Tribeca 2008: Thriller Night Report!
On Thursday, April 24th, hordes of people (both living and undead) gathered outdoors for a special screening of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” courtesy of the Tribeca Film Fest Drive-In series.
The event offered a zombie face painting station, a glitter glove booth, and the fabulous boogie-woogie styling of Step It Up and Dance who reenacted “Thriller’s” famous dance sequence in full undead glory (or should I say gory?) under the direction of Vincent Paterson. First they broke it down for the layman, pointing out all the rigor mortis moves then threw it down all Hammer style (and by that I mean all Terrance Fisher-like, in Technicolor with red, red blood). Now the stage was set for something really scary, our ghost host John Landis.
Landis stood in front of a huge screen lined with a monolithic speaker system. First he introduced a short documentary about Michael Jackson with the likes of Quincy Jones and Beyonce singing Jackson’s praises. Then he introduced the video for "Thriller" and gave Rick Baker some props. He noted Baker was the only bearded zombie in the video because he refused to shave it. As we know at Dread Central, the genre beard is a powerful thing and should not be trifled with.
The video started and sounded fright-tastic, and I must say the practical effects stood up over all these years, Jackson’s “cat monster,” fabulously stylized EC-Comic like zombie and best effect, the voice of the great one, Vincent Price rapping over all the ghoulish gallivanting. Give me bladder-effect werewolves or give me death.
The crowd was singing along and the credits rolled. Landis took the stage again for the next feature, the “Making of Thriller,” which was originally released by Vestron in 1983 and for the life of me I can’t find on DVD. Landis mentioned the documentary paid for the making of the actual “Thriller” video. Also, to create a longer run time he said he padded it out as much as possible because he only has so much behind-the-scenes footage. So you get clips from American Werewolf in London (because Landis owned that), you get Jackson 5 videos including “Can You Feel It,” by Robert Abel and Associates (Tron); one of the first videos to use CGI (because Jackson and co. owned that).
It was great to see a young Baker and Landis on the big screen. I remember the “Making of...” influencing me a lot as a kid because it was the first time I saw special effects make-up in action, and though I did not know his name at the time, I knew the special effects guy had a cameo in the video.
After the “Making of...” Landis said his good byes and instructed NYC to “Thriller” dance and “show up those Philippino prisoners.” It was a wonderfully spooky shin-dig, I am glad that Landis and horror got their due at the Tribeca Drive-in. Next in the works for Landis is the horror anthology series "Fear Itself,” which he will be directing a segment of. Until then, stay spooky and “see you next Wednesday!"
Even though we didn't get video of said Thriller dance, we did get the next best thing ... sort of. Enjoy below!
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