For me, Halloween just isn’t complete without watching at least two Treehouse of Horror episodes, and to me, The Simpsons do the best Halloween specials. In recent years the newer specials been aired after Halloween (thanks a lot US sports), but I always try to have my own ToH marathon every year. TV listing permitting, though (I only have seasons 4-7 on DVD. For now). When I was planning this month, I thought ‘what better way to show how much I love this series than to make a Top 10 about it?’ And here it is! Get your Duff or your Buzz Cola, or even your Squishee ready because I’m ready to count down my favourite spooky Simpsons segments!
“Wiz Kids” (Treehouse of Horror XII, Season 13)
I’m not a fan of Harry Potter (I know, sacrilege. Mmm, sacrelicious…), but this Potter spoof still manages to make me laugh every time I see it. If only I saw it more often… In this segment, Bart and Lisa attend “Springwarts School of Magicry” (basically Hogwarts), with Lisa being the better student, as is expected. Lord Montymort notices Lisa’s skills as a witch and plans to kidnap her to take her powers for himself, so he seeks out Bart as an assistant who has to steal her wand, so that her spell that she plans to showcase at school will fail. It’s a pretty simple plot line but the jokes make it really funny. My personal favourite joke is Milhouse’s attempt at using an invisibility cloak for a “now you see me, now you don’t” gag, which ends with only his clothes disappearing. Classic.
“Tweenlight” (Treehouse of Horror XXI, Season 22)
I’m a bit picky with Twilight parodies. They can either be extremely obnoxious and unfunny (i.e. Vampires Suck. What a terrible, terrible film), or they can parody the vampire genre as a whole and be done really well. In my opinion, “Tweenlight” is the second one. Here we see Lisa fall in love with a mysterious boy called Edmund who has saved her from a bus, two cars, a bicycle, and a Segway, and later reveals himself to be a vampire. I don’t really need to explain the rest because we all know Twilight by now. The funniest part of this segment is the fact that Edmund’s (biological) father is Count Dracula, who is just dripping with classic monster movie tropes. Also Milhouse as a werepoodle, and what I think is the best part of all: there’s not a happy ending. I mean, come on, this is a Halloween episode. It can’t be sparkles and sunshine all the time. Oh, and another added bonus, Daniel Radcliffe voices Edmund in this segment, and I’ve really grown to like him as an actor his post-Harry Potter days.
“King Homer” (Treehouse of Horror III, Season 4)
I still have yet to see the original King Kong movie, but in recent months I’ve been more and more interested in classic monster movies (we have Godzilla to thank for that). Up until very recently I didn’t care much for “King Homer” because on the surface it’s kind of cheesy, but after watching it many many times, I really like it. Besides, it contains one of my favourite jokes in the whole series: ‘I think women and seamen don’t mix.’ A big part of the humour that I really love is the fact that you know straightaway that King Homer is pretty much Homer, not only from the way he looks, but the way he acts too. The part at the end where he’s barely gotten a quarter of the way up the Empire State Building and collapses off it just gets me every time. And apart from that, I love how the animators managed to reference the shots from the actual film, including the shot of Homer grabbing Marge out of the room, which is drawn to look like primitive stop-motion.
“Nightmare Cafeteria” (Treehouse of Horror V, Seaon 6)
As with “King Homer”, I haven’t seen the film that “Nightmare Cafeteria” is based on, which is Soylent Green. But, that doesn’t make this segment any less good. I will admit that “Nightmare Cafeteria” doesn’t make me laugh as much as the other segments in this list, but the reason why it’s here is because it’s so creepy. Like, this episode actually gives me chills because it’s so dark. The idea of school teachers eating the kids and none of the parents realising what’s going on is actually pretty fucking scary. If there’s a way that you don’t want to die, it’s at school and only to be served as lunch the next day. And don’t even get me started on the inside-out fog at the end of this episode. At least we get a lovely song and dance number to ease the trauma though.
A parody of something that really happened (and also a video game)! In this episode we see 1938 Springfieldianites take Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast too seriously and start to riot before turning to act like animals because – according to Marge – the aliens will only hurt humans. Lisa then tells them all that the broadcast is a hoax and the townspeople vow to never be fooled again, only to actually be invaded by aliens. The townspeople then don’t believe that it’s a real invasion and even Orson Welles can’t convince them that it’s real. The best part of this segment? Maurice LaMarche’s completely perfect impression of Orson Welles. Seriously, you want someone to do an impression of Orson Welles in your movie/TV show? Get Maurice LaMarche to do it because he’s the best. And we also know how much of a sucker I am for aliens. And Kang and Kodos are among my favourite aliens ever (I should make a list of my favourite aliens), so any segment that features them is a gem to me.
So far in my life, I’ve only seen one Hitchcock movie, but I like to think that I’m well accustomed to identifying which moments in his works are being spoofed. This segment with that title that I’m way too lazy to type out again or paraphrase is so chock-full of Hitchcock references that it’s really fun to pick them all out when you see them. In this segment, a parody of Strangers on a Train (I had to Google that), Lisa wants revenge on Miss Hover who has sent her to detention after accusing another student of one-upping her by using a tutor. Bart hatches a ‘criss cross’ plan where if Bart ‘ding-dong-ditches’ Miss Hoover, Lisa must do the same to Mrs Krabapple. Lisa, being naive, things that this means ringing Mrs Krabapple’s doorbell and running away, when it really means killing her and throwing the body in a ditch. When she continues to refuse to kill Krabapple, Bart blackmails her which leads to Lisa going to kill Bart. All of the references I mentioned above are jam-packed into this segment’s chase sequence which is really entertaining, and while this segment isn’t the funniest, it’s great fun for people like me who thrive on cultural references, especially when it comes to classic cinema.
Yay, a literary segment! In this segment, Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. That’s actually it. But, I didn’t mention that Homer is the man, Bart is the raven, Marge is Lenore (seen only in a painting), and James Earl Jones narrates the poem. Yes. THAT James Earl Jones. I know that I’ve said a few times before that I really don’t care for poetry, but I love Gothic stories (even after studying them, I still love them) and while I still have yet to read any of Poe’s work, he is up there with the masters. So putting The Simpsons with a Gothic story is just absolute paradise for me. If only they did segments like this more. They did allude to Doctor Faustus in ToH IV, but that’s not really the same. I want more Gothic Simpsons segments and I won’t rest until I get them!
“Homer³” (Treehouse of Horror VI, Season 7)
I’m not really impressed by CGI animation anymore because I’m a total snob and think that CGI is overdone these days, but “
Homer³” is a special episode because it was done way back in 1995. That and they ended up putting CGI Homer into a live action environment, which was pretty impressive back then. In this segment, a parody of an episode of The Twilight Zone titled ‘Little Girl Lost’, Homer goes through a portal behind a bookcase into the third-dimension after attempting to hide from Patty and Selma. Numerous townspeople attempt to help find Homer, who can only describe the world he’s in with ‘did anybody see that movie Tron‘ (a joke that I still find funny because I haven’t seen Tron either). The main reason why I like this segment is that the 3D parts look so cool. The animation of Homer burping looks so weird that it’s funny and even Bart’s hair looks cool. I remember going somewhere as a kid and there was an IMAX 3D show that featured Homer and Bart, but I never went into it because 1. IMAX has always been expensive as fuck and 2. I used to be piss terrified of 3D films. Especially the 3D films that you saw in theme parks and museums in the early 2000s. Scary stuff that was. I’m going off track now, but I’ll give you a quote that I can’t help but remember when looking at live fish: ‘Mmm.. unprocessed fish sticks…‘
Another vampire segment! This one starts out as a Simpsonised Dracula parody, with Bart and Lisa discovering that Mr. Burns is a vampire, and Bart being bitten by Burns and becoming a vampire too. After that it kind of turns into a parody of The Lost Boys with talk of having to kill the head vampire, which I know I’d never heard of until I watched that film. I really think that the film Vampires Suck really should have taken heed to this episode because this is how you do a parody of the vampire genre. You don’t just spoof one, you go for other things as well. This segment even has a mini Peanuts spoof at the end. In terms of jokes, this segment has three big jokes that kill me every time: the Super Fun Happy Slide, Grampa running into Lisa’s room shouting “we have to kill the boy!” only for Marge to ask him “how do you know he’s a vampire?” which leads to his reaction of “he’s a vampire? AHHHHH“, and then Homer hammering the stake into Mr. Burns’ crotch before Lisa points out his mistake. Oh, and also Burns coming momentarily back to life just to tell Homer that he’s fired.
“The Shinning” (Treehouse of Horror V, Season 6)
Treehouse of Horror V is my favourite ToH episode, but “The Shinning” is easy the best segment in the whole series to me. It’s just so perfect! In this now classic segment, the Simpson family are the new winter caretakers for Mr. Burns’ lodge and are left with no TV reception and no beer after Burns took it away to ‘increase productivity’. However, according to Smithers, this is possibly what led to the previous winter caretakers killing their families. Naturally, Homer ends up not taking it very well and goes on a murderous rampage. Bart, on the other hand is told by Groundskeeper Willie that he has ‘the shinning’ (You mean ‘shining’. Shh! D’ya wanna get sued?) and uses it to call Willie to help them. And how could we forget the classic moment of ‘No beer and no TV make Homer something something. Go crazy? DON’T MIND IF I DO!‘? It kills me every time! The reason why I like “The Shinning” so much is that it doesn’t just do a basic parody and simply tell out the story with Simpsons characters, the writers have infused with their own brand of humour, which really only The Simpsons writers can do.
- The Simpsons Hit & Run‘s 7th level – okay, not an episode but the final level of this gem of a video game is completely Halloween themed with Kang and Kodos using their own tainted cola to raise Springfield’s dead, leaving Homer to save the town and get rid of the aliens. Everything is spooky in this level, including character costumes, vehicles, collector cards, and even the NPCs out on the street.
- “Terror at 5½ Feet” (Treehouse of Horror IV, Season 5)
- “Hungry are the Damned” (Treehouse of Horror, Season 1)
- “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” (Treehouse of Horror III, Season 4)
- “Citizen Kang” (Treehouse of Horror VII, Season 8)
- “Frinkenstein” (Treehouse of Horror XIV, Season 15)
- “The Ned Zone” (Treehouse of Horror XV, Season 16)
- “It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse” (Treehouse of Horror XIX, Season 20)
Do you like Halloween specials? Do you have any favourites?