Oh man. Halloween episode! I love these so much. I mentioned in my intro post that the first episode of the Simpsons I ever watched was a Halloween one, and I’ve always had a deep affection for them. I feel like it’s going to be a little hard to discuss these episodes, since they’re mostly jokes, not really any plots, and generally nothing to relate to. But let’s give it a shot. I love that right from the beginning you can tell that this episode is something different. Instead of the regular opening we go straight to Marge walking out onto a stage to tell us not to watch the episode. I miss some of the old tropes of the Halloween episodes that eventually fell out of use, the weird openings with Marge telling us the episode is too scary among them. We then see that the episode is apparently called “the Simpsons Halloween Special,” and we get a couple jokey tombstones. Then we get to the real thing that I miss from the first few Halloween episodes, the frame story. They quickly just made the Halloween episodes three disparate stories with nothing linking them, and I really miss some semblance of a plot. And this was probably the strongest. The kids are sitting up in Bart’s treehouse, telling ghost stories while Homer sits outside eavesdropping.
Bad Dream House
This first Treehouse of Horror set up the structure of the specials nicely, namely that they’re pretty much all parodies of Twilight Zones, Out Limits, and classic horror movies. And we start off with a parody of the Amiteeville Horror. The Simpsons have bought a mansion, and are in the process of moving in, but unfortunately the mansion is haunted. The books start repacking themselves, they hear disembodied voices telling them to get out, and the walls bleed. I love that Marge doesn’t notice the walls bleeding, but does notice the mysterious vortex in the kitchen. Of course when they see a strange portal in the wall, Homer decides to throw an orange into it, which is responded with a letter telling him to stop throwing their trash into their dimension. The family decides to leave the house, but Homer insists that everything will be okay, even when the spirits lift him to the ceiling and drop him. That night they’re all woken up by voices telling them to kill themselves. I love that Bart assumes the voice that tells him to kill his family is his conscience. So they all get knives and attack each other, except for Marge whose unaffected for some reason. She snaps them out of it and they find out that the reason they’re dealing with ghosts is the fact that the house was built on an Indian burial ground. Homer calls the realtor, pissed off, only to find that apparently he mentioned the ghosts five or six times. They decide that the only thing they can do is to just live with the house, but when they give it the ultimatum of living with them, the house decides it would rather destroy itself.
Hungry Are the Damned
Next up we get a parody of the classic Twilight Zone episode, To Serve Man. The family is out enjoying a barbeque while Homer sprays a ridiculous amount of lighter fluid into the grill. My wife and I recently got a charcoal grill, and the first time we used it, I got a serious flashback to this scene, hoping for a less disastrous fire ball as a result. But as Homer books their burgers, a flying saucer shows up. Homer’s the last to even realize that aliens have shown up, and the saucer begins beaming them up. I love the joke that Homer requires two tractor beams. Once they’re up, they meet Kang and Kodos, two of my favorite characters in all of the Simpsons. We also learn that apparently English and Rigilian is virtually the same language, yet to pronounce the cooks name they would need to pull out their tongues. While on board the ship the Simpsons get to eat their favorite food, watch thousands of channels of TV (except no HBO, that would cost extra) and they even get to use their advanced technology to play Pong. Lisa begins to feel suspicious of the aliens, because they’re pretty obviously trying to eat them. While snooping, she finds a cook book, “How to Cook Humans!” Dun dun DUUUN! But the book turns out to be incredibly dusty, and after some arguing and blowing, it turns out the book is actually called “How to Cook for Forty Humans,” and there was nothing nefarious going on at all, they just really wanted to pamper them, and treat them like gods, but their suspicions ruined it all, so they’re brought back to Earth and are abandoned.
The final story of this special is probably the best, which isn’t to say the others aren’t good. They’re all great, but there’s something about their version of the Raven that I really love. It’s just an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem. And it’s amazing. There’s not a lot to say about this one. It’s really just the Raven. There’s some amazing voice acting from Dan Castellaneta as Homer. His line readings are just perfect. Having Bart be the Raven was a good choice, and let to the great line “quoth the Raven, Eat my shorts.” There’s also a great joke of the Raven-Bart dropping copies of Edgar Allen Poe’s other books on Homer. True story, in seventh grade when we talked about Poe in English, I got my teacher to play this segment for the class. It’s not the entirety of the poem, but it’s most of it, and it’s a really fun adaptation.
After the Raven, the kids are sitting in the treehouse, and have decided that none of their stories were scary, so they’re just going to go to bed. Homer had a different opinion though, and since he’s been listening he’s not terrified, and goes to bed wishing that he could keep the lights on. And they close with a great “spooky” rendition of the theme. It was a great episode, like pretty much all of the Treehouse of Horror ones are. It was a great first Halloween special and set up the structure for years to come. Yeah there’s some stuff that they eventually dropped, that I wish the hadn’t, but it’s pretty much the same kind of episode that they’d be doing for the next 24 years. It’s great.
Take Away: Don’t buy haunted mansions, trust aliens are telling you the truth, and the Raven is awesome.
“Treehouse of Horror” was written by Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, John Swartzwelder, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sam Simon and was directed by David Silverman, Rich Moore, and Wes Archer
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons