This edition of Classic Creepy Commercials features everything from candy to Candyman. It’s kind of my “cleanout special,” as I’ve been sitting on some of these spots since last year.
What I like about this particular assortment is how off-the-nose it is. When you want to dig up memories that you haven’t already processed a billion times, sometimes you gotta look sideways. I hope this batch sparks a few for you:
Beetlejuice HBO Movie Intro! (1989)
Make sure you watch the whole video, which not only includes a Beetlejuice promo, but the whole dang HBO intro that played before the movie. God, HBO used to be so good at that shit. I still get goosebumps!
I’m thinking back to those long, boring days when I mindlessly flipped through the channels looking for an oasis. There was nothing like catching a comfort movie on HBO right when it was starting, and knowing that you were covered for a solid 90 minutes. The overindulgent intros were a big part of it.
Say it was a Saturday afternoon. You remember what Saturday afternoon TV was like, right? In everything from the sad programming to the even sadder commercials, it was just a constant reminder that you should’ve been outside. A packaged HBO movie was a whole different story. It was permission to be a slug.
The Great Pumpkin Sponsors! (1980s)
These sponsorship pages aired during It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Generally speaking, they were “added value” for companies who ran commercials during the special.
Looking back, those short shoutouts were often more effective than the actual commercials. A regular Almond Joy spot was easily ignored, but you put a photo of the candy over *official Peanuts music*, and suddenly coconut bars seemed like the chicest thing in the world. This was basically Snoopy knighting Almond Joy.
(Are fun-sized Almond Joy and Mounds bars still a big trick-or-treat thing? They already seemed fogeyish when I was a kid, and that was a hundred years ago.)
One byproduct of Candyman’s arrival was the increased attention given to the old Bloody Mary urban legend, which I assume the movie was based on.
I was thirteen when Candyman hit theaters. The belief among the neighborhood kids was that Candyman was pure Hollywood, but Bloody Mary was totally real. That year, a common “hangout game” was to dare your friends to go into the bathroom and shout “Bloody Mary” at the mirror. (Three times, if memory serves.)
Some kids swore that they saw a woman in the mirror after doing so. I don’t doubt that most were lying, but I remember a time or two when a kid seemed genuinely spooked. Whenever it was my turn, I’d stand silently near the mirror and pretend to play along, believing just enough in Bloody Mary to avoid poking the bear.
Frightening Farris Books! (1980s)
I can’t tell you much about John Farris, because the only books I’ve ever read are about giant squid or Thanos. Just know that he’s a successful author who wrote enough spooky stories to warrant his own book club.
I lived for creepy TV commercials back then, though I never admitted it to myself. Getting mildly spooked by a TV spot meant that I’d then become majorly spooked by every stray noise or shadow. Suddenly my quiet night at home became a fight for survival, or at least a fight to swipe late night snacks from the kitchen without getting howled at by ghosts. It was miserable, but also somehow fun.
Also gotta pay respect to the real star of this commercial, the classic Green Glass Desk Lamp. At the time, literally every person on the planet had one. They’re still around today, but I can’t imagine that they’re as ubiquitous. That lamp was the only thing that made me okay with doing homework. Anything to be under its brassy glow, comparing the illuminated glass to Luke’s lightsaber.
WPIX News Update w/ Dracula! (1992)
This promo for WPIX’s main news program (which aired during an October broadcast of Friday the 13th Part VI) really encapsulates how bizarre their news shows used to be. Like half “real news” and half Entertainment Tonight, with the anchors jumping from utterly serious subjects straight into puff pieces on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I held WPIX’s news programs in high regard, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. WPIX programming was largely composed of OLD stuff. On weeknights, you’d get a parade of five-year-old sitcom reruns. Then a movie that was even older. Then after that, you had Ralph Kramden hamming it up in black and white. For a time, the news was one of the only things on WPIX that was firmly set in the present.
Peppering those shot-that-day news promos around the lineup made the whole network feel more alive. Kaity Tong and Jack Cafferty were like WPIX’s DJs.