Ghosts (1997 film)

Ghosts (1997 film)

Infobox_Film | name = Ghosts
writer = Michael Jackson
Stephen King
starring = Michael Jackson
director = Stan Winston
producer = Michael Jackson
Stan Winston
David Nicksay
distributor = Kingdom Pictures
released = May 9, 1997
runtime = 39:31
language = English
budget = Unknown
music = Michael Jackson
imdb_id = 0119194

"Ghosts" is a short film starring Michael Jackson 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 "Stephen King's THINNER". It was released a year later internationally on VHS. The film tells the story of a scary Maestro with supernatural powers, who is being forced out of a small town by its mayor. 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 "HIStory" and "" albums. The film is also notable for the first film appearance of rapper Mos Def.

Plot summary

The Maestro (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 town Mayor (also played by Jackson); he in turn 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, and 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 The Maestro who makes a scary yet comical entrance. The Mayor angrily confronts him, calling the Maestro "strange", "weird", and a "freak", and telling him that he's not welcome in their town. The 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 the Maestro replies, "You're trying to scare me, aren't you?...I guess I have no choice; I have to try and scare "you"." He then makes a series of funny faces, which the Mayor calls "ridiculous" and "not funny". In a change of tone, the Maestro asks, "Is "this" scary?" and pulls his face sideways before pulling his face down and stretches his mouth. Then he continues to stretch his face more, ultimately pulls off his face to reveal his skull and laughing maniacally. The frightened townspeople run for the doors, which the Maestro shuts with his magical powers, then smashes his skull with his fists, revealing his normal head.

The Maestro then introduces his "family" of ghouls who, along with the Maestro, perform an extended dance routine (to original music composed by Jackson) which alternately impresses and scares the townspeople. During this sequence, the Maestro's acts include ripping his skin off to reveal a skeletal body; possessing the Mayor and making him dance; and transforming the Mayor into an ugly, horrific demon while remarking, "Who's the freak now?" ," Freaky Boy, Freak circus freak".

After his performance ends, the Maestro asks, "Do you still want me to go?". While the townspeople respond "no", the mayor vehemently says "Yes!". The 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 him". 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. They realize he isn't so bad after all and make peace with him. The story ends with one of the children asking, "Is this scary?", and the camera moves to a long shot of the mansion while terrified screams are heard.


"Ghosts" has much in common with its most direct predecessor, "Thriller". Originally released in 1983, "Thriller" also featured Jackson as the main protagonist/antagonist, interacting and choreographed with "undead" dancers. Likewise, both films act as homages to monster films past.

While "Thriller" could be viewed as a tribute to 1950s - '70s genre films ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and George Romero's "Living Dead" series among them), "Ghosts" owes more directly to the Universal Monsters series of films. Even its opening sequence recalls scenes of torch-wielding villagers storming the castle gates of an assumed antagonist, a repeating motif in movies ranging from 1931's "Frankenstein" to 2004's "Van Helsing".

"Ghosts" also can be viewed as a not-so-thinly veiled self-commentary by Jackson on his personal circumstances in the years preceding its production. Direct parallels can be drawn between various elements in the film and Jackson's own life: The Maestro - a reclusive, solitary figure, living removed from the townspeople, and interacting primarily with their children - is attacked by evil-seeming white and black figures with power in a manner similar to how Jackson perceived his own situation.


*The Maestro - Michael
*The Mayor - Michael
*The Townspeople:
** Kendall Cunningham
** Pat Dade
** Mos Def
** Heather Ehlers
** Shawnette Heard
** Edwina Moore
** Loren Randolph
** Amy Smallman
** Seth Smith

ongs used in the film

*"2 Bad (film version)"
**Taken from the "HIStory" album
**Taken from ""
*"Is It Scary (film version)"
**Taken from "Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix"

Also while the maestro's family walks up the wall around the room, an instrumental piece from The Bee Gees song You Win Again was used.

VHS release

On December 8, 1997, SMV Enterprises released the movie on VHS video cassette. The video was packaged in a "Limited Edition Deluxe Collector Box Set", which contained the 38-minute movie on a VHS video cassette, an A5 full colour program (similar to the A4 Cannes Film Festival "Ghosts" programme) and 2 CDs: the "Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix" CD album and a minimax CD with three tracks: "On the Line" (written by Jackson and produced by Babyface, later used for the Spike Lee movie "Get on the Bus"), "Ghosts (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Version)", "Is It Scary (DJ Greek's Scary Mix)".

In February 1998, SMV Enterprises released the movie on a single VHS video cassette, without the additional CDs and packaging.

The Short film is available for download in its entirety from Stephen King's Short Movies website:

External links

* [ Michael Jackson "Ghosts" movie information and screenshots]

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