Practically an urban legend, the bizarre collaboration from 1996 was recently made available for the first time, for free, on Vimeo.
What a difference a decade makes.
In 1983, Michael Jackson rocketed into superstardom with the multi-platinum album Thriller. The album’s success was propelled in no small part by the video for the title track; helmed by John Landis, Thriller blurred the line between music videos and legitimate cinema, elevating expectations for decades to follow.
By 1993, Michael Jackson was on the verge of ruin. Following charges of child molestation, the self-proclaimed “King of Pop” bought commercial air time to plead his case. And while the suit was eventually settled out of court, Jackson’s shine never returned. Still, by the mid-1990s, Jackson was anxious to return to the spotlight, and this would lead to an unlikely collaboration with none other than the Master of Horror, Stephen King.
Michael Jackson’s Ghosts clocks in at just over 37 minutes; the film consists of 3 Jackson tracks and was shown as a double-feature with Thinner. Ghosts is based on a story by Steven King and was directed by visual FX icon Stan Winston (who penned the screenplay with fellow horror heavyweight Mick Garris). Despite the film’s incredible pedigree, Ghosts bombed hard and has since faded into obscurity.
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Though never released on DVD, Ghosts made the rounds in the form of low-quality bootlegs, some of which found their way onto YouTube before being yanked. Just three months ago, however, Michael Jackson’s estate made Ghosts available on the late popstar’s official Vimeo channel. It’s no Thriller, and Michael Jackson remained dogged by additional accusations of child molestation, but the film’s worth checking out for its oddity status if nothing else.
Under Winston’s direction, the special effects were many and varied, all cutting edge for the time. Among the transformations that Jackson went through were a scene where he grotesquely extends the skin of his face to inhuman proportions, and another where, after turning into a towering werewolf demon (in a flowing blouse), Jackson as the Maestro morphs into a CGI blob that infests the Mayor, again, also played by Jackson. In the mid-90s, these sort of effects were state-of-the-art, a feature that production was clearly proud of given the behind-the-scenes make-up footage that ran under the credits.
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Official Synopsis: In the village of Normal Valley, a small child is scared by the ghost stories and tricks of Maestro (Michael Jackson), a magician who lives on the outskirts of town. The Mayor (also Jackson) leads a group of outraged villagers to Maestro’s spooky mansion, where he demands the mysterious outsider leave town. Instead, Maestro challenges the Mayor to a scare-off, delighting the children and parents with a series of tricks and musical numbers, performed with help from some ghosts.
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