By the time you read any edition of Classic Creepy Commercials, it’s just words on a page and some embedded videos. What you don’t see is the long, ridiculous process involved with obtaining these old TV spots.
I hunt for vintage TV commercials all year long, and I’m always gunning for spooky spots. Sometimes I browse through dozens of tapes before I find one. Whenever I do, it’s like I’m in Johto and goddamned Ho-Oh landed right on my head.
When you watch these ads, just know that there was a digital adventure behind every single one of them!
Happy Halloween from WPIX! (1980s)
This short spot from WPIX aired *on* Halloween. I loved it when networks aired these little greetings, and many of them did, for practically every major holiday.
I watched television straight through plenty of holidays as a kid, and it was always depressing. It felt like the last thing anyone should be doing, even when the programming was seasonally-appropriate. Everything felt so automated and lifeless. It was the at-home version of a waiting room vibe.
So these five-second spots — essentially digital corporate cards — were always super appreciated. They made the experience seem less lonely, and let me trick myself into believing that I wasn’t watching shit that got programmed days prior.
I guess what I’m saying is, “Happy Halloween to you too, Channel 11!”
The Real Ghostbusters! (1989)
Pay close attention to the set they built for this commercial. Holy shit, it’s practically the entirety of Manhattan. There are even working street lamps!
Kenner was soooo good at that stuff. Arguably better than any other toy company. We’d get so lost in the atmosphere that it was easy to forget how different the toys would feel against our backdrops, which exclusively consisted of green carpets and wood paneling.
Today’s “boutique” toy companies would do big business if they sold backdrops like that. Toy collectors love posting glamour shots of their figures, so you’d imagine that simple “real life” backdrops would sell like hotcakes.
I wonder what happened to these city sets when they were done filming? Did they trash them? Pass them off to the child actors? I dunno, maybe there’s some figure-scale Hollywood backlot where they’re all waiting for their next big break.
The Silence of the Lambs! (1991)
I didn’t see The Silence of the Lambs until it hit cable. That might’ve been in late ‘91, but it was more likely in 1992. By then, I lived on that thin line between being too young for scary movies and too old to care.
I watched Silence frequently because it was so damn easy to. Can’t recall which of the networks got it — I’m assuming HBO — but it seemed like that movie was on television every single day.
As a tween whose idea of “hard horror” was Child’s Play 2, watching something like The Silence of the Lambs was serious business. It didn’t help that our cable box had been moved downstairs by then, where it was perpetually dark and creaky.
I was always alone when I went down there, and it was almost always at night when I did. The wrong sitcom could make me jittery in that environment, so you can imagine how this movie hit. The scene with Hannibal and the prison guards just about made me choke on my Pop Qwiz Popcorn.
Fester’s Quest! (1989)
I’ve never played Fester’s Quest, but I sure had a chance to.
Think back to your Blockbuster Video days. Ever rent something and never get around to watching or playing it? That was me with Fester’s Quest.
I was always so mad at myself when I did that, and it happened more often than I’d like to admit. This’ll sound stupid, but whenever I had to return a tape or game that I never bothered to watch or play, I felt the same way I did when I went to class without my homework. Worse, actually.
To this day, I can’t think about Fester’s Quest without feeling guilty. Funny how I would toss uneaten meals and leave water running for five times longer than was necessary, but drew the line at not playing a rented video game. That was my idea of being wasteful. Sorry, Fester.
House TV Promo (1988)
I’ve sung its praises before, but House is worth a double-dip. There’s a lot to love about this film, which is well-known among big horror fans, but probably not so much with people who dip in and out during the Halloween season.
Starring William Katt, Norm from Cheers and Bull from Night Court, one of the great things about House is how it’s both a legitimately spooky movie AND a really goofy one. For every moment that gives you genuine pause, there’s another where a stuffed marlin comes to life and flops in place like Billy Bass.
House has a little in common with Spookies, actually, where the only real rule is that it’s a place filled with monsters. There’s not much rhyme or reason to what sorts of ghouls appear. That’s to our benefit, because House gives us everything from a shotgun-toting zombie hag to dastardly imps that look like caricatures from Mad Magazine.
It comes off like the filmmakers had a serious script that they decided to execute in an unserious way. It shouldn’t work, but it does!
Thanks for reading! I think I can whip up at least one more edition of Classic Creepy Commercials before 10/31, so stay tuned!