It’s the first day of autumn! (Or the second, depending on when you read this.)
What better way to celebrate than with another edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, featuring all sorts of eerie ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s? (I mean besides a cool walk under moonlight scored by the sweet sounds of Ministry.)
The first four commercials were donated by Larry P., friend to fiends. The last one’s from me.
Bartz Displays Halloween Sale! (1982)
Oh boy. Before you skip this one on account of the not-so-catchy title, know that it’s easily in the top five Halloween commercials that I’ve ever featured on Dino Drac. No, I’m not overselling it. Just click play.
The commercial, which plays out like a fever dream from an Alan Ball drama, promotes the big Halloween sale at Bartz Displays. Chiefly featuring Bartz’s costume collection, we intrude on balls-out bizarre Halloween party, where dozens of weirdos in wildly disparate disguises bop around a dark, dank parallel dimension.
Since gory and monstrous costumes were there in such volume, it’s oddly the squeaky clean ones that’ll make you shiver. Watch this commercial, and then tell me you weren’t just a wee bit unsettled by Donald Duck and Yoda. Holy shit, this one would’ve been nightmare fuel even without the ersatz Madd Matt on voice-over duty.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula Movie Promo! (1992)
I have such a strange relationship with this movie. I didn’t see Bram Stoker’s Dracula when it was in theaters, owing mostly to my age, but also to the fact that its TV spots scared the piss out of me. Really, it was a combination of the musical score and Gary Oldman in a cotton candy wig. You’ll see what I mean when you watch this.
When it finally hit cable, I was old enough to handle it… assuming there’s any age when one can properly handle a rape scene involving a werewolf. I’d only later learn that praise for the film was far from universal, and that many people couldn’t stand Keanu and Winona in this. Hey, I grew up on Beetlejuice and Bill & Ted — those two were my main reasons for seeing it!
I’ve since watched it quite a few times, with my most recent viewing being just a few months ago. Intellectually desensitized to the “scares,” Dracula still makes my heart skip a beat — not because it’s really doing it, but because my body is forever trained to respond that way to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Thanks, ancient television promos. You’ve made me a Pavlovian case study.
Hallmark’s Halloween Horrors! (1984)
It’s easy to forget that as far as the retail world goes, Halloween wasn’t always as big as it is now. This commercial reminds us of a time when Hallmark stores were the absolute BEST places for Halloween junk… mainly because they were some of the ONLY places for Halloween junk.
These days, I’ll admit that even the sweet promise of exclusive Halloween nonsense is rarely enough to make me stop ignoring Hallmark. But back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s? Forget it. You got your costumes and candy elsewhere, sure, but if you wanted spooky toys and haunted novelties, that was your place.
This particular commercial highlights Hallmark’s famous Stick-R-Treats, which were… well, stickers, but specifically stickers meant to be given out to trick-or-treaters. Back before inedible Halloween treats became more common, I thought Stick-R-Treats were the coolest things ever. (It helped that Hallmark nailed some killer licenses for it — everything from Gremlins to Shirt Tales!)
Pepsi, Doritos and Hershey’s Chocolate! (1994)
At heart a Pepsi commercial — but really a combo promo for Pepsi, Doritos and Hershey’s candy — the production dude hiding within me can’t stand the way this was shot, and wants to travel back in time to explain the KISS principle to whoever directed it. It’s also possible that using a broken computer chair all week has made me cranky.
Here, a sultry witch and Igor — Igor in this case being something of a steampunk Cenobite — make a magic brew out of soda, chips and chocolate. Experience tells me that this recipe will conjure ten pounds’ worth of regret.
As was common for the time’s Halloween-themed junk food commercials, we end with a monster dance party, disco lights and all. I like the motif, but the best thing about this ad is glimpsing Pepsi and Doritos in their old-style packaging.
Tyco Python! (1990s)
I’ll grant that this isn’t a very Halloweeny commercial, but it’s about a radio-controlled car that’s actually part-snake, and that’s close enough.
The Tyco Python was an odd duck. Seeming at the start to be nothing more than a car, it shocks the world by revealing a pop-up, water-spitting snake! WHAT.
(You’ll note that despite the “Python” moniker, the snake more closely resembles a cobra.)
I can’t tell if this was a brilliant reach, or just a reach. Every kid loves radio-controlled cars, and every kid loves squirt guns, but serving them together seems a bit like putting ice cream on a steak. I never have, so who knows, maybe it’s good?
Of course, one part of this commercial was undeniably brilliant: The suggestion that we could use Tyco Pythons to make snakes spit on unsuspecting asses. That alone had to get this thing on a million wish lists.
Thank you for reading! Now go collect dead leaves and stick googly eyes on them.