Thriller – Halloween’s worst cliché

The original title of this post was going to be “Halloween’s Worst Clichés”, but as I began to brainstorm I concluded that I was really only writing about Thriller. The rest was mainly padding.

These days you can’t go anywhere during the Halloween season without hearing Thriller. Terrible unlicensed covers of it litter Halloween party compilations you can buy at Target (I have an axe to grind with those atrocities as well). It gets played at Spirit stores along with an interminable mix of decidedly non-spooky dance music, killing the mood. It is everywhere around Halloween.

I intended to portray confusion about this phenomenon, but I only had to think for a brief moment to understand how this came to be. Thriller is the most famous, mainstream song available that has any connection to Halloween. But therein lies the problem – the song itself has no Halloween component. Yes, the video has zombies in it. In fact, I’ll go ahead and admit that it’s a great music video. It has the perfect campy monster movie feel and it set the stage for decades of excruciatingly uncomfortable choreographed dance numbers at weddings. But the song is nothing more than a standard (albeit incredibly popular) dance tune dripping with the 80’s. So unless the video is playing along with it, the song has no place on the Halloween soundtrack.

I suppose the argument could be made that playing the song evokes memories of the video, which makes people think of zombies, etc., but it’s become such a staple in the intervening years that the connection has largely been lost. I knew that the Halloween presence of Thriller had officially breached “out of control” territory last year, when I went to The Haunting at Halloween Express. It was one of the most well-produced haunted houses I’d ever been to (review coming soon), but they staged the most out-of-place, uncomfortable part of the experience right at the beginning – a fully-choreographed Thriller dance number with a costumed cast. As soon as you enter, you come into an excellent-looking graveyard set where it all goes down. Everyone just kind of stands there watching it, then the actors walk off and you get to start the real haunted house. I don’t know about you, but dance numbers don’t really set the mood for horror. Not in that way at least.

I’m not sure that it can be stopped. As long as there are people out there who don’t really get the appeal of Halloween, there will always be people who default to playing Thriller, and all of its equally played-out, dated brethren at their Halloween events. And with that, I leave you with my list of the top 5 most played-out, dated, and inappropriate songs that always end up on cheap Halloween party mixes you can buy at Target. (Just use my playlist instead)

1. Thriller

2. Anything by the B-52’s (what about Rock Lobster makes you think of scary shit?)

3. Werewolves of London (besides the title, there’s nothing spooky about this song)

4. Ghostbusters Theme (obviously I have only positive connections to this song, but it does not belong on a Halloween mix for two reasons: Ghostbusters is a comedy, and commercially-available compilations always use a terrible, mind-boggling cover by a third-rate studio band)

5. Purple People Eater (just a stupid, juvenile, boring song that gets slapped on Halloween mixes because of the title)

If you open up the door, we’ll all come inside and eat your brains

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