On October 19, 2014, FOX will air The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXV, the 25th installment in the long running series’ set of Halloween specials. While more recent seasons have fallen well short of The Simpsons golden age, in the ‘Treehouse’ series there is usually still a bit of magic to be found.
FOX has provided, in a press release, a few details on the forthcoming episode, including the news of a guest appearance from John Ratzenberger, as well as a sneak peak of what the three segments of the episode will entail:
On the annual spooktacular Halloween special, Bart and Lisa are transported to a demon-filled alternate universe after Bart reads a set of Aramaic symbols he finds on the underside of his desk; Moe’s “Clockwork Orange”-style gang is disrupted when Dum (Homer) falls for a girl (Marge) who wants him to give up the thug life; and, in an homage to “The Others,” the Simpsons are visited by their former Tracey Ullman-era versions of themselves…
Being a huge fan of A Clockwork Orange, I must say I am particularly excited to see how that is done within The Simpsons universe, as often it seems the movie parody segments of these specials stand out as particularly entertaining, but it also got me thinking about what the best segments from the past 25 years of ‘Treehouse of Horror’s” would be:
10) ‘Homer Cubed’ – Treehouse of Horror VI
‘Homer Cubed’ is a bit of an enigma: while it is a parody of an episode of The Twilight Zone (specifically “Little Girl Lost”), this segment was amazing when it first came out in 1995 for its’ 3D animation. While the story of Homer hiding in the third dimension to escape a visit from Patty and Selma is not the scariest (unless you are terrified by obscure computer and math references), ‘Homer Cubed’ was not only ground breaking, but was also a solid and interesting (almost meta) story where The Simpsons were forced to consider existence in a third dimension.
Plus: erotic cakes!
9) ‘The Raven’ – Treehouse of Horror I (AKA The Simpsons Halloween Special)
James Earl Jones reading Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven with Homer and Bart as the unnamed narrator and the raven respectively? Say what you will, but this little trip into classic horror is absolutely wonderful, and Bart’s reaction to the reading, demonstrating the lack of patience of the modern, slasher movie numbed audience, is as near to perfect a cultural commentary as The Simpsons ever achieved.
And thankfully, there is a high quality video available for you right here:
[vimeo id=”29733360″ align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no”]
8) ‘Don’t Have a Cow Mankind’ – Treehouse of Horror XX
This parody of 28 Days Later (and many of the newer ‘fast’ zombie/infected films) is easily the highlight of the more recent seasons of Treehouse of Horror specials. Krusty Burger has come up with the unholy concoction of a Burger2 (Burger squared) where cows are fed other cows in order to make a really, really beefy burger which just so happens to have some sort of ‘mad-cow’ disease in it that turns people into “munchers”. After holing up at home for 28 days, Bart grows tired of eating nothing but fruit and goes to get a burger, which he eats, and discovers he is “the chosen one”: the one person immune to the muncher virus. Now it is a race for the family to get to the ‘safe zone’ in order to save the world.
Taking a kick at hero tropes, the ‘zombie movie with a solution’ we keep seeing, and 28 Days Later, ‘Don’t Have a Cow Mankind’ is an excellent segment that really harkens back to some of the more classic Treehouse specials.
7) ‘The HΩmega Man’ – Treehouse of Horror VIII
‘The HΩmega Man‘ finally answers the question: “what would the rest of us do if we were stuck in the ‘I Am Legend’ world?”, because lets face it: most of us are not military folks with medical training who would be able to create a cure. For Homer, the French have dropped a nuclear bomb as he was looking at bomb shelters, and comes out to find a desolate world. Believing himself to be the last man in Springfield, he takes full advantage of his new playground worry free of consequences (what is the point of worrying if all life is over and you are alone?)
Alhough, as we always know, when it comes to ‘Ωmega Man’ or ‘I Am Legend’, just because you are the ‘last man’ does not mean you are alone…
6) ‘Clown Without Pity’ – Treehouse of Horror III
A parody of The Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll”, ‘Clown Without Pity’ is a tale of a Krusty doll Homer buys for Bart’s birthday at a creepy store (that also sells delicious frogurt). It turns out that the Krusty doll is evil and out to kill Homer, which it attempts to do in various ways, even managing to escape a bottomless pit to attack Homer once again. This early segment is often forgotten, perhaps due to the sheer quality of the final segment of Treehouse of Horror III, but deserves to stand on its’ own as one of the more interesting Treehouse stories they have tackled.
Not to mention the fun harpoon sequence…
5) ‘Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace’ – Treehouse of Horror VI
While Groundskeeper Willie may not be the best of heroes in the Treehouse of Horror universe (as we shall get to shortly), he makes a fantastic parody of Freddy Krueger in ‘Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace’. At a P.T.A. meeting on a lousy Smarch day, Homer cranks up the school furnace, which in turn lights Willie on fire. Willie looks to the parents for help, but is not given the floor to speak in time, and vows to take revenge on all their kids, in their kids’ dreams.
This is one of those segments that is not only an excellent parody of its’ source material, but is laugh out loud funny, if only for one reason: Martin.
4) Time and Punishment – Treehouse of Horror V
This is am excellent parody of A Sound of Thunder where Homer is trying to fix a toaster and he accidentally invents a time machine. As he takes a “test toast”, he travels back to the time of dinosaurs and accidentally changes the future by squishing a mosquito. Upon his return, he discovers a dystopian Springfield where Ned Flanders is the unquestioned dictator of the planet, and sends the family to ‘Re-Neducation’, which contains a genuinely creepy moment involving the lobotomized Moe, Marge, Lisa and Bart. Homer escapes and travels through many different Springfields’, trying to get back to his own time.
We are told that Groundskeeper Willie will be able to help him get back, but unfortunately he is axed the back by Maggie, because Groundskeeper Willie is terrible at being the hero.
3) Bart Simpson’s Dracula – Treehouse of Horror IV
This parody of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is more entertaining than the movie it is based on. The family Simpson is invited to Mr. Burn’s house in spooky Pennsylvania for dinner, and find him to have an entirely terrible haircut. Lisa, suspecting that Mr. Burns is the vampire that has been terrorizing Springfield, takes Bart to go look for clues and things go from bad to worse when Bart tries the ‘Super Fun Happy Slide’ and slips into the clutches of the vampires below. This all culminates in the inevitable A Charlie Brown Christmas parody to end ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’ and usher in the (still too early) Christmas season.
2) “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies” – Treehouse of Horror III
An early zombie segment, “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies” revolves around Bart’s discovery of the occult section in his school library (always the best book section in an elementary school), where he decides to read a book of black magic for his book report. Lisa expresses how much she misses her cat Snowball, and Bart, of course, offers to raise Snowball from the dead and unleashes a hoard of traditional (shambling, brain-eating) zombies on Springfield.
While not a direct parody of any particular zombie movie “Dial ‘Z’ For Zombies” works by piecing together subtle references and bits of zombie lore into a really smashing segment. Plus, who knew that William Shakespeare, George Washington and Albert Einstein were all buried in the same place?
1) ‘The Shinning” – Treehouse of Horror V
This is a pitch perfect parody of Stanley Kubrik’s The Shining where Homer takes the family Simpson (other than Grandpa Abe who gets left behind) with him in order to work as caretaker in Mr. Burns’ summer mansion. This segment hits every note perfectly, rewarding fans of The Shining with a myriad of little references, from Bart and Willie discussing Bart’s ability to ‘Shin’ outside the hedge maze, to Moe serving as an excellent proxy to everyone’s favorite Shining character (Lloyd), to ‘no beer and no T.V. make Homer…something something…”
Of course, sticking with the source material, Bart does try and reach out (shin) to Groundskeeper Willie after Homer goes crazy, to get help and Willie, of course, is killed with an axe. This begins what is the greatest Treehouse of Horror through line of any episode with Willie attempting to swoop in and save someone, and always getting murdered by taking an axe in the back (re: ‘Time and Punishment’).
There you have it folks, the ten best segments of the ‘Treehouse of Horror’ specials.
While to call The Simpsons ‘Treehouse of Horror’ scary would be a misnomer, they have always been near required viewing for the horror fan, as there are very few programs willing to put out horror parodies as consistently and successfully as The Simpsons do, and as you can see above, they are consistently at their best when poking fun at popular and/or classic horror films.
Rest assured: all of these episodes will grace our televisions throughout the rest of the month, though if you just cannot wait to catch these classic episodes, you may be able to track some down online. Plus, if after all that you are still hungry for more classic & fun Halloween specials, check out our list of some fantastic 1980s Halloween nostalgia here.
Happy Halloween, and enjoy ‘Treehouse of Horror XXV’!