Get set for the latest edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, the series in which I pay tribute to ancient spooky ads, or something.
On a mostly unrelated note, I never bought into the idea that essays need a strong intro.
Monster Face! (1992)
Monster Face was basically a Dr. Frankenstein spin on Mr. Potato Head, and easily the coolest toy you’ve never heard of.
Your goal: Customize a big, bare monster skull with an assortment of body parts and gruesome accessories, running the gamut from vampire teeth to demon ears to neon troll hair. You even got a batch of slime that could ooze out of the skull like toxic pus!
While Monster Face might’ve connected better during the “gross toy fad” of the mid ‘80s, it did look like something out of a Goosebumps book… and that series was just starting to catch fire when Monster Face hit shelves!
UPDATE: My friend Nick just pointed out that Monster Face was later rebranded as an actual Goosebumps toy! Looks like I wasn’t the only one who caught that vibe.
Carvel Halloween Treats! (1991)
While there are Carvel locations dotted across the country, I’d assume that a comparative few of you have access to them. My condolences, if that’s true. Carvel is amazing.
Carvel shines brightest with its premade, prepackaged treats, which generally involve making weird shit out of soft serve ice cream and then locking it in a freezer. (Even people who’ve never been to a Carvel have probably heard of their Cookie Puss cakes.)
The spooky desserts featured in this 1991 commercial are probably still on sale in today’s Carvels. At least, I’m praying that’s the case, because the idea that I can no longer buy frozen vanilla cones with adorable ghost faces makes me sick.
Nat Geo Explorer: Nightmares of Nature! (1993)
One of the rarely-mentioned neat things about Halloween is the encouragement to make a night out of “spooky” nature documentaries, which largely focus on animals that folks consider gross or dangerous. (Even if they’re usually neither.)
This promo for National Geographic Explorer aired on TBS during the peak of the 1993 Halloween season. Coincidence or not, it feels oh so Octoberiffic. If the bats and spiders weren’t big enough clues, the guy doing the voiceover more or less predicted death for all viewers.
So, Halloween lifehack: Look up some nature docs and pick a few that sound spooky. With the right music and extreme closeups, even common beetles look like movie monsters.
Palmolive from Outer Space! (1986)
Back in 1986, Palmolive needed to introduce the public to lemon lime dishwashing liquid. For whatever reason, they went with a “space alien” theme to accomplish this goal. Bless them for that.
The ad was aimed at stay-at-home parents, and would’ve aired during game shows and soap operas. Under those confines, the concept is so strange that I’m shocked it was ever approved. (Shocked, but not disapprovingly so. I love this commercial, and it certainly would’ve popped!)
PS: I was an impressionable child. Had I seen this commercial back then, there’s no way I wouldn’t have stolen the lemons and limes from our fridge to use as UFOs. Hell, I’m not even ruling it out now.
WPIX Shocktober Marathon! (1992)
This is a big one for me, but also a drum I’ve beaten a thousand times, so I’ll force myself to be succinct. (3000 words, tops.)
So, Shocktober. That was WPIX’s annual October stunt, where tons of horror movies were run on random nights under their “Shocktober” banner.
WPIX wasn’t one of the major networks, but it was still a broadcast network… meaning that kids who had cable-less televisions in their bedrooms still had WPIX. With its heavy lean on cartoons and sitcom reruns, it was every kid’s secret best friend.
Because of that, Shocktober was how so many kids in the NY/NJ area got into horror movies in the first place. (Or at least gave them a shot.) To give you an idea of how important this stunt was for me, Shocktober was how I first saw Dream Warriors.
Even kids who never bothered watching the movies still have fond memories of these marathons, in part because of “mega” promos like the one embedded above, but also because of the individual movie promos that ran CONSTANTLY:
WPIX Shocktober Movie Promos! (1991)
…yeah, so every movie in the Shocktober lineup got its own promo. Most were just mild recuts of old TV trailers, but WPIX would occasionally create wholly custom promos with their fabulous voice-over guy (Doug Paul) making the pitches.
WPIX seemed to run more “house ads” than paid ones, so during October, you’d catch promos like these during practically every commercial break. Between the endless promos and the actual movies, Shocktober was such a gateway drug for kids like me. Horror could be fun!
Thanks for reading!