In this edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, you’ll see everything from an ophidian drug dealer to grainy Ghoulies. What fun we’ll have! These spots are older than you, and so am I.
The Evil Snake Drug Dealer! (1992)
It’s a bright, sunny afternoon, and you’re on the couch watching DuckTales. Midway through the episode, Scrooge loses his Number One Dime… again. They cut to a commercial break. After a spot for Kool-Aid Koolers and another for Captain Ron, you get hit with this shit.
It wasn’t uncommon for anti-drug PSAs to push the envelope — to “scare you straight,” I guess — but even by those standards, this was over the top. The drug dealer’s final snake form is one of the scariest things I can remember seeing on broadcast TV, and certainly *the* scariest thing I saw during afternoon cartoons.
Given the spot’s age, the effects are amazing. This snake could’ve easily carried his own horror movie. He looks bad-way awesome, and when you factor in that voice — picture Chris Latta, but goth — it’s almost a shame he was reserved for one PSA and not like a… I don’t know, five-episode arc on Power Rangers or something.
Stephen King’s IT on ABC! (1990)
I saw Stephen King’s It — meaning the 1990 TV miniseries — when it originally aired. I wasn’t yet a conscious horror fan, but it didn’t matter: Everybody watched that miniseries. (I think they estimated 30 million people? That’s literally the population of Venezuela.)
I only remember Stephen King’s It in dribs and drabs. The two-night event lasted four hours in all, if you counted the commercials. That was a lotta movie. I mostly just picked my head up whenever I heard a scream, a splat or a Tim Curry.
This particular promo is rare. Obviously, ABC couldn’t run something that ghastly during daytime hours, or really most hours. Instead, it was only shown during programs that had a darker edge and a decidedly adult viewership — like, say, Twin Peaks. (Which is where I pulled this from.)
Actually, the spot is so extreme that I doubt it aired more than once or twice, if only to limit calls from viewers furious that they saw a severed head during Father Dowling Mysteries.
Casper Loves Pepsi! (1995)
I’ve never seen Casper. Surprised that I haven’t, since I love Bill Pullman and still do the Pointing Leo DiCaprio thing whenever he turns up in a movie. It just slipped by me, I guess.
Fortunately, Casper-related expertise is not required to enjoy a TV commercial about a ghost who drinks soda. I can’t help but notice that the fridge is stocked with a basket of eggs, a stick of butter and exactly one can of Pepsi. That’s a little out there, right? Whose mansion is this? Don’t tell me Bill Pullman lived this way.
Ghoulies on FOX 49! (1989)
Ghoulies has become one of my comfort movies. It has a little bit of everything, from satanic cults to slimy monsters to party animals who wear sunglasses indoors. It’s like cinema’s version of a Sizzler buffet — nothing about it is the best, but it’s all pretty good, and you sure are getting a lot of stuff.
This promo made it seem like the film was all about the monsters. In truth, the titular Ghoulies were only marginally integral to the plot, and wouldn’t become the focus until Ghoulies II. Course, I concede that if my film included tiny monsters who looked like roadkill in even the tiniest of capacities, that’s how I’d sell it, too.
Bonus points: This spot advertised the movie’s world television premiere. That must’ve meant something for the not-insubstantial number of viewers who’d spent years staring at Ghoulies’ classic box in video stores. They could finally satisfy their curiosity! I bet it would’ve been a pizza night, too.
Robert Stack for Maaco! (1991)
Headcanon: Maaco wanted the Unsolved Mysteries version of Robert Stack, but Stack wouldn’t play ball. He’d done more than just that show, and if they wanted him to wear a trench coat and be all “spooky,” they’d have to find a fatter check.
Maaco even went through the trouble of giving that auto repair shop a misty, ominous atmosphere befitting of Unsolved Mysteries. I don’t know, maybe that’s just the VHS damage? In any event, Robert Stack seems curiously chipper here, smiling more in thirty seconds than he had for the previous thirty years. I bet he was overcompensating because he no longer trusted Maaco and worried that they’d add a dark synth soundtrack in post.
Well, just you try to make that Robert Stack scary. It’s impossible! I want him as my next door neighbor and third grade teacher. I want to recreate Boy Meets World with Robert Stack in the Mr. Feeny role. Wow, this article went off-track. I better call Maaco.