Michael Jackson is the perfect monster
No one forgets his first time, and a significant gateway into horror was the 1983 short film slash music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Directed by John Landis with makeup effects by Rick Baker, this 14-minute video was the perfect introduction to horror for some: it introduced werewolf mythology, paid homage to teen horror films of the 1950s, included zombies of all shapes & sizes, and revolved around the notion that all of it was as harmless as a night at the movies.
But more than that, it showed new initiates to horror that the genre was meant to be fun, a marriage of scares and — here — a musical score, a balance of horror and humor. When critics of this long-marginalized niche of filmmaking call it nihilistic or “less than” art, it should be duly noted that some fans were brought to scary movies for the very reason that they would jump in their seats and then realize that the fright was in the fact the punchline of the joke. Yes, horror has changed with time, and yes, it can make intellectually serious commentaries through its tropes, but the most important moment in any horror film is when the credits roll. A catharsis comes with horror, and it signals that despite the heart-stopping horror, you were always going to make it out of this alive. You may even decide to dance to it as you leave the theater. There are worse ways to go, wouldn’t one suppose?