music video/film now, it still feels rather spooky with dialogue like ‘You want me to leave?’ and lines that reflected the abuse Michael constantly endured from the press like being referred to as ‘weird,’ and ‘freak.’ The film actually resonated with me also as a young pop-goth-witch where I was subjected to similar abuse, it’s a common story amongst those who gravitate to the more ‘alternative,’ walks of life.
There’s also another music video called ‘2 Bad’ and ‘Is it Scary,’ which feature in the main film with dialogue scenes that lead up to the songs.
‘2 bad,’ the music video version is breath taking, full of theatre with provocative moves and acoustics that are visually hypnotic. Every time I watch this video, my eyes water as I realise just what Michael Jackson gave to his audiences. Every inch of his body and soul.
Ghosts Music Video
Ghosts Film (although there are Spanish subtitles)
‘Eaten Alive,’ was actually based on The Island of Doctor Moreau.
At a first glance, the video appears to be fairly disjointed, but it’s so bizarre that it keeps you watching.
Although Diana Ross’ performances are questionable throughout, there are some beautiful elements like Ross’ sexual temptress demon cat covered in sparkling lamé catsuits and other shimmering embellishments. It doesn’t matter that the performance is strange because she looks incredible and is still convincing as a divine goddess feline succubus.
There’s also a lot of action, with car chases and classic cinematic silhouette compositions of Michael voguing between doorways. There’s so much going on that you get a sense of director David Hogan’s mind set and it’s admirably crazy.
Michael Jackson has always been the number one innovator for breaking new ground (along with greats like David Bowie, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Bjork), this video blew my mind with super cyber futuristic concepts and provoking dance. Let’s not forget Janet Jackson’s controversial peeing-like-a-man-stance.
This was scary because it was both a wake-up call and reminder of the effects of global warming and what’s to come. To me this video felt like it was a precursor for doomsday movies which followed a few years later such as ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact.’
Stranger in Moscow
‘Stranger is Moscow,’ has a distinctive sound with Michael’s sometimes haunting beat-boxing throughout the track. The video appears like a dystopian nightmarish tale, where there’s no sense of hope, but just the reality of a morose and crumbling world where we cannot do anything about the state of society and where it’s headed. And, at the heart of it all lays the numbing prospect of loneliness and abandonment within oneself.
Thriller – The Bollywood version
Although I’ve mentioned my relationship with ‘Thriller,’ earlier in this article, I love this version also. Taken from the Indian action movie ‘Donga’ with a track named ‘Golimar,’ this is one of the best homages I’ve seen (in the comedic-appreciative sense). It’s certainly ‘Thriller’ on acid, with Bollywood Michael Jackson creeping out of the bushes to a hyperactive string solo. If you’re ever having a down day, just watch this video and it’ll tickle your heart.
Hi Simret, thank you for sharing a little about your past as a “strange kid”. I think I can relate to that, in some way.
You write so very well that it’s difficult to stop reading, even if I don’t like MJ that much. Off course, at the time, I was totally catched by the “Thriller” music video and others that attracted my “darker side” like a magnet, and I always liked those practical special effects too.
Hum. If I were to pick one or two phrases of this post as my favorite, I would quote “(…) a dystopian nightmarish tale, where there’s no sense of hope, but just the reality of a morose and crumbling world where we cannot do anything about the state of society and where it’s headed. And, at the heart of it all lays the numbing prospect of loneliness and abandonment within oneself.” The “divine goddess feline succubus” was also very pictoresque too.
Don’t you plan to publish some short horror/SF stories alongside your movies one day?
Hi Eliott, your comments as always make me smile! It makes me happy to know that even if you weren’t into MJ, you still found the time to read my post and even select the parts you liked! It’s great feedback for me as a writer also, so I appreciate your comments.
I have written some SF but I haven’t published it yet. I’m working on it and I guess it’s just finding the time to fit everything in with developing my craft as a writer/director.
You’re right though and I should get onto it.
Hi Simret, it’s always a pleasure to read about your world. Please keep writing!
I’m looking forward to your next post already 🙂