Welcome to Polygon's 13 Days of Halloween series! Between Oct. 19 and Oct. 31, Polygon will publish 13 opinion pieces about different films, shows and specials that exemplify what Halloween means to us. Whether that's the scariest movies you haven't seen yet or a look at a popular Treehouse of Horror episode, this is our tribute to the world of the strange, creepy and downright horrifying that exists within popular culture.
Adult Swim revels in its weirdness. After 15 years of the late-night programming block, I've grown accustomed to its drily comic bumpers and absurd, surreal comedy shows. The expectation when watching The Eric Andre Show or Tim and Eric, however, is that when they're over, reality is restored; commercials serve as a brief normcore reprieve from the weirdness.
But that changed when the network began airing new episodes of its most insidious show in the fall of 2014. Infomercials is exactly what it sounds like: It's a show that airs between other series, aping the look and style of those product commercials people only ever watch when they're exhausted.
Infomercials is an evil show.
Episodes like "Too Many Cooks" went viral for their very on-brand blend of humor and shock value, but it's "Unedited Footage of a Bear" that forced me to confront two things: my tendency to watch TV for hours on end, and to trust Adult Swim with my vulnerable 4 a.m. brain.
"Unedited Footage of a Bear" is horrifying in several ways. For one, that name is not a total lie; the first 30 seconds are some high-quality, uncut grizzly bear footage. (I assume it's a grizzly bear, but as the YouTube description reads, "I'm not sure what kind of bear this is.") Imagine watching Adult Swim and, right after a commercial for a hair loss cream or weight loss drug, a big brown bear just shows up on the screen. That's an awful, bizarre surprise.
After that, though, the bear fades out into ... an ad. This is especially striking when watching the short on a computer. The familiar "Skip this ad" button pops up, and I always feel compelled to click it and get away from the boring advert for a drug called Claridryl. I wanted to watch unedited footage of a bear, not a sneezing mom in a cardigan!
Infomercials is an evil show
But attempts to breeze past Mom are futile. That Claridryl she took is really, really strong, you guys, and the drug in concert with whatever nasty cold she's picked up is more powerful than our free will and YouTube's shortcuts. This is unnerving in itself; I'm so used to impulsively cutting an ad short whenever I have the opportunity. That Adult Swim refuses me this right is the first horror of "Unedited Footage of a Bear."
Next on the list is the medley of side effects that the suburban mom experiences as a result of the drug. As a frequent TV watcher, I'm familiar with that quick read of potentially life-threatening side effects in lighthearted medication commercials. "Unedited Footage of a Bear" takes that to the next level: What do those side effects look like? It's a scary question that I've never wanted an answer to, but Adult Swim has answers, and it's literally impossible to look away.
Turns out that taking the fictional Claridryl can result in homicidal delirium. Here's some of what ensues over the next 8 or 9 heart-pounding minutes: Mom's evil twin appears out of nowhere to brutalize her; the battered mom wrecks her house. I mean, she even takes a creepy phone call, guys. The commercial becomes a bloody, full-fledged psychological horror in the span of seconds.
Imagine seeing all of this at 4 a.m., when I did for the first time. Imagine seeing this when you just wanted to watch anime or a comedy show or something stupid and safe. An infomercial is meant to be a reliably corny thing, and "Unedited Footage of a Bear" is neither of those. It apprehends you. It preys on very real fears of very real products that I don't want to confront even when I'm most awake.
I haven't even broached its companion website, where you can explore the house featured in the episode. It's like a Resident Evil game where it's impossible to find your enemies, but you know they're there. Oh, they're there alright. Somewhere. Waiting.
"Unedited Footage of a Bear" is a sucker punch to the senses, both auditory and visual. Good luck sleeping tonight, friends. Don't stay up watching TV too late.