It’s been almost 34 years since Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” first hit the airwaves, forever changing our expectations of what a music video could be. It cost a record-setting $500,000, sold more than 9 million units (yes, people used to actually buy music videos), won big at both the Grammys and MTV Video Music Awards, and is now a Halloween classic. But when it debuted on MTV in 1983, no one knew just how lasting an impact it would have on pop culture.
John Landis of Animal House and Blues Brothers fame directed, and movie legend Vincent Price reprised his spooky voice mojo from the album. Despite its comic-book vibe, Jackson, then a Jehovah’s Witness, was concerned about fans thinking he was a devil worshiper. To keep his conscience clean, he prefaced the video with a disclaimer: “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.” Surprisingly, there was no mention of him hanging out with chimps and llamas. One man’s occult is another man’s Bubbles.
Three decades years later, Jackson is gone, but “Thriller” still reigns supreme for legions of zombie wannabes who can’t wait to spend each Halloween in a walking-dead line dance. It is arguably the most parodied, copied, and mimicked video of all time. For many, it’s a way of life. All around the world Jackson disciples assemble in larger and larger numbers to lay claim to the biggest and best “Thriller” homage. Every Halloween week, Jacko-crazy-part-time-zombies gather worldwide, attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the most people doing the undead dance simultaneously. And they say there’s no unity out there.
To celebrate Halloween, here are some of the biggest “Thriller” tribute moments.
FRENCH COMMUNITY COLLEGE “THRILLER”
Who says the French are uptight? This video almost makes up for their love of Jerry Lewis.
THE FILIPINO INMATE “THRILLER”
The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center is a maximum-security prison in the Philippines. In 2007, a security consultant for the facility organized choreographed exercise for the prisoners. A camera caught them in the act, resulting in one of the most popular viral videos ever: more than 54 million views and counting. It takes the “Thrilla in Manila” to new heights.
MARCHING BAND “THRILLER”
Central Michigan University’s marching band laid down for a home game. Check the zombie moves at 1:30 in. If only the game were half as good.
The only thing scarier than zombies? LEGO zombies. Oh, and the dude who spends his time making LEGO zombies. I don’t want to meet him.
A particularly fine example of Indian outsourcing.