Back in the day, before the internet became such an important and essential part of our modern lives, there were these amazing inventions called televisions (or “TVs,” for short). On them, you would be able to watch broadcasted shows and events live, as they happened, with no control over when or what station you would have to switch to. There were even different channels!. What a crazy thought, right?
And every so often on these retro “television sets,” in-between the usually scheduled programming of the day or night, you would be treated to one of many commercials. Yeah, those still exist today. Come on, we’re not totally antiquated here, right?
Once in a while, some companies would get a little, shall we say, “creative” with their tactics in commercial-making, often employing different images and visuals to get the viewer thinking about their product. When the creativity would sink over to the darker realm of the human psyche, however, is when the viewer would be treated to some of the most unintentionally terrifying commercials ever made. Not all of the ones here are unintentional (despite what some of the companies’ later testimony would naively suggest), but regardless, here are fifteen commercials that you wouldn’t necessarily want to see in-between your usual family-friendly fare.
- You Know When It’s The Devil (Dirt Devil)
Despite the fact that this particular ad ends on a hilarious note (it’s always old ladies, isn’t it?), this commercial for Dirt Devil nonetheless recreates the possession trope to impressively creepy heights.
- Family Vacation (Orkin)
The thing that makes this commercial the most unsettling – despite the undeniable righteousness of the giant rats showing off their mad Guitar Hero skills – is the tension in how they ask for the boy. They look awfully hungry for the flesh of humans, don’t they …? That being said, props to them and their sweet ride at the end of the clip. If they didn’t want to eat me, I’d be hanging out with them right now.
- Grocery Store Lady (Snickers)
For Halloween, Snickers decided to make a delightful advert about two mischievous kids who dress as an old lady to convince their mom to buy them some Snickers for the holidays. Too bad the ad goes from delightful to creepy super fast, especially given that the outfit the kids choose looks like an Alice, Sweet Alice rip-off. I’m sure the mother’s look she gives that hideous amalgamation of horrors is genuine.
- Electric Facial Mask (Rejuvenique)
Oookay, Rejuvenique, we know you’re proud of your cutting-edge facial mask technology, but did you have to do so many extreme zoom-ins on their eyes? It’s like you’re giving away who the killer is in the first scene of the movie!
- The Deep End (The Meth Project)
What’s the perfect way to get an anti-drug message across in your commercial? Just bring on Darren Aronofsky, director of Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan, to help you out! For only thirty seconds, this TV spot is heartbreakingly brutal and intense, ensuring that you really won’t give a damn what Ross and Rachel are up to anyway.
- The Original Ronald McDonald (McDonald’s)
Okay, real quick: what kind of test audience of kids do you think they used for this commercial? What child would sit there, with that weirdo with the cup on his nose and a basket strapped to his body, and want to visit whatever abyss that creature came from? It was probably a scale of “just crying a little bit” to “crying a lot” that they went with for the approval. It doesn’t help any that he’s “already met” them, most likely from hiding under their beds at night, waiting to eat their dreams. Or just raid their fridge.
- Vintage Smokey the Bear PSA (United States Forest Service)
Why look, it’s Joanna Cassidy, here to tell me about the dangers of forest fires! Sure, I’ll be extra careful, Ms. Cassidy- OH MY GOD HER FACE! Oh, wait, it’s just Smokey. Silly ol’ bear, being so sneaky. I’m just gonna try and get that mental image of that woman’s entire face peeling off your skin (teeth and all) and try and get some sleep tonight.
- Monsters (Fragile Childhood)
This is a commercial that definitely has a powerful message behind it – you don’t know what your child sees when you’re a drunk parent – but even so, some of the images used here are a little extreme for the cause, right? Giant horrifying rabbit head be damned? That being said, Smelly Santa probably hits a little too close for some…
- Baby Secret (Mattel)
Does no one else hear “I’m going to kill you someday” right around the middle mark? What were they even trying to get her to say? Isn’t this doll a bad influence regardless of if it’s trying to kill you? Oh how joyful, to be a paranoid parent in the 70’s…
- Baby Laugh A Lot (Remco)
Yeah kids, you’d better turn your head in terror: that is not natural. At all. Even the announcer sounds like he’s enjoying this, waay too much. Best to just burn the whole house down, just to be safe.
- Dead Island Trailer (Deep Silver)
A zombie survival game set on a tropical island paradise, Dead Island made huge waves before it was ever released, thanks to this three-minute trailer. It’s beautifully made, a self-contained short story of one family’s unfortunate encounter with the undead. The fact that the whole spot is sequenced in reverse makes the trailer even more breathtaking, leaving a surprising amount of emotional impact. Scary and emotionally resonant – that’s the stuff.
- This Is A Special Time (Little Baby’s Ice Cream)
Good lord, where to begin with this one. Is it the eerily monotone voiceover? The blank, black background contrasted with the pale, melting skin of our subject? Or is it his bulging, dead eyes as he slowly self-cannibalizes himself, head-first? There’s no way I’m not gonna feel guilty about eating ice cream after watching this.
- #PubLooShocker (THINK!)
Normally for drunk driving PSAs, you’ll try and humanize the subjects, showing who they were and what lives they lead before finding themselves victims to drunk driving. Sometimes you’ll have real stories of the consequences of drinking and driving, and how it affects people and those around them. And then sometimes, you just have to smash a head through a mirror and scare the ever-living shit out of some totally unaware bystanders. Whatever works, I guess.
- Tire Commercial (Autoway)
Oh yeah, you know when there’s a goddamn health warning in front of your commercial that you’re gonna be in for a fun time. What the hell, Japan? Just leave the health warning out and really scare some people! If the previous entry was any indicator, then you really don’t have to be that polite where the public are involved…
- A Car On A Hill (K-Fee)
One of the oldest videos on YouTube, this was the original jump-scare commercial. The idea was that by getting the crap scared straight out of your body, your increased heart rate would emulate the feeling of the caffeine rush you’d experience from drinking K-Fee. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a dirty trick; one that was so successful, that K-Fee made eight more of the damn things. Hey, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?
Don’t worry, there are plenty more absurd and scary commercials just waiting out there on the internet. We’ll most likely be making a second part to continue the collection, but until then, be careful what you watch…