Special-effect Techniques Used in Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Grace Hu

As Carol Vernallis mentioned that music video can be defined as a relation of sound and image (2013, pp208). In music video,it is music that plays a key role and creates meaning of images. On the other hand, the story helps to show the idea behind music vividly and concretely. In addition to this, as an art form produced in the digital age, music video often uses digital technologies to visualize the music.

The reason why I choose Thriller is because it used special-effect techniques for not only creating pure visual experience but also representing Michael’s own attitude.

Werewolf in Michael Jackson’s Thriller

In Thriller, Michael first changes himself into werewolf and then becomes a zombie in the end. Such changes are likely to make this music video more like a thriller because they provide audience feeling of nervous and anxiety which are usually be created by horror films. Related to this, special-effect techniques in Thriller can be understood as a conformance between music and images (2013, pp209). The lyrics talk about thriller and evils, so do images shown.

Zombie in Michael Jackson’s Thriller

At the beginning of Thriller, Michael’s “I’m not like the other guys” have double meanings. First, in terms of the story, he is able to change to monsters. Second, when we relate his words to his own life experience, it is not difficult to find that this sentence and his transformation of identity in this video can be understood as a metaphor for his sexuality. The gender and sexual preference of werewolf and zombie are not easy to judge. Similarly, Michael left the same question about his transsexual to the audience.



See Michael Jackson’s Thriller on Youtube


Carol Vernallis (2013), “YouTube Aesthetics”, in: Unruly Media, New York: Oxford University Press

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