It’s become custom for each Halloween to bring with it millions of streams, spins, and celebration of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Thriller.’
This year, though, we’re spotlighting the criminally underrated ‘Ghosts’ – which is this week’s From The Vault pick.
Directed by Stan Winston and written by Stephen King and Mick Garris, the whimsical clip is based on a story helmed by Jackson, Garris, and King.
Released in 1996, it tells the tale of an eccentric man with supernatural powers who is forced out of a small town by its judgmental mayor. Suffice it to say, it’s clear Jackson was leaning all the way into the parallels with the happenings in his own life.
Ever the creative, he seized the visual – both its narrative and explosive performance elements – to drive his message home and make clear who the real adversaries were. Flexing his acting skills, MJ played five (yes, five) roles in the short film – including that of the villainous major.
Uniquely, ‘Ghosts’ – which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival – fused music from 1995’s ‘HIStory’ and ‘Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix’ – the latter of which arrived in 1997. The songs featured are ‘2 Bad,’ ‘Is It Scary’ and ‘Ghosts.’
‘Ghosts’ nor the music it served as the vehicle for were a hit. Quite the contrary.
Critics sadly lambasted the visual (which, in its original form, ran for 38 minutes and held the record for the longest music video until 2013) for being too on the nose as an allegory for Jackson’s struggles. Unsurprisingly, at a time when the fate of most music was in the hands of said critics, the songs included didn’t pop either and are considered “rare gems” in contemporary discourse about Jackson’s latter-day discography.
Almost three decades on from its release, we have a renewed sense of appreciation for ‘Ghosts.’
Sure, it’s story is a lil’ on the literal side and, when viewed through today’s lens, is almost cartoon-esque.
However, we applaud MJ for consistently pushing the envelope visually and himself as a performer. Nearing 40 at the time and boasting both a catalog and videography like no other, it’s arguable that the King of Pop had nothing left to prove at that point. Yet, as is trademark with the greats, the appetite to up the ante and redefine what greatness both looks like and means was way too appealing of a concept to the megastar.
With ‘Ghosts,’ Jackson delivered one of the finest visual offerings of his later career and some of the best music video choreography of his entire career. An eternal salute.