5 Horrifying Celebrity Side Projects
If you want to learn what's going on inside a celebrity's mind without hiding in their attic or digging through their trash, just look at the weirder side projects they take on. These are the things that don't stand to make them a lot of money or otherwise further their careers, but which they make just because they can. Either that or they lost a bet or something. For example ...
Michael Jackson And Stephen King Made A Bizarre Horror Short
There are several legitimate reasons Michael Jackson might turn up in one of your nightmares, but you don't otherwise associate his brand with horror. (Nobody was losing sleep over the "Thriller" video, right?) Yet in the mid '90s, he teamed up with Stephen King to make a weird-ass 40-minute monster short, Ghosts. The copyright holders are zealous about pulling it from YouTube or any other hosting services, so the best I can do right now is give you this behind-the scenes video which strongly hints at the madness to come:
"Wait, are they using layers of latex to turn Michael Jackson into a chubby 50-year-old white man?" They sure are!
Ghosts was co-written by Stephen King and Mick Garris, who you may or may not know as the director of every other King adaptation ever made (and also wrote Batteries Not Included and Hocus Pocus). And it was directed by Stan fucking Winston, the special effects legend behind Jurassic Park, Terminator, Predator, Edward Scissorhands, and about a million other things. All of this genius came together to produce a film that begins with an intolerant torch-wielding mayor (played by Jackson) storming Michael Jackson's castle to demand he leave town ... so that he will stop corrupting the local children.
Yes, the mayor brought some of those children with him, which seems like a questionable choice. But that's probably not what you're focusing on right now. I mean, that plotline sure does look awkward in light of the real-life accusations that came out later! Only here's the thing: It wasn't later. This was made in 1996, years after Jackson was publicly accused of molesting children in 1993. This is all intentional!
Apparently, King wrote some version of the story in 1993, then the project went dormant for a while. (It was originally conceived as a promo for Addams Family Values.) Then Jackson resurrected it in 1996 and added the evil mayor character (who may have been based on the district attorney who prosecuted his case).
In response to the mayor leading this torch mob of children and their parents against him, Jackson's character (the one who looks like him) engages in some shenanigans that mix rousing dance numbers with scares in an effort to something something. But that shitty mayor isn't having any of it! Oh, what a shitty mayor he is!
There's plenty more barely sub subtext, with people calling Jackson a freak and a weirdo and telling him to go away and leave their kids alone. In the end, the evil mayor is not swayed. But you know who insists Michael is innocent and should stick around? The children. Fortunately for them, Michael finally turns himself into a giant monster version of his own face and chases away the mayor ...
... and the parents of the children all agree that what he does in his palace is good clean fun, and that he can keep doing it. Well shit, why didn't he just show this to the jury?
Michael Cera Makes Deeply Unsettling YouTube Shorts
Michael Cera has had an interesting career. He gained fame in his teens on Arrested Development, then starred in a string of successful films, then stopped aging and dedicated himself to making comedy so weird and dark that it's honestly not clear if it's comedy anymore.
You can find his short films on the JASH YouTube channel (JASH is a partnership between Cera, Sarah Silverman, Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts). His shorts range from the head-scratching, like a four-minute bit with Aubrey Plaza called Failure, to the most adequately described as bugfucky Man Rots From The Head. That one features Cera as a door-to-door knife salesman, which I can get behind, because I used to have that same job. The difference here is that Cera gets his toes sucked by Alex Borstein, then is given a baby by a guy who shoots himself and maybe goes to Heaven?
But the crown jewel in the collection is, in my opinion, Gregory Go Boom, in which Cera plays an awkward paraplegic man who looks suspiciously familiar to me. I don't want to spoil the ending for you any more than the title already does, so either watch the video now or skip to the next entry if you want to save it for later ...
... but the plot is that he goes on a date, can't perform sexually, gets tossed out of a window, then rolls his wheelchair into an open field and lights himself on fire. It functions as a sort of Rorschach test to see if you're the kind of person who watches that and laughs, cries, cringes, or just starts masturbating. Or all of those, in some order of your choosing.
William Shatner Made A Horror Film In Esperanto
Esperanto is one of a handful of made-up languages that is inexplicably less popular than Klingon or Dothraki. It's probably less well-liked thanks to the fact it was thought up in 1887, when everything was terrible and made of wood. In an effort to give Esperanto a PR boost, the man who created The Outer Limits directed a film called Incubus back in 1966. Incubus starred a pre-Star Trek William Shatner (but who was still well into his career, with nearly 50 credits under his belt), and was filmed entirely in Esperant-O-Vision. It's one of only two films to ever take that bold yet remarkably stupid step guaranteed to alienate every possible audience.
You can watch the subtitled version online, but if you don't loathe yourself, you may want to skip it. A movie filmed in a language that literally no one has as a native tongue plays out much the way you might expect. Since none of the actors spoke it, they were just learning their lines as a series of meaningless noises, and they only had a week to do so. And you can tell!
No one speaks with a cadence that's even close to natural. The dialogue is delivered in the way it was in most old-timey movies when some actor who had no clue what was going on pretended to speak a Native American language and just repeated a bunch of vaguely racist mutterings. I guess the difference here is that no one can be offended for cultural reasons; just artistic ones.
Oh, and then there's the plot. It's an overtly Christian film, with Shatner playing a pure and godly man being tempted by sexy demons. The climactic battle is five dialogue-free minutes of Shatner trying to prevent another man, the titular incubus, from touching his face using his upper body strength and unadulterated purity. This is followed by a conclusion delivered with the passion and conviction of a sixth-grader forced to read a passage from Where The Red Fern Grows in front of the class.
Still, Shatner was all about this project from the moment he saw the script, and he still seems to think it's pretty good. I can say that Incubus does feature a goat fight, which I can't recall seeing once in a movie made since 1966. That isn't to say two goats fighting; it's a goat trying to kill a woman in a church, and it is something. Maybe Shatner flipped right to the goat fight and was like "I'M IN."
Selena Gomez Made A Surreal, Unsettling ... Instagram Video?
Selena Gomez became famous thanks to a perfect storm of Bieberization and a knockoff Harry Potter. Toss in a music career, and you have one of the most popular young stars in the world. What's the next step for a woman who already mastered music and Disney? I dunno, a woman with a face made of fingers stroking your hair? Make it so!
I'm not 100 percent sure if this was an effort to promote IGTV, Instagram's longer-form video service, or if it just took advantage of it. Either way, Gomez teamed up with director Petra Collins to make "A Love Story" which is a two-minute Lynchian nightmare. No narrative, no tie-in to anything she was doing elsewhere, it was just Gomez shaving her legs with cake frosting and a Bowie knife, making out with a headless face, and eating an eyeball.
Read the comments and you'll see people oddly trying to argue it's not trying to be scary, and that it has something to do with Gomez working out her mental health issues. Do celebrities do that? Make and release surreal horror as therapy? I don't know. But the director herself said she loves horror like The Exorcist, and wanted to make something with Gomez in that vein. And by that, she apparently meant "You'll be naked in a tub with a face growing out of your back."
A Bunch Of Boy Band Members Made A Serious Zombie Movie
Nick Carter, who once was a boy of the street out back, conceived the idea for Dead 7 , teaming up with SyFy and the famous intentionally-bad movie hack studio The Asylum to get it done. He brought along a gaggle of boy band staples, including members of O-Town, 98 Degrees, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys. So it's a wacky comedy made up entirely of celebrity cameos? No! It's actually not!
Dead 7 is a mishmash of western and zombie tropes, and the overall acting and special effects are on par with what you'd expect from the production house that gave the world Sharknado. But it's played almost completely straight. Carter seemed intent on making a gritty action horror film, and he seems to have convinced everyone else on set that this was the thing that would launch the next stage of their careers.
Instead of the setup you'd expect -- a fictional boy band has to fight their way out of a zombie outbreak, and hilarity ensues -- nobody is playing musicians, no one sings or dances. They're supposed to be a ragtag collection of cool badasses.
Also, it wasn't exactly easy getting this thing made. It started with Carter raising more than $150,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to make a movie called Evil Blessings. Then the director suddenly died, and Carter dropped it and announced he was using the money to fund his zombie western instead, featuring every former boy band member that was still returning his calls.
None of that explains why they couldn't have thrown in a zombie-killing musical number in there. You think people tuned into a Backstreet Boys / SyFy / Asylum zombie joint and didn't expect to see the stupidest shit ever made?
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