Specializing in parodies of just about everything from The Twilight Zone to I Know What You Did Last Summer and mocking cultural references from the US presidential elections to the Millennium, the Simpsons’ annual Halloween special ‘Treehouse of Horror’ has become just as much a part of Halloween as tooth-rotting treats and cheesy slasher movies.
Beginning in 1990 as three segments of ghost stories told by Bart and Lisa in their treehouse on Halloween night, ‘Treehouse of Horror’ quickly became a cultural phenomenon. After over 20 years running it’s tough to pick favorites, but we gotta admit that the series hasn’t been the same since its heyday in the ’90s. Here are Awesome Art‘s Top Ten ‘Treehouse of Horror’ segments.
10. The HΩmega Man (Treehouse of Horror VIII, series 9, 1997)
Back before apocalyptic zombie movies were a dime a dozen, the Simpsons had a go at envisioning a world where Homer is the last man alive after a nuclear bomb hits… but he’s not alone. After briefly mourning his family (and his television) Homer frolics naked in the church (Isn’t that what everyone would do first?) and comes face-to-face with a horde of mutated zombies who want to make him one of THEM.
9. Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die (TOH X, series 11, 1999)
Remember the universal panic over the Millennium? Computers would fail, gadgets would explode, planes would fall out of the sky? Seems ridiculous 12 years on, but this segment sees the Simpsons exploring the once topical panic of December 31st 1999. Naturally, the world falls apart as soon as the clock strikes 12, but Lisa and Marge manage to escape on a rocket ship bringing the world’s best and brightest to a new civilisation. Bart and Homer, on the other hand, end up on a rocket with the world’s losers (including Courtney Love and Tom Arnold) headed straight for the sun.
8. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (TOH IV, series 5, 1993)
When a series of vampire killings hits Springfield, nobody believes Lisa when she claims that Mr Burns is the culprit (even though he’s just bought the Springfield blood bank and lives in a mysterious gothic castle in the dreaded Pennsylvania), so when the Simpsons visit his castle for dinner, it’s up to Lisa to make sure that they aren’t the ones on the plates.
7. Nightmare On Evergreen Terrace (TOH VI, series 7, 1995)
Groundskeeper Willie plays a ghoul seeking revenge on Springfield’s parents after he is killed in a furnace explosion during a PTA meeting (thanks to Homer turning the heat up too high). In this parody of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Willie gets his revenge by slaughtering Springfield’s kiddies in their sleep. A Looney Tunes-style opening sketch, Martin’s untimely death and that lousy Smarch weather… this is pure Simpsons humour at its best.
6. Nightmare Cafeteria (TOH V, series 6, 1994)
Another childhood nightmare scenario and certainly one of the bloodiest TOHs, ‘Nightmare Cafeteria’ sees Springfield Elementary facing two problems: an overcrowded detention hall and budget cuts resulting in school dinners made from ‘Grade F’ meat. The solution to both problems? Serve up the naughty school kids for lunch. Üterbraten, anyone? How about a Sloppy Jimbo?
5. The Raven (TOH I, series 2, 1990)
An entirely different segment from the rest but easily the most well-known, ‘The Raven’ takes Edgar Allen Poe’s classic narrative and sees Homer recounting it word-for-word in a visually enchanting piece that includes Bart cast perfectly as the pesky Raven.
4. Clown Without Pity (TOH III, series 4, 1992)
Let’s face it, everyone’s scared of clowns. And creepy dolls, everyone’s scared of those too. Put them together and you’ve got a nightmare on your hands. Especially when the doll’s switch is set to ‘evil’ and it comes with a free cursed Frogurt.
3. The Devil And Homer Simpson (TOH IV, series 5, 1993)
“So you like donuts, eh?”
“Well, have all the donuts in the world!”
Homer’s gluttony lands him in hot water when he sells his soul to the devil for a donut. Undoubtedly one of the funniest TOH segments, from Ned Flanders as the devil to the ‘jury of the damned’ that includes Lizzie Borden and Blackbeard the pirate, while the iconic ironic scene of Homer being force-fed donuts in Hell remains one of the best moments in Simpsons history.
2. The Shinning (TOH V, series 6, 1994)
“No TV and no beer make Homer… something something…”
Some of the best lines in Simpsons history come from this flawless parody of The Shining that includes perfect casting (Moe as the bartender, Mr Burns as the hotel owner, Willie as the psychic hotel staff member), key moments from the film given a Simpsons makeover (a bumbling Homer recreating the ‘Heere’s Johnny’ moment to an empty room) and proof that television’s “warming glowing warming glow” will always save the day.
1. Time And Punishment (TOH V, series 6, 1994)
‘The Shinning’ may take the top spot on most lists, but I have to admit that I’m more fond of this one (although technically they are both part of the same episode. Hooray!). The moral of the story? Don’t squish prehistoric bugs if you accidentally travel back in time through a magical toaster. As is the case in most TOHs, Homer’s clumsiness gets the better of him when he does exactly this, and ends up repeatedly traveling back in time to try to undo his messes. The worst alternative universe that he inadvertently creates? A world where Ned Flanders is the unquestioned Lord and master of the earth.
What’s your favourite ‘Treehouse of Horror’ story?