With another assist from Larry P., here’s the next batch of Classic Creepy Commercials! (You’ve read Volume 1, right?)
Exactly zero of these have any clear link to the Halloween season, and yet, all of them are undeniably Halloweeny. If you’re in need of a late October spirit boost, these should fix you right up.
Aurora “Ghost Racer” Commercial! (1987)
The appeal of Aurora’s Ghost Racer set lied in not needing a friend to race against you. Though the set had everything you needed for a two-player race, you could also opt to go it alone, squaring off against a deadly black car driven by NOBODY.
It wasn’t the only set with that gimmick, but no one else packaged it so magnificently. The idea that your “computer” opponent was a spectral entity? That’s awesome.
No matter how good the toy was, the commercial made it seem so much better. Between the spooky music, the liberal use of fog, and the interpretation of Ghost Racer as a semi-translucent sneaky bastard with his sights set on imaginary trophies, the ad turned even the most disinterested kids into outright gearheads.
UPS “Haunted Castle” Commercial! (1986)
To illustrate UPS’s mastery over European deliveries, some poor UPS guy arrives at Dracula’s castle. At least, I’m assuming it’s Dracula’s castle. There are many spooky castles dotted across Europe, but I don’t think UPS’s ad team would’ve broken out the Castlevania boss music if this wasn’t supposed to be Dracula’s.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this concept met with some resistance. Whoever pitched this must’ve been Nolan Ryan of another sort, because this was such a strange (but beautiful) way to get UPS’s message across.
Ad Guy: Are you ready for my idea?
Conglomerate of Scary UPS People: Yes we are all ready for your idea.
Ad Guy: DRACULA.
Thank God for his determination! My life would mean so much less if I didn’t spend thirty seconds watching a doe-eyed UPS man deliver tablecloths to Romania.
House Movie Promo! (1986)
Man, what a great promo, and I’m glad for another opportunity to sell you on House. It’s one of the ultimate “cheesy ‘80s horror movies,” featuring everything from a demonic wall-mounted marlin to a zombified villain played by Richard Moll. (That’s “Bull” from Night Court!)
If you don’t think you’re into horror, House is one of those movies that just immediately makes you get it. Horror is a genre with infinite subgenres, and somehow, House includes a sample from all of them. It’s actually-scary, seriously-silly, sorta-funny and dismally-ominous, all at once. A buffet of scary movie flavors. No matter your opinion on the film, it’ll at least help you develop your taste!
Dr Pepper “Little Red Riding Hood” Commercial! (1985)
Arguably the best commercial in today’s set, a sexy, skating version of Little Red Riding Hood nearly meets her maker at the hands of a big bad wolf… until the monster is tamed by a bottle of Sugar Free Dr Pepper!
For a mid ‘80s soda commercial, the werewolf effects are amazing. (And given the era, obviously inspired by Teen Wolf.) Make sure you watch it twice, because only after your eyes get used to the crazy visuals will your ears be allowed to fully digest THAT AMAZING SONG.
“Hold out! Hold out!” My God, it’s been stuck in my head for hours, and there’s no end in sight. I think it may become the straw that breaks my brain camel’s brain back. I hereby accept that all of my verbalizations between now and death will consist only of lines from Sugar Free Dr Pepper’s ad jingle. I’m fine with this!
Time Life Books “Enchanted World” Commercial! (1985)
Hey, it’s Vincent Price, back after his multiple appearances in last year’s Creepy Commercials Countdown!
I wish someone would chronicle all of Price’s spokesman appearances. Every time I think I’ve seen them all, another one pops up. The work is usually appropriate for someone like Vincent Price, with spooky-themed commercials filled with cobwebs and gothic candelabras. Still, every now and again, you’ll find one that’s completely wrong for his “character.”
This time, Vincent Price was the PERFECT choice. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Time Life’s “Enchanted World” books, you’ve surely read others like them. They were basically encyclopedias of the macabre. If you’ve ever spent a night looking up creepy shit on Wikipedia, this was a prior generation’s version of it.
Just how effective was this commercial? Well, even over thirty years later, my first impulse was to zip to eBay to buy the whole set. These books had a flavor that was tough to capture with thirty seconds’ worth of words, but putting Vincent Price in charge of the hard sell told you everything you needed to know.
Masters of the Universe “Battle Bones” Commercial! (1984)
Battle Bones had to be one of the spookiest toys in the entire Masters of the Universe collection. Essentially a souped-up carrying case, the ribcage of this skeletal creature could fit up to twelve figures. (And don’t worry about their accessories. The creature’s head popped open to reveal the world’s weirdest storage trunk!)
It was one of those toys that worked better in theory. If you were a He-Man kid, you know that the figures had a hard time standing up once you loosened their joints. More often than not, the resulting visual was a bunch of MOTU characters trapped by bones in a terrible limbo between standing and sitting.
But none of that mattered during the heat of playtime, and it was pretty sweet to make odd bunches of He-Man figures stomp along the carpet, using some big dead dragon as their Flintstones car.
The commercial gave the hero and villain teams their own bony buses, but in my little universe, the characters intermingled. Battle Bones was neutral territory. Still, I will admit to there being some occasional Rosa Parks shit, depending on the hero-to-villain ratio.
Monsters TV Series Promo! (1990)
In the vein of Tales from the Darkside (and in some respects a sequel to it), Monsters ran from 1988 through 1991. While I prefer TFTDS’s bleakness, Monsters was decidedly weirder. As the title suggests, the series offered heaping doses of wacky creatures, in puppet, animatronic and other forms.
The few episodes I’ve seen were intentionally corny, so for at least part of the time, Monsters seemed to straddle the line between being “a thing for kids who wanted to be adults” and “a thing for adults who wanted be kids.” It’s a great show if you’re bedridden with a hangover on a Sunday morning, but I can’t pretend that it’s an easy sell for people who like their entertainment energetic.
The episode this promo was for is one that I’ve actually seen, and boy, it was something. In Mr. Swablr, a boy’s cereal box toy grows into a giant, slimy goblin. The monster helps the poor kid turn the tables on his ridiculously evil mother and sister, and by “turn the tables,” I mean that the monster pukes all over them. My feelings on this episode reflect my feelings on the series at large: I never particular enjoy myself when I’m watching Monsters, but I can never turn it off once I start.
Course, since Monsters had a 72-episode run, surely some of the stories would appeal to me more concretely. Looking over the list, the descriptions of the various creatures sound fantastic, and there’s also the fact that virtually everyone who has ever acted in anything appeared on one episode or another. Gena Gershon? Luiz Guzman? Tom Noonan? Check, check, check!