In the 80s, zombies became more prominent in pop culture thanks partly to “The King of Pop,” Michael Jackson. In 1982, Jackson released his sixth and first No. 1 album, Thriller. One year later, on November 21, 1983, he would reveal Michael Jackson’s Thriller, a 14-minute short horror film that brought zombies to the forefront of pop culture.
While people like horror legend George A. Romero would feature the undead in the cult movie Night of the Living Dead, it wasn’t until a zombified Jackson danced in perfect choreography with them that they became a sensation. Since then, zombies have been found in movies, shows, clothing, collectibles, and more.
The music video for “Thriller” was a bit of an homage to the horror genre, directed by horror icon John Landis, known for An American Werewolf in London; the short film nodded to 50s B movies, Romero’s classic film and an overall feel of a horror film with the storyline, which Landis and Jackson co-wrote.
The addition of Vince Price, a man known for his horror films and unique voice, was a genius move that added a macabre feel to the video.
The video begins with a disclaimer from Jackson, who at the time was part of Jehovah’s witness church and didn’t want anyone to believe he was promoting demonology. This was added due to the threat of excommunication.
Michael Jackson -Thriller
“Thriller” is tame by today’s standards but was considered too violent at the time of its release, especially for a music video. Current horror fans would barely bat an eye at the corpses rising from their graves and Jackson’s Werecat transformation. Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker was responsible for the amazing SFX seen in the video.
The video would pave the way for MTV to become a major force in pop culture and see a shift in racial barriers for black artists. According to one source, Michael Jackson’s Thriller revolutionized the music video and was a turning point that made music videos “a proper industry.”
Like “Thriller” before it, The Walking Dead would also pave the way for many movies and TV shows centered around an undead apocalypse to become must-see TV.