Michael Jackson's Ghosts

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Michael Jackson's Ghosts
Ghosts MJ.jpg
Directed by Stan Winston
Produced by Michael Jackson
Stan Winston
David Nicksay
Written by Michael Jackson
Stephen King
Starring Michael Jackson
Music by Michael Jackson
Nicholas Pike
Distributed by Kingdom Entertainment
Release date(s)
  • December 12, 1996 (1996-12-12)
Running time 39:31
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown

Michael Jackson's Ghosts is a 1996 short film starring Michael Jackson, co-written by horror novelist Stephen King and directed by film director and special effects guru Stan Winston which could also be classified as a long-form music video. It was filmed and first screened in 1996 and released along with select prints of the film Thinner. It was released as promo a year later internationally on LaserDisc, VHS and Video CD. Jackson plays a total of five roles in the film.

The film tells the story of a scary Maestro with supernatural powers, who is being forced out of a small town by its mayor, pictured as a comically arrogant, plump man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Thomas Sneddon (the main prosecutor in Jackson's infamous child sexual abuse case from three years earlier). The movie includes a series of dance routines performed by Michael Jackson and his "family" of ghouls. Every song from the film was taken from Michael Jackson's albums: HIStory: Past, Present and Future - Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.

Plot[edit]

The Maestro (Michael Jackson) lives alone in a creepy-looking mansion on top of a hill, overlooking the town of "Normal Valley". Occasionally, he entertains the local children with scary magic tricks. One of the children tells his mother, who alerts the Mayor (also Michael Jackson). He in turns organizes the townspeople to go to the Maestro's mansion and force him out of town. Some of them show reluctance to do so, but are pressured into joining the Mayor on his crusade. On a stormy night they go to the Maestro's mansion (which instead of a numbered address, is addressed "Someplace Else") holding flaming torches. When they arrive at the mansion, it is guarded by a large gate. They peer in through the gate, and by the haunting look of the mansion, have second thoughts about entering. The children assure the parents that the Maestro has done nothing wrong, and ask that they leave him alone. But the mayor remarks, "He's a weirdo. There's no place in this town for weirdos."

The front gate opens, frightening the townspeople, who make their way to the front door, which also opens by itself. The inside of the mansion appears to them even creepier than the outside, and the parents re-assure their children (and themselves) "there's no such thing as ghosts". They make their way into the house, and once they are all inside, the front door slams shut and locks itself. Two more large doors swing open revealing a large, darkened dance hall. Hesitantly, the townspeople make their way to the dance hall, where they are greeted by Maestro himself, who makes a scary yet comical entrance. The Mayor angrily confronts him, calling him "strange", "weird", and a "freak", and telling him that he's not welcome in their town. Maestro defends himself, and in response the Mayor threatens "Are you going to leave, or am I going to have to hurt you?" (The townspeople appear not to be as forceful in their position, but don't offer an objection).

To this Maestro replies, "You are trying to scare me. I guess I have no choice; I guess I have to scare you." He then makes a series of funny faces, which the mayor calls "ridiculous" and "not funny". In a change of tone, Maestro asks, "Is this scary?" and pulls his face sideways. Then he continues to stretch his face more by pulling his face down and stretches his mouth, and ultimately pulls off his face to reveal his skull and laughing maniacally. The frightened townspeople run for the doors, which Maestro shuts with his magical powers, after he smashes his skull with his fists, revealing his normal head. One man with glasses and black hair starts to cry after the doors have been shut.

Maestro then reminds the mayor he's not alone, and introduces his "family" of ghouls who, along with Maestro, perform extended dance routines to 2 Bad and Is It Scary (both original songs composed by Michael Jackson) which alternately impresses and scares the townspeople. During this sequence, Maestro's acts include ripping his clothes off to reveal a skeletal body; possessing the mayor and making him dance (including the moonwalk); and transforming the mayor into an evil, horrific dragon while remarking, "Who's scary now? Who's the freak now? Freaky boy! Freak, circus freak. Who's scary?"

After Maestro's performance ends, he asks, "Do you still want me to go?". While the townspeople respond "no", the mayor says "Yes...yes!". Maestro quietly agrees by saying, "Fine...I'll go." He falls, and after smashing his hands and face into the floor, his face and body violently start to crumble into dust on the floor, which is then blown away by the wind. The townspeople are saddened by this, and somewhat sorry to see him go. The mayor however thinks he has come out victorious and heads for the doors saying, "I showed that freak." When he opens them he finds a monstrous-looking Maestro-demon head which says "HELLO" and terrifies him, and he runs away scared (leaving a comically Mayor-shaped hole in the glass door). The townspeople then turn back to the now open front doors to see the Maestro standing there, laughing. He asks if they all had a good time, and the townspeople realize they did. They figure he isn't so bad after all and make peace with him. The story ends with one of the children asking with a vicious look on his face, "Is this scary?"; he grips his lower face, and the camera moves to a long shot of the mansion while terrified screams are heard.

During the credits, backstage footage of Jackson's make-up sessions and green screen shots reveal how he was able to play five different roles within the film; indeed, the Cast list credits him as "Maestro", "Mayor" (which explains the mayor's impeccably Jacksonian dance moves), "Mayor Ghoul" (the horribly transformed mayor), "Super ghoul" (a giant and grotesquely deformed version of Jackson) and "Skeleton" (a CGI dancing skeleton, animated by Jackson through motion capture). The Film also uses a young Michael Jackson from the time he was in The Jackson 5.

Songs used in the film[edit]

  • "Ghosts" and "Is It Scary" were not featured in the first version of the film, because they were not completed in time. In the original version, the audio from these dance segments was a sampled beat from "2 Bad". An unfinished version of "Ghosts" was used in the credits for the original version of the film, featuring an alternate bridge, different bass and sound effects, and an alternate ending.

Release and reception[edit]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[1] In 2002 the Guinness Book of World Records honored Ghosts as the longest music video in history. The original film version of Ghosts was also given multiple screenings at Hoyts Cinema in Sydney (together with a 75mm print of the HIStory teaser) the evening before the HIStory tour commenced its Australian leg (and the evening before Jackson's wedding to Debbie Rowe).

Deluxe Collector Boxed Set[edit]

"On the Line"
Single by Michael Jackson
B-side "Ghosts" (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Remix)
"Is It Scary" (DJ Greek's Scary Mix)
Released January 11, 1997
Format CD maxi single
Recorded 1996
Genre R&B, pop, soul
Length 4:37 (short version)
4:53 (long version)
Label Epic Records, Sony Music
Writer(s) Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds
Michael Jackson
Producer(s) Babyface
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Is It Scary"
(1997)
"On the Line"
(1997)
"Smile"
(1998)
The Ultimate Collection Disc 4 track listing
"Childhood"
(4)
"On the Line"
(5)
"Blood on the Dance Floor"
(6)

In January 1997, while Michael Jackson's remix album Blood on the Dance Floor was being promoted, a Deluxe Collector Boxed Set of Ghosts was released in the UK (however, it was not released in the US). The boxed set included Jackson's Ghosts mini-movie on home video and his Blood on the Dance Floor album on CD, as well as a CD maxi single named the Limited Edition Minimax CD. "On the Line" was the first track on this single.[2] Since "On the Line" was the leading track of this single, some fans simply call the Limited Edition Minimax CD "On the Line".

"On the Line"[edit]

The song "On the Line" was co-written and produced by Babyface. Michael Jackson performs the track and is also credited in its writing (on the writing credits of The Ultimate Collection). It was originally recorded by Michael for the Spike Lee movie Get on the Bus in 1996, but not featured on the soundtrack.[2][3]

The full-length version of the song was released on November 16, 2004 as an album track of his limited edition box set The Ultimate Collection.[2][4] The box-set also included Michael's Ghosts mini-movie on home video and his "Blood on the Dance Floor" album on CD. It is the lead track of a 3-track 'minimax' CD single, released as part of the 'Deluxe Collector Box Set' of Ghosts in December 1997 in the UK (no USA release). It also featured on a Columbia Pictures Get On The Bus promo CD.

Personnel[edit]

Track listing[edit]

Limited Edition Minimax CD (EPC 665268 2)[8]

  1. "On the Line" – 4:37
  2. "Ghosts" (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Remix) – 4:25
  3. "Is It Scary" (DJ Greek's Scary Mix) – 7:12

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Ghosts". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  2. ^ a b c Halstead, Craig (2007). Michael Jackson: For the Record. Authors OnLine. pp. 243–244. ISBN 978-0-7552-0267-6. 
  3. ^ "Amazon.com: Get On The Bus: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  4. ^ "Song info on Amazon.com". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  5. ^ a b "Michael Jackson - Limited Edition Minimax CD (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  6. ^ "Get on the Bus (1996) - Soundtracks". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  7. ^ "Get on the Bus (1996) - Soundtracks". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  8. ^ "australian-charts.com - Michael Jackson - On The Line". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 

External links[edit]