Friday, September 6, 2013

My years in horror: 1983

Two of the most iconic Stephen King adaptations were released in 1983, but neither Christine nor Cujo were the best horror movie of that year. The David Bowie vampire film The Hunger (which introduced the world to Bauhaus and "Bela Lugosi's Dead") and David Cronenberg's Videodrome also hit theaters in 1983 but won't take this spot, either. Even my sentimental favorite Something Wicked This Way Comes wasn't the best horror movie of the year. The top spot goes to something shorter, something that you probably didn't even see in the theater...

Surprised? I was, too, but when I looked at the release list it was hard to argue against Michael Jackson's "Thriller" long-form music video. With John Landis co-writing and directing and make-up by Rick Baker -- the team that made 1981's An American Werewolf in London grab the top spot that year -- the video came with massive credentials behind it. The song was made for this type of treatment given the lyrical content and, best of all, the Vincent Price voiceover. While it would have been awesome to see Price in the video it might have added a bit too much camp to the production.

Landis and Jackson manage to play the story straight right from it's '50s-era teen couple (Jackson and Ola Ray) to the zombies rising from the grave. The final shot -- Jackson revealing his evil yellow eyes and Price's unmistakable laugh -- is a classic horror trope: leave the audience uncomfortable.

In 1997, Jackson would try to recapture some of this magic by joining with Stephen King and Stan Winston to produce "Michael Jackson's Ghosts," which is a fun watch but never comes close to the exuberance of "Thriller." Jackson and Landis managed to capture lightning in a bottle and give audiences a morsel of zombie madness at a time when zombies were not in vogue. In fact, the current zombie takeover of pop culture has given "Thriller" new life as hordes of "zombies" re-enact the dance from the video.

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