I don’t do scary. If I’m worried about a character’s well-being, I can’t focus on the story. (And if I suspect the dog might die, I just can’t even.) If someone wants me to watch a scary movie, I demand to know in advance who is going to die so I don’t let myself get attached to them. But that’s a big IF — mostly I avoid things that I assume will freak me out, which is why I’ve never seen Dexter, or Breaking Bad, or Toddlers and Tiaras.
Okay, I can already hear you trying to convince me that being scared is fun. Thrilling! After all, it’s just pretend. You’re not actually in danger!
OR ARE YOU?
Historically, whenever I’ve been convinced to stop being a baby and watch something scary, other scary stuff happens around me, so I don’t just have to worry about what’s happening on screen — I have to worry about who’s sneaking up on me. Like in junior high, when we were watching Gremlins 2, and every time it was remotely tense my stupid boyfriend would sneak behind the couch & suddenly leap out and grab me. I’m sure he thought it was flirting, but I’m pretty sure it added a few years onto my therapy requirements.
Or — also in junior high — when my friends talked me into watching Stephen King’s IT and a week later a scary clown on a bike literally jumped out of the parade and chased us through the parking lot just to freak us out. I’m sure that clown thought it was hilarious. Nice work, Clown! Way to traumatize a bunch of 8th graders FOR LIFE.
Or the time we went to see the Blair Witch Project in the theater and for whatever reason every single person I’d gone to high school with happened to also be there, and there were two full rows of freaked out kids behind me, screaming and randomly grabbing me from behind. For heaven’s sake, people: DO NOT GRAB ME DURING A SCARY MOVIE.
And it is for all these reasons that I empathize with Ola Ray, aka “Michael’s Girl,” from Thriller.
Let’s just take a minute and unpack this, shall we?
We begin with 50’s Ola Ray and 50’s Michael lost in the woods, out of gas. (Of COURSE they’re out of gas.) They pause in the moonlight to have a special moment together, where Michael has two things to tell Ola Ray. 1: He loves her and wants her to be his girl. 2: He is a freaking werewolf.
OF COURSE HE IS.
Cut to: 80’s Ola Ray and 80’s Michael in a movie theater. Ola Ray is justifiably freaked out to be watching a movie of someone who looks just like her get eaten by someone who looks just like her date, while Michael tosses popcorn into his giant, grinning mouth, ignoring his girlfriend because he can’t tear his eyes away from the delightful spectacle of someone who looks just like him eating someone who looks just like his girlfriend. “Can we get out of here?” she asks. “No, I’m enjoying this!” he says, where “this” = “the time I turned into a wolfman and attacked you, Ola.” Boys are the worst.
So Ola Ray leaves the theater and Michael reluctantly follows her outside. “It’s only a movie,” he tells her. (Dramatic irony!) “It’s not funny,” she says, but in the manner of boys everywhere, he decides to make light of her concerns by singing a silly song about how “SCARY” the world is. Oh, girls! They’re always afraid of everything!
Eventually, his hilarious antics help her to lighten up already, even though they’re walking through a creepy dark warehouse district with spooky fog everywhere. He tells her (in song), that he’ll cuddle her (which is what he SHOULD have been doing all along) and protect her from the terror on the screen. Which is him. It’s all so meta.
Incidentally, I read somewhere that MJ was only 99 pounds when they filmed this video, soooooo… what kind of protection does he offer, really? Other than his slick dance moves and wicked red jacket? I’m just saying.
Anyway, just as Ola Ray finally calms down, Vincent Price does his weird “rap” and — you guessed it — a bunch of zombies start crawling out of their mouldering graves and staggering toward Ola Ray and MJ.
WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, MICHAEL?
And then! Just when Ola Ray & Michael are trapped inside the circle of slow-moving but creepy zombies — just when it looks like they won’t escape — Michael, you know, turns into a zombie himself. NO BIG DEAL.
I would like to point out that this is the SECOND time this evening that Michael has turned into a monster on a date with Ola Ray. So all her fear? and not wanting to watch a movie where her boyfriend turns into a monster? NOT ACTUALLY SILLY. She’s the only one in this whole film who has any sense! There’s a pattern here, and Ola Ray sees it! It’s not silly, it’s LOGICAL.
Then the zombies do a still-awesome-30-years-later dance number, and Ola Ray makes her escape… to a creepy haunted house. Of course she does. The zombies follow her, and soon she’s backed into a corner, curled up on the couch, with zombie arms plunging through the floors and windows. Zombie Michael Jackson bursts through the door, shambling closer and closer, flanked by his posse of ghouls, arm outstretched….
… Ola Ray screams…
… and Michael asks, “What’s the problem?” And he’s not a zombie! It was all a dream!!
Silly Ola Ray. Girls are such scaredy babies.
MJ offers to take her home, and instead of trusting her fairly decent instincts — even though he’s already turned into a monster TWICE in one evening — she agrees and goes with him. BIG MISTAKE! Michael turns back to the camera and has CRAZY MONSTER EYES! Ola Ray wasn’t crazy! MJ IS a monster! Cue Vincent Price’s creepy cackling!
And THAT is why I don’t like thrillers. Because the girl who looks like you always gets eaten, and when you get attacked by a group of dancing zombies on your way home, your 99 lb boyfriend gives you the crazyeye and joins the zombie chorus. OR he hides behind the couch and grabs you at the scary parts, which is JUST AS BAD.
M. Molly Backes
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