I’m sure I’ve mentioned it in my past articles but another one of my all-time favorite television shows is The Simpsons. With such amazing characters and incredibly witty writing, there is very little in TV history that could rival the animated program’s first 10 seasons. I have so many fond memories growing up and being glued to the tube every Sunday night at 8 pm for a brand new episode and every weekday at 7 pm (after I finished my homework of course) for a classic rerun. There wasn’t a single show I looked forward to more.
Every Halloween season, the cartoon would run three spooky tales over the course of one episode dubbing it Treehouse of Horror. The series derives its name from the treehouse Bart Simpson had in the Simpsons’ backyard and the House of Horror sector of New Line Cinema, which includes titles affiliated with slasher icons Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and many more. These segments are typically brilliant parodies of different horror, mystery, or science fiction work. Treehouse of Horror are staples of every season of the Simpsons and new ones are still being produced today. Just in time for Halloween, let’s review the best episodes that spawned off out of the frighteningly hilarious serial.
Treehouse of Horror III
(Season 4. Original airdate: October 29th, 1992)
This is the very first Treehouse of Horror I remember watching as a kid. This episode opens with a masterful silhouette of Homer Simpson which pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Homer goes on to warn the audience about the scary content of the program.
After the intro, the children of Springfield attending a Halloween party in the Simpson home. Despite Bart donning a pretty amazing Alex DeLarge costume, the kids grow restless. They begin to tell scary stories to spark up the evening. Up first is Lisa:
Homer embarrassingly forgets Bart’s birthday and immediately rushes out to buy him a gift. He, for some reason, stops at a gift shop specializing in cursed items and picks up an innocent looking doll of Bart’s hero, Krusty the Clown, that talks. Despite the shop owner’s warning to Homer of the curse that lies within the doll (and his free frogurt), he goes ahead with the purchase. Bart immediately falls in love with the present.
Unfortunately for Homer, the doll threatens to kill him when no one is looking. Krusty stalks him in his most private moments wielding a butcher knife and is hellbent on ending him for good.
I had a really bad clown phobia when I was much younger that only got worse after watching the campy horror flick, Killer Klowns From Outer Space so watching this segment wasn’t easy for me as a kid, especially since Krusty was normally such a lighthearted, funny character. Pretty awesome in retrospect though, especially the part where Homer tries to suffocate Krusty with his dirty laundry!
Grandpa Abe Simpson is up next chronicling the events portrayed in the classic 1933 film, King Kong, with Simpson characters in place. Homer plays the giant ape while Marge plays the Ann Darrow role. Standard retelling that is played for more comedy such as King Homer being more dimwitted like the actual character of Homer himself. Best part is the ending with him eating Marge’s father at their wedding. She doesn’t even bat an eyelash!
After Bart and Lisa unknowingly cast a spell that awakens the deceased, Springfield is overrun with a zombie infestation and it’s up to the Simpsons to stop them.
This segment had the first Simpsons quote I ever remembered and repeated in public with my siblings. Hell, in college, me and my buddies would often quote this episode while hanging out in the halls before class:
“Dad, you killed Zombie Flanders!”
“…he was a zombie?”
“Dad! Dad! We did something really bad!”
“Did you wreck the car?”
“Did you raise the dead?”
“Oh, so the car’s fine, right?”
Treehouse of Horror IV
(Season 5. Original airdate: October 28th, 1993)
This edition is prefaced by a homage to the post-Twilight Zone anthology series, Night Gallery. Here, Bart assumes the Rod Sterling role and goes around analyzing various paintings and introducing each segment.
Craving a doughnut very badly, Homer loudly proclaims that he’d sell his soul for the breakfast favorite. This causes the Devil himself (resembling Homer’s Jesus-loving neighbor, Ned Flanders) to appear and make a deal with Homer that if he eats the doughnut that he gives him, he will own his soul. Homer thinks one step ahead of the devil and devours the treat leaving one tiny bite. Late one night, a groggy Homer accidentally eats the last piece and is sent to hell to await trial in order to clear his name.
Hilarity ensues when the chosen jury is made up of some of the worst human beings in American history such as Benedict Arnold, John Wilkes Booth, and John Dillinger. I can never get enough of Homer not budging when being force fed doughnuts.
We finally get a tribute to the Twilight Zone. An innocent ride on the school bus turns into a nightmare when Bart spots a gremlin trying to run the vehicle off the road. No one believes him making him increasingly panicked as he scrambles to find a way to save all the children. He is sent to a mental hospital at the conclusion for his efforts. That ending visual of the gremlin holding the severed head of Flanders is one that never left me as a child. And they say the Simpsons could never be dark!
This is pretty much a flawless satire of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet putting a bus in place of a plane and Bart in place of William Shatner.
It’s worth noting that before the next short is introduced, Bart unveils to the audience the famous C.M. Coolidge painting, A Friend in Need, which depicts dogs playing poker. Homer unexpectedly shows up and frighteningly proclaims, “THEY’RE DOGS AND THEY’RE PLAYING POKER!” before screaming maniacally. To this day, I think of this scene every time I glance at one of those drawings.
In this re-imagining of the classic Bram Stoker novel (and influenced by the 1992 Coppola film), Mr. Burns is a vampire and after inviting the Simpsons over for an innocent dinner, bites Bart, turning him into one of his own. After racking up several victims, Homer, Lisa, and Marge break into the Burns mansion to kill him and revert his prey back to normal.
This story is memorable for one thing: SUPER FUN HAPPY SLIDE!
Like any kid my age, I was constantly jumping up and down on beds and couches. I made a sign out of loose leaf paper and crayon reading “Super Fun Happy Slide” and taped it to the wall above my living room couch and would always read it as such before taking a dive. That’s how much this segment had an impact on me.
Treehouse of Horror V
(Season 6. Original airdate: October 30th, 1994)
One of the best parodies in the entire series. Simpsons creator Matt Groening salutes The Jack Nicholson-starring, Stanley Kubrick horror classic. Bart plays the role of young Danny and develops the power to read minds which Groundskeeper Willie (assuming the role of Dick Hallorann) dubs “the shinning.” Bart corrects him by calling it by its rightful name, “the shining.” This in turn produces a hilarious line as Willie snaps back at Bart, “do you wanna get sued?”
During a trip to Mr. Burns’ residence, Homer (as Jack Torrence) starts to go a little mad with the lack of beer and television. I’m sure we can all recite the timeless line: “No beer and no TV make Homer go crazy” and “urge to kill: rising”
It’s pretty entertaining watching Willie die every time it looks like he’s going to save the day. Double points for the absolutely outrageous parody of the famous “HERE’S JOHNNY!” scene.
Homer accidentally creates a time machine with a broken toaster and transports through different periods of time, ignoring the general law that anything you do in the past affects the future. Homer then must travel all through time to get his family and his life back to normal. Funniest part is Homer seemingly returning to the present before realizing doughnuts were never invented. As he hops back into his time machine, doughnuts start hailing from the sky to which Marge proclaims, “it’s raining again.”
Cameos of Mr. Peabody and Sherman take place with Sherman being told “quiet you!” by Mr. Peabody after making a point. Because of this, whenever I want someone to shut the hell up, I always tell them “quiet you!”
The population of Springfield elementary school is growing so as a way to avoid overcrowding, students are being grinded up and fed as cafeteria meat… but not just any students, BAD ones! The cannibalistic teachers prey on the overfed which worries Lisa and Bart who must find a way to escape their clutches.
This short was the one where I remembered Uter (the German exchange student who also appeared in “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet”). What a funny name! I could say it all day long (but I won’t).
Treehouse of Horror VI
(Season 7. Original airdate: October 29th, 1995)
We witness another tale triggered by Homer’s favorite food, doughnuts. In this satire of monster films such as Godzilla, Homer acquires a huge metal doughnut promoting a new doughnut shop in town as revenge for being a victim of their phoney new promotion. The statue that is was attached to then comes alive to wreak havoc on Springfield.
In an excellent commentary, Lisa, in an attempt to stop the mayhem learns that advertising goes away when you stop paying attention to it. The residents of Springfield follow suit before Homer gives the doughnut back, ending the madness.
The statue bears a resemblance to the mascot of Big Boy:
I’m sure you can guess what this one is about just from reading the title. Groundskeeper Willie plays the role of Freddy Krueger as he preys on the Springfield children in their dreams. When the parents rebel and kill him, Willie vows revenge. It was pretty screwed up seeing the class brain, Martin Prince dead on a gurney but is instantly saved with Maggie saving the day.
A pretty mind-blowing and innovative episode at the time. Homer tries to hide to avoid interacting with Marge’s sisters, Patty and Selma, and while doing so, discovers a portal to another world where he’s portrayed in 3D to the viewers. Groundbreaking 3D rendering techniques are used in this episodes and is the only Simpsons episode to date that that puts one of their characters into the real world.
Eventually, Homer accidentally destroys the three-dimensional universe and is brought down into the real world. It was hilarious seeing the real-life actors awkwardly looking at scared Homer who tries to find his way.
This was pretty cool to see for the first time as a child. Nothing like this was on television at the time so of course one of the best shows on TV experimented and it payed off in spades.
Well there you have it, if you’ve never seen an episode of Treehouse of Horror or hell, any episode of the Simpsons in general then go out and seek them immediately! Have a happy and safe Halloween!