It’s time for Volume 6 of Classic Creepy Commercials, and wowza, what a great batch this is! Just a perfect mix of Halloween nostalgia and absurd spookiness, along with at least one instance of Troll dolls shooting missiles at each other. Maybe two.
I’m giving you six ads this time. The first three come from our hero, Larry P, whose collection of spooky commercials never fails to thrill us. The second three come from my buddy Spencer, who so generously dived into his own archive to add to the pile. Thanks, guys!
Meineke “Monsters” Commercial! (1988)
The best thing about this Meineke commercial is that it has absolutely no reason to include monsters. They don’t tie in with any weirdly-named promotions, or even a tagline. They’re just there. Thank God!
Meineke’s countless ads made me aware of mufflers long before I had any idea what purpose they served. It’s hard to believe that any kid would pay attention to a muffler commercial, but Meineke’s were pretty memorable. And sometimes strange. The ads never reached a Geico-level of irreverence, but the people who made them clearly had bigger aspirations. You don’t put movie quality monsters in a muffler commercial unless you’re dreaming of the big leagues.
Our monsters include the Invisible Man and a seriously bitchin’ mummy. (The mummy is so top notch that I must’ve been slightly afraid of this commercial back in ‘88.) Because they were interested in buying mufflers, we must assume that these monsters drove cars. Not such a stretch in the Invisible Man’s case, but just imagine that mummy cruising down the interstate, bopping his head to Belinda Carlisle.
Count Chocula “Goosebumps 2000” Commercial! (1998)
Back when Count Chocula was still a “regular” cereal battling other “regular” cereals for year-round attention, its promotional exploits were far more varied. The Count was even willing to team up with other franchises!
In 1998, Count Chocula ran a co-promotion with Goosebumps 2000 (a spinoff of the original Goosebumps books), which not only involved a special box, but limited edition Goosebumps marshmallows!
We’ve come to accept the Monster Cereals as a Halloween-only affair, but growing up, they were our “anytime” gateway to All Things Spooky. In many cases, those cereals were our first exposure to horror. What a gentle and delicious way to usher us in!
As for this Goosebumps 2000 edition, you can see the box in this old Dino Drac article. Notice how the Count’s excited glance only barely hid his shame. “Sorry for dee gimmick, keeds. Sales are dying, ah ah ah.”
McDonald’s Halloween Gift Certificates Commercial! (1989)
The McBoo pails will always be viewed as McDonald’s greatest Halloween triumph, but their gift certificates were right up there. These were booklets of coupons that could be redeemed for free treats, like ice cream cones and small sodas. They weren’t exclusively meant to be passed to trick-or-treaters, but that was definitely part of the pitch.
I’ve long said that diversity is important in anyone’s trick-or-treat haul. Your stomach might’ve been perfectly happy with a sackful of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but your eyes and soul needed a more diverse spread. It’s why I used to get so happy when random houses gave me quarters and popcorn balls. They made the haul seem so much fuller.
That’s also why McDonald’s gift certificates were so cool to receive. The other reason was the knowledge that even after you were done with your candy, you still had clear justification in demanding that someone drive you to McDonald’s so you could get a free stupid soda.
The batch of certificates from 1989 had a Roger Rabbit theme, complete with a mail-in offer for a free doll… assuming you were willing to buy an overpriced videocassette, first!
(PS: To my knowledge, McDonald’s still sells these booklets.)
Battle Trolls Commercial! (1993)
I admit that this commercial’s ties to Halloween are tenuous, but I think you’ll forgive me when you see normal Norfin Trolls brutalized by an army of roided-up monster Trolls.
Battle Trolls was one of the more inspired attempts to cash in on the fuzzy-headed Troll craze. There were no gender rules with those dolls, but if any boys felt silly collecting doe-eyed munchkins that were so often dressed like princesses, Battle Trolls was the solution.
They combined elements from basically every “boy-targeted” toy franchise out there. Some looked like soldiers, some looked like monsters, some looked like wrestlers and some looked like alien robots. (In the spirit of the season, I’ll mention that there was both a Wolfman Troll and a Franken Troll!)
You’d expect that they’d just be “normal” Trolls with different colors and clothes, but they really did feel like actual action figures. They were finely detailed, came with accessories, and hell, there were even cutout character biographies on the card-backs.
I still have a few of these figures, and can personally attest to their awesomeness. Of course, now that I’ve seen this ridiculously energetic commercial, I’m compelled to collect the entire set. Hopefully there aren’t 50 Battle Trolls. That sounds expensive.
“Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House” Promo! (1997)
Secrets of the Cryptkeeper’s Haunted House was a short-lived late ‘90s game show, and its title in no way over-delivered: This really WAS a game show hosted by the Cryptkeeper — with John Kassir voicing him and everything — and it really DID involve contestants rummaging through a haunted house!
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never seen it. What shocks me most is that I’ve rarely even heard about it. (In fact, until seeing this promo, I’d completely forgotten that the show ever existed.)
Judging by this Wikipedia entry, it sounds like Double Dare mixed with Finders Keepers, all with a severe horror slant. A quick scan through this video confirms those suspicions. Jeez, why isn’t everyone on the internet constantly talking about this show?
“It From The Pit” Board Game Commercial! (1993)
I never owned It From The Pit, but I certainly remember this commercial. How could anyone forget it? The game was almost as big and intricate as Fireball Island! It looked like a sprawling action figure playset! Most importantly, THERE WAS A BIG GREEN BATTERY-OPERATED MONSTER SWIMMING AROUND IN IT!
Players desperately competed to reach a plastic treasure chest without getting snatched by the monster’s green hand. The monster — apparently named “It” — was the clear star of the show. If everything was to scale, he was virtually Godzilla-sized, but with a flavor more along the lines of Gill-man.
If the game is half as cool as this commercial makes it look, it’ll be worth whatever eBay wants from me. (Note the ad’s animated portions, which come off like an extra horrifying episode of G.I. Joe. Amazing!)
Hope you enjoyed this edition of Classic Creepy Commercials. I think I have enough ammo for one or two more volumes before we close the door on another Halloween season. Stay tuned!