Tonight is a landmark in one of the longest running animated series on American television as The Simpsons reach their 600th episode. But not only that, it’s also their traditional Halloween episode as well, Treehouse of Horror XXVII! In honor of this event, rather than going over the top Treehouse episodes like many have done in the past, I thought it would be best to look over some of The Simpsons‘ scariest regular episodes and moments!
BOYSCOUTZ ‘N THE HOOD
When Bart goes on a sugary squishee bender, he wakes up to find he’s joined “The Junior Campers”, headed by Ned Flanders! But, he actually starts to learn some valuable lessons about the outdoors and survival tactics. Then comes the Father-Son Rafting trip. Due to Homer’s carelessness, their team ends up separated from the main group (Including celebrity guest, Ernest Borgnine!) and lost at sea. Seeing Homer, Ned, and their boys reduced to starvation and despair at sea is unsettling enough, but the misadventure of Ernest Borgnine was borderline disturbing. First, the main rafting team rides through a wooded area with strange chuckling and Deliverance style banjo strumming. Then Borgnine and some kids are attacked by a bear, with the Devil’s Rain star defenseless because Homer lifted his knife. They’re last seen at an “abandoned campsite” they were fortunate enough to find ,and decide to sing a song around the campfire. Until that iconic theme of a certain hockey masked psycho plays, and everyone gives a terrified scream as Ernest is attacked by an unseen stalker… and that’s how the episode ends!
ITCHY AND SCRATCHY LAND
In a take-off of Michael Crichton’s Westworld, and the then newly released Jurassic Park, The Simpsons take a vacation to an Itchy And Scratchy theme park filed to the brim with animatronic Itchys and Scratchys that are programmed only to harm each other for visitor’s amusement… until chaos theory kicks in, of course. Even though the family manage to come up on top, it was a little unsettling to see them menaced by an army of blood spurting, axe wielding robots. Other highlights include the futuristic amusement park prison, a bird sanctuary under siege by a bunch of angry birds, and a surrealist moment when it appears that The Simpsons have died in a car wreck! “I’m glad that wasn’t us.”
HOMER VS PATTY AND SELMA
More a creepy moment in an otherwise tame episode… though oddly stemming from Halloween. When it’s revealed that Homer blew the family’s savings on pumpkin futures past October, he has to take a loan from Patty and Selma. Needing more money to pay them back, an ad comes on TV for limousine driving. Homer thanks Lisa for turning on the TV…but she never did. When he asks her to turn it off, it already is. The X-Files themes plays. Really weird. Also, an appearance by Mel Brooks and Homer’s thoughts on Young Frankenstein! “Scared the hell outta me!”
LISA’S FIRST WORD
A flashback episode into the history of the Simpson’s family, with Bart and Lisa’s coming of age. Mainly for Bart, the nightmares of childhood. Most infamously, when Homer builds a clown-like bed for Bart due to his love of Krusty The Clown. The results are… horrific. With Bart imagining the clown headboard threatening to eat his soul! Giving the the world that historic mantra “Can’t sleep. Clown will eat me.” Other highlights include Bart’s bizarre encounter with the extremely confused Grandmother Flanders. “Hello, Joe!”
THE SPRINGFIELD FILES
One of the few, and most lauded crossovers in the animated series also has one of its most creepiest tales. When Homer, walking home one Friday night from a bender, seems to make contact with a glowing alien being, he catches the attention of Mulder and Scully themselves! Though it just turns out to be an irradiated/doped up Mr. Burns, it’s still a strange story. Especially in the original version, where the alien would have still remained a mystery. Highlights include Homer so freaked out by the alien that he spells out his exclaimed “YAHH!” in the surrounding grass, hypnotizing Muder and Scully with his jiggling fat, and Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of… style framing.
BROTHER FROM THE SAME PLANET
Homer forgets to pick up Bart from Soccer practice. And things get a little intense. Bringing us two animated examples of nightmare fuel to come from the beloved series. In one instance, Homer dreaming about picking up Bart and only finding his desiccated skeleton. And upon picking up the agitated boy and spilling ice cream on him, Bart imagines his flesh burning off in a grotesque display! Other highlights include Bart using a “Shinning” of sorts to try and get Milhouse to tell someone to “Pick up Bart!”
The turning point int he dance of death between thespian psychopath Sideshow Bob, and Bart Simpson. Namely, Bart being sent a series of letters threatening his life, written in blood! Not knowing the culprit at first, he suspects everyone from his mom, Ned Flanders, to his teacher. And when Bob gets revealed, it’s enough for the family to go into witness protection at Terror Lake under the name, “The Thompsons.” Only for Bob to follow and attempt machete laden vengeance! Despite a lot of slapstick, including the classic ‘rake’ bit, there was some genuine suspense as Bob stalked and threatened to gut Bart. Other highlights include Bob staying at the Bates Motel, everything Cape Fear related, and Homer trying to give a shaken Bart a brownie before bed with a butcher knife followed by his chainsaw and hockey mask!
BART OF DARKNESS
When Bart breaks his leg during a Summer pool mishap, it leaves the poor kid stuck in his room with a telescope and witness to a murder seemingly committed by Ned Flanders! A clear Rear Window riff, it does manage to capture a lot of the tension from the original story, especially when Ned returns home while Lisa’s investigating, holding an axe! Other highlights include Bart’s solitude induced madness and Homer thinking he’s been attacked by The Blob when it turns out to be algae.
One of the more intense one-shot episodes, that asks a very simple question: what happens when a normal guy is introduced to the wacky world of Homer Simpson? Evidently, not much good when Homer meets his eternal foe, Frank Grimes. A hard worker who has led a hard life, Frank is hired to the nuclear power plant and is immediately disgusted by Homer’s laziness, gluttony, and sheer stupidity that should have killed him years ago. Compounded by the fact that despite this, Homer is a successful family man who has been to space and met all kinds of celebrities. Frank’s plan to make Homer look like an idiot by entering him in a Nuclear Plant model competition for kids backfires when Homer not only wins, but gets applauded by his peers. This causes Frank to snap, attempting to be as reckless and stupid as Homer to win people’s approval, including handling high voltage wires… Hence the last scene being his funeral, where a sleeping Homer tells Reverend Lovejoy to change the channel. The attendees laughing along as Frank is lowered into his grave. Go figure.
HALLOWEEN OF HORROR
The most recent entry, and the only mainstream Simpsons episode to take place explicitly on and around Halloween. When Lisa is left traumatized by ‘Halloween Horror Night’ at Krustyland, Homer keeps an eye on her at home while Marge, Bart, and Maggie go trick or treating. Unfortunately, Homer pissed off a trio of Halloween store clerks (Including guests Nick Kroll and Blake Anderson!) by accidentally getting them fired for under the table decoration deals, and now they want revenge! The story evokes numerous home-invasion movies like You’re Next, and The Strangers, but with Homer’s styled ineptitude. Highlights include ‘Adult Halloween’ after dark, multiple humming of the Halloween theme, and Homer having a heart to heart with Lisa about fear.