We’re now a week deep into October and you know what that means, Halloween is coming! Every Simpsons fan also knows it’s time for a new “Treehouse of Horror” episode to air. Here are five classic “Treehouse of Horror” segments, which undoubtedly show clever Simpsons writing in its prime, and parody some of the best TV and film from the past fifty years.
A homage to the classic “Living Doll” Twilight Zone episode, “Clown Without Pity,” is the first scary story told by Lisa during the Halloween party. In it, Homer forgets to buy Bart a birthday present and so runs down to the local House of Evil shop. He returns with a Talking Krusty Doll that’s determined to kill him, until it’s discovered the doll’s personality switch is set to ‘evil.’
Why it’s a classic: There are a number of hilarious cultural references in this segment. From the Gremlins inspired House of Evil part: “We sell forbidden objects from places men fear to tread. We also sell frozen yogurt, which I call frogurt.” An early admittance of Aunt Patty’s lesbianism when Homer streaks across the kitchen: “There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality.” And, of course, the bottomless pit that throws back Whoopi Goldberg’s unwanted nude photos.
This particular “Treehouse of Horror” segment is a throwback to the 1941 film, The Devil and Daniel Webster. Homer sells his soul for a doughnut and is sent to hell by The Devil (Flanders) while he awaits trial. Marge saves the day by showing the murderous Jury of the Damned a photo with an inscription by Homer that proves his soul already belonged to her.
Why it’s a classic: Both Mr. Burns and Bart are shown to have a preexisting relationship with the devil. There’s also an endless array of doughnut jokes including turning Homer’s head into a doughnut while the entire police force waits outside with cups of coffee: “Don’t worry boys he’s gotta come out of there sometime.”
Even if you’ve never watched Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining in its entirety (get on that, by the way), the film has become so ingrained in popular culture, most people get the reference. “The Shinning” is a full spoof of The Shining with Homer’s murderous madness caused by a lack of TV and beer rather than the influence of supernatural entities.
Why it’s a classic: It parodies some of the best moments from The Shining including the typewriter scene, “Here’s Johnny” scene, and the film’s ending. There are some really funny one-liners when Homer is locked in the pantry, “Can’t murder now. Eating,” and when he finds the portable TV, “Urge to kill fading…rising…fading…gone.”
While hiding from Marge’s sisters, Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles on another dimension where everything is 3D. Although his family, and various members of the community, try to get him out, the dimension eventually collapses on itself , sucking him into a black hole. While Homer mentions his surrounding are Tron-like, the premise of the story references The Poltergeist (1982) and the Twilight Zone episode “Little Girl Lost.”
Why it’s a classic: This was the first Simpson’s episode to use computer animation and have an appearance in the real world. There’s a lot of self-awareness including Homer commenting on how expensive everything looks and then proceeding to burp loudly. There are also tons of Easter eggs relating to math and the history of computer animation within Homer’s 3D world. Plus, we can’t forget the “Did anyone see the movie Tron?” bit where none of the characters admit to seeing it.
Recurring “Treehouse of Horror” characters, Kang and Kodos, abduct President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole during the 1996 presidential election. After posing as the politicians, the two tentacled space aliens successfully infiltrate American politics and enslave the human race.
Why it’s a classic: It’s political satire at its best. No one suspects the candidates are actually aliens despite their change in voice and focus on world domination. The writers constantly remind the audience of the absurdity of American politics as with Kang’s speech, “It’s a two-party system — you have to vote for one of us” and the “twirling towards freedom” bit.
What are some of your favorite pre-2000 Treehouse of Horror segments? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credits: 20th Century Fox