A disclaimer at the beginning of the Thriller film reads, “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult.” OK, so what does it endorse?
With apologies to Jacksonologists, for whom this may be a commonplace, as a non-fan I’m struck, viewing it for the first time (!), at the film’s exposing of the Jackson self. “I’m not like other boys,” Michael tells his date, before turning into a species of werewolf. Really? And then he becomes a zombie, joins the zombies, dances with them. No more the boy next door.
The film marks the apex of Jackson’s career, before he descends into freakdom. That skin-whitening wasn’t about becoming a white man, it was about becoming his own species of zombie. A zombie is a cadaver that returns to the land of the living as a hideous version of a live person. Jackson was an adult who tried to return to the land of childhood by turning himself into a hideous version of a child. Yes, yes, an outstanding entertainer. But also, by the looks of “Thriller,” an angry, tormented guy.