“Halloween’s coming,” intones the rich-voiced announcer. “What are you gonna do about it?” And with that vaguely threatening inquiry, Hallmark begins its 1989 television spot for the Halloween season, a disorienting, rapid-fire assault of extremely 1980s synthesizer music and quick shots of overly enthusiastic customers with rainbow wigs, walrus masks, and fake teeth, all bopping around in candy-fueled ecstasy. The memorable commercial ends with a special offer too wonderfully dorky to resist: For a mere $1.95 with any $5 purchase at participating Hallmark locations, customers could own Spooky Sounds, a cassette tape “full of creepy sounds and Halloween theme songs.” Presumably, Spooky Sounds was meant to play in the background at Halloween parties and such, but one enterprising Hallmark shopper, Rick V. of the Fliers And Tings Tumblr, used “some of the audio from the cassette to make this video for a film challenge.”
Rick V.’s self-admittedly “pretty ridiculous” short film begins with a brief explanation of exactly what the Spooky Sounds tape is, pointing out that the tape “gives the impression that the producers were just messing around and did not care about the project. Or had no idea what the hell they were doing.” Rick then goes on to illustrate his point with crude, black-and-white line drawings synced up with excerpts from the vintage tape. Hallmark’s approach to All Hallows’ Eve includes yet more cheesy synthesizer music, standard horror film noises (thunder, heavy footsteps), and overripe dialogue such as “Welcome to the Haunted Hotel! You can check in, but you may never check out!” That last line, incidentally, seems more inspired by the Eagles’ “Hotel California” than by the observance of Halloween. Still pretty scary, though. After that, the narrative breaks down further into improv comedy madness about “slime pools.”
When asked about the 26-year-old novelty tape, Rick. V. (which is his preferred “professional name”) offered some thoughts as to its nostalgic appeal.
I think the tape is horrible but hard to not share with people. It’s been played for whatever poor soul chooses to ride with me in my car. Last night at the screening, three people came up to me to tell me they had that same tape when they were younger. One of my friends told me she cherished it and was reciting it while my crappy little movie played.
Here, for historical context, is the original 1989 ad for Spooky Sounds. Take note, please, of the genuine 1980s, Patrick Bateman-esque yuppie who has decided to go as a clown this year but does not want to compromise his usual, tailored look from the neck down.
And for those who would like to attempt a Hallmark-themed Halloween project of their own, here is the original audio from one half-hour-long side of the Spooky Sounds cassette. Readers are invited to enjoy this at their own risk.