I adore the Halloween Countdown for a thousand reasons, but here’s one of the big ones: I get to bring back my Classic Creepy Commercials feature. Yay!
If you’re new to the site, know this: I love old TV commercials, but I especially love old HALLOWEEN commercials. Growing up in a time when our preferred forms of entertainment weren’t always at our fingertips, spooky commercials were absolutely essential parts of the Halloween season.
After all, without that ad where Ronald McDonald and the sentient Chicken McNuggets goofed off in Dracula’s castle, late September afternoons may have only felt like late September afternoons. See, we needed these commercials. They turned one night into a whole season.
Each volume of Classic Creepy Commercials collects (at least) five scary commercials from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Some will be directly Halloweeny, while others may only have the barest possible link. Either way, all are excellent mood-setters.
Some of these are from my collection; the rest come from our pal Larry P., who scraped the barrel one last time to give us this year’s ammunition.
Coca-Cola “Thirst Buster” Commercial! (1985)
This isn’t a Halloween commercial, per se, but since it features a Cokeized version of the Ghostbusters theme, I think you’ll give it a pass.
In 1985, Coca-Cola introduced its three-liter bottle. Since Ghostbusters was still majorly hot, they gave it the nickname of “Thirst Buster.” Afraid that customers wouldn’t make the mental leaps necessary to connect that to Slimer, they hired Ray Parker, Jr. to sing a special version of his magnum opus.
“When you come in first… with a real big thirst… who ya gonna call? THIRST BUSTER!”
If you ignore the fact that Bill Cosby pops up for a last-second cameo, it’s pretty much the perfect television commercial, filled with neon colors, erratic dancing, and the vague notion that three-liter bottles of Coke were in fact quantum tunneling spirits.
Prom Night II Movie Promo! (1987)
I’ve never seen Prom Night II, but this promo still grabs me in a big way. It’s just such a typical example of ‘80s horror movie promos. Back when I was a wee lad who wouldn’t have dared to watch these films even if I was allowed, TV commercials were my biggest clues as to what those films were actually like.
In a way, it was exhilarating. Advertisements for lower-level scary movies most frequently aired late at night, and if I was laying in my bedroom watching reruns at some ungodly hour, those promos would put me in SUCH A MOOD. Suddenly, every noise would become a monster, and every window a prowler’s door. Terrifying, but exciting, too.
While knowing nothing of Prom Night II’s plot, I still recognize this promo’s desperation to give it an ANOES vibe. From the “dreamy” horrors shown onscreen to the type of music used, it’s like Diet Freddy Krueger. I dig it. On the list it goes!
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure Promo! (Late ‘80s)
It’s beating a dead horse at this point, but I soooooo miss Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. Sure, it’s a cinch to find on DVD — and even easier to locate online — but it’s just not the same when the segments aren’t bookended by ads for Doritos and Reese’s Pieces.
For those too young to know, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure was — for a time — just as important and prolific a Halloween TV special as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. In fact, people my age often hold it in even higher esteem, since compared to Linus’s wailing and Snoopy’s batshit Red Baron sequence, Garfield’s antics seemed positively hip!
Making sure I was glued to the TV for its annual primetime airing was one of my favorite things about those mostly-forgotten Halloween seasons. Oddly, this promo will make you remember that feeling even more sharply than the special itself!
Ouija Board Game Commercial! (1990s)
During its long tenure as Parker Brothers’ spookiest game, Ouija has been marketed with many different flavors. Older commercials kept things creepy, but this ‘90s version did away with any semblance of spookiness, instead favoring corny jokes and a music track that sounded like a farm battling a circus. I don’t like the tone, but it’s perfectly representative of its era.
When I was in the fourth grade, Ouija briefly became the in-thing. I have many fond memories of trying to summon spirits with friends, and yes, we really did believe that the Ouija board could do this. (That didn’t stop us from arguing about people intentionally moving the planchette, but deep down, we still thought we were a stone’s throw from outclassing Oda Mae Brown.)
Most often, those “games” would end in fights, with the supposed ghost confirming which among us was the smartest, or the most attractive, or the best at playing Contra. It always seemed to pick the player with the firmest grip.
HBO Halloween Horror Show Promo! (1980)
From what I can tell, this “Halloween Horror Show” was merely a programming stunt set to run on HBO on October 31st, 1980. (Given the somewhat hokey vibe of the promo, it’s hard to imagine the HBO of 2015 being so loose with its branding.)
The lineup looked like this:
– Monsters, Madmen & Machines. (A sci-fi documentary.)
– The Great American Ghost Tour. (Doc about real life haunted places.)
– The Warriors. (An odd choice for a Halloween marathon!)
– Halloween. (The original film. Now we’re talkin’.)
– Magic. (Starring a young Anthony Hopkins and a ventriloquist’s dummy.)
I can certainly recall other Halloween marathons with more interesting lineups, but this still sounds pretty cool. Something you’ve seen, something you haven’t seen, and for some reason, The Warriors. The perfectly imperfect ingredients of a spooky marathon!
Stay tuned… there are more editions of Classic Creepy Commercials on the way! In the meantime, check out the seven previous installments: