If you were reading last year, you’ll probably remember the Creepy Commercials Countdown, where I did reallllly long reviews of old spooky commercials all throughout October.
Given my failure to keep it updated last year, discontinuing the feature wasn’t a tough call. It took a little too much time away from other things, and besides, not every old commercial deserves a thousand word tribute.
Still, I didn’t want to drop the concept altogether, since there’s nothing like vintage TV ads to remind us of Halloweens past. This year, I’m gonna batch a bunch of ‘em up into single entries, with this being the first of several!
Just like last year, all of the commercials were donated by my friend Larry, who shouldn’t be confused with my other friend Larry. Thanks so much, mang! Over the course of this series, we’ll be seeing quite a few ads that have never been made available online before.
In today’s batch: Seven sinful solicitations, starring Play-Doh, batteries and Leslie Nielsen!
My Best Friend is a Vampire Movie Promo! (1987)
Not everyone who reads Dino Drac is into the brutal type of horror movies that I tend to feature, and that’s okay. There are plenty of films that fall under horror’s umbrella while forgoing the gore and major scares. This is one of ‘em.
My Best Friend is a Vampire is a lower-rent Teen Wolf, and as the title suggests, it swaps the werewolf out for a teenaged vampire. With a super young Robert Sean Leonard in the lead, it’s the story of a dopey kid coping with being a newborn vamp. The film is a romantic comedy mixed with a horror spoof, and includes nothing too gross or scary. Even so, its atmosphere is great for a Halloween movie night, so if you’re the type who prefers cheese over guts, give this one a shot!
Play-Doh Monster Shop! (1980)
The neat thing about Play-Doh’s Monster Shop is that it was an actual playset. Many kits were positioned as such, but beyond the tools that let you mess around with Play-Doh, there wasn’t much to actually do with them. The Monster Shop was different! It looked interesting enough to pass as a true action figure playset, and even the cranking tool that gave your monsters “hair” had the hinted sensibility of a torture device. Yes!
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers Movie Promo! (1995)
God, nothing gets me into the spirit faster than an old Halloween movie promo. The Curse of Michael Myers was the sixth film in the series, and while I’m so used to associating the older Halloween movies with the ‘80s, this one actually debuted in 1995.
The movie was a legendary mess, and now that I’ve been reminded on its debut year, I can understand why. What originally confused me about the film was its tone. It never seemed to root itself in any specific “feel.” Some parts felt tongue-in-cheek, other parts felt weirdly trashy, and still other parts felt like they were trying to recapture the flavor of the first film. Once I hear “1995,” it all makes sense.
Horror movies had a rough few years around then, when they were still trying to find the balance between the genre’s fantastical past and more cynical future. That Halloween 6 felt so contradictory implies that it had too many cooks who all wanted different dishes. (And that’s a theory bolstered by the gobs of alternative versions that have sprung up since.) Apparently, there were a lot of butted heads over how to make Michael Myers work in the ’90s.
Still a great little promo, though. It makes me want to be home alone with a huge blanket on a stormy night.
Coors “Phantom of the Fridge” Sweepstakes! (1989)
I’ve previously written about Halloween-themed beer commercials, and how the best of them made me believe that adulthood would be full of million dollar costume parties attended by affable, always-dancing drunks. As a kid, those commercials became my idealized vision of what Halloween would be like when I grew up. (Imagine my surprise when I spent the Halloweens of my adulthood writing about the Halloween beer commercials of my childhood. How do you spell out a foghorn sound effect? Wah wah wah wuhhhhh?)
This “Phantom of the Fridge” sweepstakes promo is a little different from those “party ads,” but it’s still great, since it stars Leslie Nielsen playing it as close to Frank Drebin as he could without making someone at Paramount spit fire. Given the amount of spokesman work Nielsen got in direct response to The Naked Gun, I bet he made more from that than the actual movies!
The commercial also includes a great shot of the promotional store display. To this day, I’m always warmed by the sight of cardboard Halloween action in a grocery store’s beer section. October is not complete without that.
Pacific Stereo’s Halloween Party! (1984)
Some of the best Halloween commercials are the ones nobody remembers: Local ads, for smaller chains and single stores. Though Pacific Stereo’s scope was too broad to classify this as a truly “local” ad, it does have the same flavor. It was clearly produced on a lighter budget, and succeeded only because of the passion of those responsible.
The highlight here, of course, is the parade of mesmerized monsters dancing in sync. Note how Frankenstein and the Mummy do-si-do at the ten second mark. It’s the best thing you’ll see all month.
Alien 3 VHS Promo! (1993)
This is random! In a limited time promotion, anyone who bought an Alien 3 video got a free hat. I’m not so much confused by the hat as much as I’m confused by it only being available to people who bought USED copies of the video. Is it possible that there was some tremendous surplus of previously viewed Alien 3 videocassettes? How could that even happen?
My best guess is that The Powers That Be overestimated the rental appeal of Alien 3, and as a concession to the many video stores who openly regretted buying so many copies, cooked up this free hat scam. The truth is probably much more benign, but I like my version better, since it involves someone scratching their head for 45 minutes before screaming, “I GOT IT! WE’LL GIVE OUT HATS!”
Duracell Vampire Commercial! (1989)
Hey, it’s Duracula! If you’ve been with me forever, you’ll remember this ad from the 2005 Halloween Countdown. (Which is viewable if you search hard enough, but with mangled html, so I won’t bother linking to it.) As much as I’d prefer to keep things fresh, it’s been eight years since I last gushed about Duracula. I think the statute has passed, yes?
Here, a battery-operated vampire illustrates Duracell’s long shelf life, and if you can watch this without praying aloud for Duracula to become an actual retail item, you and I have much different tastes. On the list of the greatest toys never sold, this is right up there with the “building Transformer” from Big.
Have an excellent weekend. I don’t want to overhype it, but man, I still have some pretty amazing things left to cover before October 31st. Next week, we’ll shift this shit into second gear!