Iconic 'Thriller’ still defines Halloween

Sunday , October 29, 2017 - 12:00 AM

By SIENA CUMMINGS
TX. Correspondent

“It’s close to midnight and somethin’ evil’s lurkin’ in the dark. Under the moonlight you see a sight that almost stops your heart. You try to scream, but terror takes the sound before you make it. You start to freeze as horror looks you right between the eyes; you’re paralyzed.”

Since September, many have been dying for Oct. 31 to arrive. People love Halloween for being the one time of year you can be anyone you want to be, the assortments of unlimited candies and a scary movie playing on television nearly every night.

While I, too, enjoy trick-or-treating and look forward to eating as many Reese’s peanut butter cups as I crave, Halloween is only perfectly expressed for me, in one word: “Thriller.” The iconic lyrics and the chills that inevitably run up and down your spine are only the beginning of what makes Michael Jackson’s award-winning single the greatest addition to the Halloween season.

“You hear the door slam and realize there’s nowhere left to run. You feel the cold hand and wonder if you’ll ever see the sun. You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination. But all the while, you hear a creature creepin’ up behind; you’re out of time.”

Michael Jackson is one of the most notable figures in history, primarily known for his unique vocal range and style. Dubbed the “King of Pop,” Jackson has remained a household name to this day, despite having passed away of cardiac arrest in 2009. Jackson released 13 original albums (three posthumously), most of them receiving global praise and earning exceedingly high profits.

However, none have come close to his 1982 record “Thriller,” now 35 years old.

“They’re out to get you; there’s demons closing in on every side. They will possess you, unless you change the number on your dial. Now is the time for you and I to cuddle close together. All through the night, I’ll save you from the terrors on the screen; I’ll make you see.”

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From its release, “Thriller” was highly anticipated and far more enjoyed than the “bubblegum pop” Jackson was part of while a member of the Jackson 5. Seven singles were released from the album, all of which reached the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Thriller” also won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year.

“Darkness falls across the land, the midnight hour is close at hand, creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorize y’awl’s neighborhood. And whomsoever shall be found without the soul for getting down must stand and face the hounds of hell and rot inside a corpse’s shell.”

Despite the album’s initial success, “Thriller” began to decline in popularity and sales by the summer of 1983, stressing Jackson. To save his first No. 1 record, Jackson wanted to do something exciting, unusual and memorable, something his managers suggested be based around the album’s title track. Jackson didn’t know what he was going to do; only that it had to be big.

That all changed, however, when the singer saw John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London.” He was captivated by the musical score and makeup effects used throughout Landis’ picture, finding them thrilling rather than cheesy. Jackson then knew he wanted to make a short film featuring his hit song “Thriller,” and he asked Landis to direct it. At the time, it was not typical for commercial motion-picture directors to manage music videos; however, Landis was intrigued by Jackson’s precision and desire.

“I’m gonna thrill you tonight ... ”

Jackson and Landis collaborated on the screenplay for the 14-minute film, “Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” released in December 1983. It was MTV’s very first world-premiere music video. Jackson was the star of the show, and choreographed the majority of the dance sequences.

A few months after the release of the film, the album became — and currently remains — the world’s best-selling album, with estimated sales of 66 million copies. The short film became a major success and was the first (and only) music video selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. As of Oct. 7, the video has accumulated more than 445 million views on YouTube.

“The foulest stench is in the air, the funk of forty-thousand years, and grisly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. And though you fight to stay alive, your body starts to shiver, for no mere mortal can resist the evil of the thriller.”

“Michael Jackson’s Thriller” was (and currently is) admired by many, except Jackson’s Jehovah Witness leaders. At the beginning of the video, Jackson added a disclaimer that reads, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult,” hoping it would inform and not offend members of his faith. In spite of this, Jackson received backlash from the leaders of his church and permanently decided to disassociate himself from the religion in 1987.

“’Cause this is thriller! Thriller night! And no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike. You know it’s thriller! Thriller night! You’re fighting for your life inside a killer, thriller.”

Although his music video was controversial among some, Jackson is actually credited with breaking down racial barriers by allowing music from his “Thriller” album to be played on typically “white”-oriented radio stations. This alleviated many criticisms and “black performer” stereotypes, especially on MTV. As Michael Jackson once said, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white”; music is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of gender, race or social status.

“Thriller! Thriller night! ‘Cause I can thrill you more than any ghoul could ever dare try. Thriller, thriller night! So let me hold you tight and share a killer, thriller here tonight.”

No matter how many years go by, no matter how much of the world is bound to change, “Thriller” will live on forever and remain a crucial cornerstone of Halloween. Through “Thriller,” Jackson sent a message of individualism, creativity and equality. Without his hard work, devotion and artistry, the world would not fully have the holiday we celebrate annually. For that I am grateful; that, and the undead!

“‘Cause this is thriller! Thriller night! Girl, I can feel you more than any ghoul who’d ever dare try. Thriller, thriller night! So let me hold you tight and share a killer, thriller!”

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Siena Jane Cummings is a freshman at Rocky Mountain Junior High who loves classic books and movies. Email her at cummingssi@wsdstudent.net.

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