Wax Teeth ‘n Rubber Bats: A Tribute to the Obscure Side of Halloween
Greetings, boils & ghouls! It’s a very, very special time of year indeed. The wee, pudgy children have been stuck in their school desks for a few weeks now. The leaves are starting to look like maybe they should have bought that life insurance policy after all. Your local supermarkets and drugstores are festooned with macabre displays of baleful pumpkins, cadaverous vampires, and cheapjack-but-effective scarecrows.
That’s right, my merry maniacs… the Halloween season is upon us!!! Now, it would be easy to drool out a handful of random articles the likes of which every other outfit is already covering… but here at the Clubhouse, we like to do things a little differently. See… there’s a lot that goes down around this time of year that signals the coming of the mighty Trick R’ Treat, that appears, thrills and amazes us, and then vanishes without a trace the instant the season is done. So we’ve decided to pay homage to those rare, arcane, and all-too-fleeting glories that most others never think about past November 1st. And that my fiends, is what Wax Teeth ‘n Rubber Bats is all about. Because we want every DROP of the orange kroovy.
As you know, there are many telltale signs that the Festival of Samhain is fast upon us. Gloriously ghoulish candy that exists no other time of year begins cropping up. Derelicts stop sleeping in the cemetery. And all of your local stations begin rolling out their back-catalogue of horror movies, and dumping them into our gleeful/petrified laps by the bucketful. In this day and age of digital TV, DVR, and the good ol’ internet, it is impossible to miss a showing of your favorite show or flick. You know what’s playing a month in advance, you watch it a month after it airs courtesy of your little magic box, and the whole thing goes down like yet another Pringle crunched, choked-down, and forgotten to make room for the next.
But once upon a time, tuning into to your favorite fright flick on the ‘tube was an event. We’d hit the lights, huddle around the glow of the hulking wood-cabinet TV set, and let these things invade our house for a couple hours… making the shadows seem alive, and the prospect of getting a sandwich after everyone had gone to bed a life-threatening ordeal. In short, it was beautiful. And all we had to herald these epic moments was this week’s well-thumbed copy of TV Guide, or some local equivalent. And that’s where the magic happened.
Because for reasons beyond the grasp of your addled host, these ads often featured artwork and graphics that couldn’t be found anywhere else… at all. Not the poster, not the video box… images that came seemingly out of nowhere, and then disappeared as soon as you lined your birdcage. Idiosyncratic, unique to their area, and often truly startling, these mini movie posters existed solely for the theater of your living room. It was like being part of a secret club, and if you weren’t quick with a pair of scissors, they might as well have been a dream.
Here, for our inaugural installment of Wax Teeth ’n Bats I present to you my top 5 favorite examples, culled from the depths of my very own computer… a mildewy slice of analogue fright for a woefully digital age.
Friday The 13th
Now see, this is a little bit of a peculiar ad. Apparently, when KUPT-TV 45 unleashed the very first showing of Friday The 13th, they had an ultra-rare print where Mrs. Voorhees wore a sack over her head. Or maybe some guy at the paper just got confused, and used the wrong still. Either way, this is a great little go-for-the-throat ad, and it reminds of the first time I did see Friday the 13th Part 2 on TV back in the late 80s, when I was maybe 5, loving every petrifying minute of it… almost. The movie nearly had me in tears by the time it was done, and the sight of Mrs. Voorhees gnarled head surrounded by candles haunted my sleepless nights for decades. Every time I watch it, I am still convinced that this will be the time the head opens its eyes. So yeah, the used the wrong shot. This ad is still groovy as hell, and a real time capsule.
The Real Ghostbusters
Ah, The Real Ghostbusters. I could write a three-hundred page graduate thesis on how freaking awesome this show was, but I don’t have to… because you already know. The pairing of Ghostbusters and Halloween is like peanut butter and hundred-dollar bills, and this special delivered. It… it was also sort of a music video. Kind of. But hey, at least it was carried out amongst apocalyptic, skyscraper-sized Halloween monstrosities, and Janine was freakin’ hot. as a bonus, this ad depicts the Ghostbusters next to a trash can, which would have blown my mind because my all-consuming love of Garbage Pail Kids meant even a random picture of a garbage can made me giddy…and this one probably had ghosts in it. Did I mention Janine was hot?
One thing any self-respecting TV station can be counted on during the Halloween season, is to start showing movies from the series that bears its name. Here, we have a great little minimalist piece that totally sells the whole look and mood of the flick being offered.
Sure, Michael Myers vaguely resembles David Hasselhoff from Knightrider here, but anyone who wants to stare at me, underlit from the inky shadows of my doorway is gonna cause me to piss my pants, Baywatch or no. Also, it almost looks like he’s wearing a priest’s collar, only adding another layer of menace to what may-or-may-not be about to go down.
Now this double-bill right here? Just rad. Now, while I hold no particular love for neither Garfield nor The Peanuts, Their respective Halloween specials are quintessential Halloween classics. Garfield’s senses-shattering conflict with glowing, skeleton ghost pirates is glorious to behold, and it simply oozes 80s Halloween atmosphere. The whole thing makes me want to glow in the dark and start running around dilapidated buildings.
But even with all that, the big score here is the Great Pumpkin. In my head as a kid, I took the Great Pumpkin to be some horrible deity, surely to be represented by some bloated, outsized Jack O’ Lantern abomination in some vacant lot, with an insatiable appetite for child sacrifice. Luckily the gang at Robot Chicken apparently felt the same way, and decades later, I was finally vindicated.
Yes yes, we already wheeled out Michael Myers earlier in the countdown, but it’s only appropriate. This was the granddaddy of them all, and its inevitable seasonal showing was the event to beat. I had a paralyzing fear of Michael Myers when I was a kid (a fact ably exploited by my older brother), and let me give it to you straight – this ad scares the *&%$ out of me. It’s freakin’ horrifying. For starters, this ain’t Hasselhoff…this is the real deal. Unmistakably Michael Effin’ Myers, staring at me with the blackest eyes, the Devil’s eyes… and he is coming into my house. This is the type of image that would make me 98% not even want to see it, and 100% need to. It’s pure awesome nightmare fuel, and it’s also a great piece of art. That said, I’m pretty sure He can see me through the computer screen, so I’m gonna wrap this up.
…so that does it for this round of Wax Teeth ‘N Rubber Bats but there’s plenty more in store. Obscure candy, eerie (and ultra-cheesy) TV commercials, ghoulish novelties, long-forgotten monster make-up, chilling local haunted houses… all this and so, very much more await you in the coming weeks. If it’s arcane, little-spoken-of, and gloriously gore-ious, you’ll find it here. Until next time… watch out for razor blades…