The return of the Halloween Countdown means that I get to dust off one of my favorite recurring Dino Drac features: Classic Creepy Commercials!
Since I’ve now covered well over 100 spooky commercials, the pickings are slim and I’ll need to get creative. So like, my apologies to those offended by me pitching a sneaker commercial as “creepy” just because it makes liberal use of fake fog.
Tales from the Darkside WPIX Promo! (1986)
By now you must realize that I will never shut up about Tales from the Darkside, my favorite horror anthology series.
I’ve mostly given up on trying to turn TFTD virgins into fans, since the show will never hit as hard if you didn’t grow up on it. For maximum effect, you need those childhood memories of lying awake past your bedtime and enduring that creepy theme as a sort of wicked lullaby.
This promo is extra special to me, since I used to watch Tales from the Darkside on WPIX in that exact 11PM time slot. (Maybe not in 1986, but certainly a few years later.)
L.A. Lights Sneakers! (1992)
Man, remember how big of a deal these were?
L.A. Lights are sneakers with blinking lights embedded into the soles. That’s nothing too crazy by today’s standards, but back in ‘92 — the sneakers’ debut year — L.A. Lights were just about the coolest things a kid could own.
I was in junior high at the time, and “neat sneakers” had suddenly become the most important thing in the world. Unfortunately, I considered L.A. Lights a little too cool for me, and could only imagine the other kids yelling about how my feet weren’t worthy of them.
If my life ever became the inspiration for a Wonder Years type of show, the narrations would sound so completely cracked out.
(I know this isn’t a natural pick for a “creepy” commercial, but it was L.A. Gear’s decision to give their commercial a space alien theme, not mine.)
Fox Halloween Night Promo! (1990)
I have no idea how often it happens these days, but I used to love it when networks “packaged” their October 31st lineups. As someone who didn’t often have much to do on Halloween night, it took the edge off those otherwise depressing parties-for-one.
It didn’t even matter if the lineup was appropriate for Halloween, so long as it was presented it that way. Like here we had Disney’s Scary Tales of Halloween and a spooky Night Court rerun, but sandwiched between them was two hours’ worth of Airplane! — which nobody would call a “Halloween movie.”
But so what! So long as the commercial breaks were bookended by cheesy ghost graphics and a voiceover dude doing bad Vincent Price impressions, I was in.
Rascals Chewy Candies! (1988)
I guess Rascals candies were meant to compete with Skittles, since they looked so similar and even had the exact name I would’ve chosen if I wanted to fuck with Skittles while maintaining plausible deniability.
There was nothing spooky about Rascals, but this commercial still fits today’s theme. Actually, a whole bunch of kid-targeted ‘80s commercials had the same black-and-white “B movie” motif. (Remember that M.U.S.C.L.E. Invasion commercial?)
Between them and all of the ads set in checkered retro diners, the ‘50 were as big in the ‘80s as the ‘80s are in the 2010s. Takeaway: Whatever you’re into now, you’re gonna be so much more into it come 2047.
Haverty’s Halloween Sale! (1992)
I’ve always had soft spot for Halloween-themed local commercials. Like with this one here, this obviously only happened because someone in a position of authority loved Halloween. There is literally no other reason to work trick-or-treaters into a commercial for dining room tables.
I love that Haverty’s picked October 31st for its big one-day sale. The commercial shows kids crawling all over the store, as if any child would really agree to go furniture shopping on Halloween.
I’m guessing that the in-store shots were lifted from an earlier Haverty’s commercial that had nothing to with October 31st, which only makes the juxtaposition between the dry footage and the insane John Carpenter score all the more awesome.
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, good news: In the run-up to this year’s Countdown, I collected enough old ads to do at least one more of these, and probably two!