The return of Dino Drac’s Halloween Countdown means I get to dust off one of my favorite recurring features: Classic Creepy Commercials!
If you weren’t around for the eighteen previous installments, this is where I gush about old spooky TV commercials. I’ve spent the last six months gathering as many as I could, and I’m happy to report that you can expect at least two more editions during the 2018 Countdown!
Spooky Skeleton’s Joke Hotline! (1990)
I’ve covered a lot of old hotline ads, but this may be the best of them. Dial the number to hear an undead skeleton tell goofy monster jokes! The skeleton even offers samples of his routine, with gems like:
Q: What’s a vampire’s favorite sport?
I get that maintaining hotlines was one of the bigger get-rich-quick schemes of the ‘80s and ’90s, but I’m still amazed that anyone would roll the dice on a squeaky-voiced skeleton. Remember, this guy was competing against the likes of everyone from He-Man to the Ninja Turtles.
I don’t suspect that this was a particularly popular hotline, but holy shit was it wonderful. The idea that you were literally calling a skeleton is something I wish Kid Matt would’ve appreciated more.
Also gotta believe that some kids would’ve been terrified of this guy, even despite the Hanna-Barbera voice. Dude can tell all the jokes he wants, but he’s still a skeleton with floating bloodshot eyeballs. (Thank God.)
Real Ghostbusters GhostZapper! (1986)
Kenner’s GhostZapper predates their Proton Pack by a full year, so for a time, this was THE essential ingredient for any kid who wanted to be a Ghostbuster.
The GhostZapper was essentially a souped-up View-Master, capable of projecting illuminated ghosts onto your bedroom walls. I don’t remember mine working nearly as well as the one in this commercial, but it was just as fun to pretend the thing shot lasers, anyway.
The GhostZapper’s biggest draw was that GOZER was among the ghouls you could project. Gozer didn’t receive much attention in the Real Ghostbusters universe, and probably only did so here because RGB was in its formative phase. (If you’re interested, “she” turns up at about 22 seconds in.)
Jeep Comanche! (1987)
I’m a sucker for “creepy” car commercials, which were surprisingly common during the ‘80s. (Remember that other one I covered, which aped its motif from The Wraith?)
Car commercials played all day long, of course, but they were especially frequent during late night hours. I was a night owl even as a kid, and the “threat” of catching a commercial like this while everyone else slept was somehow both paralyzing and a blast.
Here we had the Jeep Comanche reimagined as a grimdark Decepticon or some shit. I love how they replaced the headlights with glowing red reptile eyes, even if I can’t help but constitute that as false advertising.
The whole thing was basically a Masters of the Universe toy commercial, what with all of the fog, thunder and fake rocks. Thumbs up!
General Mills Monster Cereals! (1986)
Despite my hopeful predictions, 2018 turned out to be a “nothing year” for the Monster Cereals. Forget Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy: General Mills didn’t even bother to update the box art!
As I’ve long considered the Monster Cereals to be the shepherds of the season, it’s pretty disappointing. This commercial will help you remember brighter times for the brand, when the Monster Cereals were available all year long, and Franken Berry was on television just as often as the Trix Rabbit.
I’m in love with the animation style. One could easily envision that style in a 1980s Monster Cereals cartoon special, which is a thing that didn’t happen but absolutely should’ve.
Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown! (1989)
Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown books are truly wonderful, even by today’s standards. Actually, they’re worth even more by today’s standards. We’ve become cynical people, so it’s nice to read books that took our willingness to buy into supernatural bullshit for granted.
More remembered than the books are the commercials for the books, of which there were several. I’m guessing this one was the longest, and easily the most extravagant. With a two-minute runtime, it alone would’ve eaten a whole ad break!
That YouTube thumbnail doesn’t exactly beg for attention, but I implore you to watch this one. It’s fantastic. The commercial plays out like the intro to an especially great episode of Unsolved Mysteries. (Seriously, picture it with Robert Stack’s narration. It would so work.)
Thanks for reading. If you’re into this sort of thing, more editions of Classic Creepy Commercials are coming soon. If you wanna check out the older editions, they’re all over here!