I’m halfway back from an unexpected break, because October likes to hand me more tricks than treats. Here’s the latest edition of Classic Creepy Commercials.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure! (1998)
This CBS promo from 1998 celebrated the first airing of Garfield’s Halloween Adventure in NINE years, which means that the special was completely absent throughout most of the 1990s. (It premiered in October of ‘85 and ran consistently through ‘89.)
I knew that the special ceased its annual airings prematurely, but I didn’t remember it being that severe.
Weirder still, Garfield and Friends (the Saturday morning cartoon) was in production until 1994, and still on air until late ‘95! It’s hard to argue that this was a simple matter of Garfield losing his shine. Maybe the special was locked away over some annoying rights issue?
From what I can tell, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure aired in ‘98 and then again in ‘99, and then had a couple of shots in the early 2000s. (And maybe a few more if you count oddball airings on cable networks. I don’t.)
I still think there’s money in a network running a “retro special night” during the Halloween season, with Charlie Brown and Garfield leading the charge. ABC already has the rights to It’s The Great Pumpkin, so imagine if they grabbed Garfield and then had the cast of The Goldbergs do the bumpers. SO good!
Doorways to Horror! (1986)
Doorways to Horror was another of those VCR games that were wildly (or at least mildly) popular in the ‘80s, in the same vein as the versions for Clue and RoboCop. If you never played ‘em, they involved stopping and starting videotapes until your VCR developed an asthmatic wheeze.
All of those games are super cheap on eBay, but they aren’t much fun to play by 2018 standards. You’re probably better off just watching the tapes like regular movies. (Pretty much all of them are on YouTube. Seems nobody is protecting the rights to VCR game footage from the mid ‘80s.)
Take the Doorways to Horror video, for example. It’s just a montage of clips from old horror movies mixed with awesomely cheesy MS Paint graphics. Perfect background noise during the Halloween season!
(And as for this commercial, color me impressed. I think Pressman spent more time and money on this spot than they did on the actual game. It’s practically a 30-second version of The Monster Squad.)
Polaroid’s Monster Under the Bed! (1990s)
The team behind this Polaroid commercial arguably did too good of a job, because what was probably meant to be jokey-scary was actually just scary-scary. At least, it was if you were a little kid when this was still on TV.
Between the thunder, the creepy clown and THAT GIANT GLOWING-EYED MONSTER UNDER THE BED, it’s intense. I was old enough to survive this without issue in the early ‘90s, but remembering how spooky ads from ten years prior affected me, I have no doubt that this was nightmare fuel for somebody.
(That’s not a complaint, mind you. Sure, some kids probably ran out of the room whenever this came on, and only tiptoed back in after mentally counting to 30. But those weren’t necessarily bad experiences. Hell, as adults, we only wish that straight-up R-rated horror movies could have the same effect on us. Fear is exhilarating!)
Halloween Fright Line! (1987)
I’ve seen a ton of “haunted hotline” ads, but this one easily wins the Best-and-Worst Award. The bulk of the props look like they were purchased from Carlton Cards, and even that might be a stretch.
Course, the fact that it’s so low-budget makes everything ten times creepier. I’m not exactly sure what the host was supposed to be, but he comes off like the zombie druid version of Gepetto. Bro, Zombie Druid Gepetto walking around the changing room in a shuttered Macy’s fucks my shit up.
The commercial is so dispiritedly humdrum that it actually makes you anxious, in that “I’m in Grandma’s basement all alone” sort of way. It’s effective by not being effective, if that makes sense, and it should, because I could say the same about a hundred horror movies.
(Big thanks to Matt D’Adamo for donating this ad!)
Kenner ALIENS Action Figures! (1993)
Ugh, I wish I hadn’t slept on Kenner’s Aliens collection back when it was still fresh. More specifically, I wish I hadn’t slept on it when the collection just started to go stale, because man, those clearance sales at KB Toys were LEGENDARY.
There came a point where KB Toys priced them as low as 3-for-$10, which even by late ‘90s standards was absurdly cheap for such robust action figures. (By then I guess I was too focused on the newly-returned Star Wars figures. Dumb move in retrospect, since in 2018, it’s those figures that you might find for $3.33 each!)
This early commercial focused mostly on the human Space Marines figures, but the toy line was much more famous for its bizarre assortment of Xenomorph hybrids, which blended Giger’s classic design with everything from mantises to bulls to snakes. It’s almost a shame that the movie franchise is so “protected,” because a low-budget, direct-to-street Aliens flick full of CG Xenomorph hybrids could be the secretly-greatest thing.
Thanks for reading, and believe it or not, I still have enough ads left to do one more edition of Classic Creepy Commercials before Halloween arrives. (…on a Wednesday. Gross.)