I’m very glad to revive one of last year’s recurring features: CLASSIC CREEPY COMMERCIALS!
In this series, I blather on about ancient TV commercials, each with some loose tie to the Halloween season.
For the third year in a row, I have my friend Larry P. to thank for the ads, which were culled from his concerningly large VHS collection. Thanks so much, Larry. It wouldn’t be Halloween without a 900 gigabyte zip file from you.
Nothing can throw you back into Halloweens past quite like spooky old television commercials. Below is the first batch for this year, starring everyone from Elvira to a former Olympic hopeful. And Beetlejuice!
Right Guard “Monsters” Commercial! (1985)
After you watch this commercial, watch it again. Really process what you’re seeing, because what you’re seeing is so goddamned odd.
Here, a lovely barfly sings about how she doesn’t want Mr. Wrong, and if I’m following things correctly, “Mr. Wrong” is every guy at the bar who forgot to wear deodorant. Since it’s hard to convey how bad someone smells through visuals alone, all of the non-deodorant guys are represented as literal monsters.
For a 1985 spray-on deodorant commercial, I’m impressed with the creature effects. My favorite has gotta be the one-eyed bald alien, but that mummy is a close second. Between the ghouls and the bar, I’m reminded of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Maybe the singing woman is a younger Ackmena?
As Ackmena tosses Right Guard to the stinky creatures, they all morph into respectable gentlemen, with clean scents and fashionable suits. I hope everyone who was involved with this commercial has ten trophies to show for it.
TNT’s “Halloween on Ice” Special! (1996)
Nancy Kerrigan joins forces with goblins to fill TNT’s primetime slot in the strangest way possible. A “Halloween on Ice” show seems wrong, but in all the right ways.
While I have not seen this special, the promo gives a good indication of what I missed:
– A spinning witch.
– A mad scientist drinking smoke.
– A wildy acrobatic scarecrow.
– Nancy Kerrigan.
Sight unseen, I rate any special that features Nancy Kerrigan skating with Bootleg Beetlejuice an A+. “Ice” is more associable with Christmastime, but then, so is this miracle: Halloween on Ice actually scored a DVD release. Meaning we can all watch it. And we all should.
TurboGrafx-16 “Splatterhouse” Commercial! (1990)
Splatterhouse was a wonderfully gory and accordingly controversial arcade game, ultimately ported to the Turbografx-16 with a few changes. Most famous of those changes was turning Rick’s “Terror Mask” from the arcade’s white to blood red, supposedly because the white mask made our avatar look too much like Jason Voorhees.
A side effect of that change was this commercial, starring a slasher who evoked Jason Voorhees while still very much seeming like a new horror icon. I don’t know much about Splatterhouse the game, but its commercial has always stuck with me. Well, of course it did! It had a guy in a red hockey mask threatening me with a 2×4. This heroic monster was nine parts Kane and one part Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and I’ve long said that the best thing in the universe would be something with that precise composition.
It’s another ad that you need to watch twice. The imagery is so fascinating that you might first ignore the incredible voice-over artist, who manages to say totally disparate things like “maggot-eaten ghouls” and “buy a Turbografx-16 now” with the same haunting inflection.
Partyland “Halloween Shopping” Commercial! (1989)
This commercial is super short and has serious tracking issues, but for the few seconds that you can actually digest it, it’s spectacular. We didn’t have “Partyland” stores here (I believe this aired in Milwaukee), but it was obviously another in the endless line of party store chains that became “Halloween headquarters” during October.
It’s a good thing I’m not from Milwaukee. In 1989, I would’ve been rendered shitless by the ad’s nightmarish effects, where the heads of murderers at half-opacity float around the screen in mesmerizing patterns.
In certain rare cases, Freddy Krueger costumes are far scarier than anything we’ve seen in an Elm Street film. This is one of those cases. LOOK AT HIM! It’s like Freddy and Darkman fell in love and picked a surrogate and blended their juices and OUT CAME THAT.
The commercial reminds me of being a kid at costume stores and getting freaked out by the scary masks. You know, the super detailed and crazy expensive ones that were always kept on the highest shelves. I’d stare up there and wait for them to grow latex bodies. I was always ready to run.
“Elvira: Mistress of the Dark” Movie Promo! (1988)
I’m only featuring this one because, yep, it’s time for my yearly pitch for you to include Elvira: Mistress of the Dark in one of your Halloween movie marathons.
To me, this was Elvira at her ultimate best. Anyone who doubted Cassandra Peterson’s ability to rock it out of her “safe zone” had to be impressed with how well she carried an entire movie. If you’re not down with straight-up horror, Mistress of the Dark is perfect for you. It’s at times black and gross, but it’s also cute and funny.
Bonus points: The movie costars Edie McClurg and the Wizard Master! It’s like they decided on the cast by raiding my drawerful of signed 8x10s.
There are more creepy commercials coming later in the Countdown, but for now, dive back into the previous editions!