Treehouse of Horror time y’all! And it’s an amazing one. These recaps are always super long, so let’s just dive right in.
The episode starts right off without anyone warning us not to watch this year, and gets right to the graveyard sequence. I think the best this time is “Subtle Political Satire,” because that sure is true. Then after the zombie couch gag we get to the frame story of the episode, which has Bart walking around a museum like Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. He starts to walk by parodies of famous paintings with Simpsons characters put in while we learn that this year all the stories will come from painting. And then Marge and Maggie pop in to give us a sneaky warning not to watch the episode. They squeezed it in! But while Bart is holding Maggie he introduces us to the first story by showing a painting of the Devil.
The Devil and Homer Simpson
The first story is a parody of the film the Devil and Daniel Webster, and it’s probably the most iconic of the three. It starts off with Homer dreaming about being in a fashion show for weird donut ladies, before he wakes up to actually eat one. Unfortunately the donut box is empty, so he runs back to his workstation to find the secret emergency donut he keeps in a hollowed out instruction manual, but it looks like he already had that idea and left a note for himself saying that he owes himself a donut, leading to the amazing Homer line of “Bastard! He’s always one step ahead of me!” Homer then makes the fatal mistake of saying that he would sell his soul for a donut, which leads Satan to show up and collect on that statement. And shocker, the Devil looks like Ned Flanders, because it’s always the person you least suspect. And man did I laugh hard at Burns watching this go down on the monitor and tell Smithers “Who is that goat-legged fellow? I like the cut of his jib.” So the Devil gives Homer a donut, and in a moment that’s a bit out of character, Homer outsmarts him by realizing that if he doesn’t finish the donut he doesn’t have to give up his soul. But Homer’s moment of intelligence is short lived, and that night he wakes up to eat his soul donut, causing the Devil to show back up and send Homer to Hell.
But before he’s taken away, the rest of the family shows up and Lisa says that he’s owed a trial. The Devil submits and decides that there will be a trial the next day, but Homer has to spend the day in Hell. We then briefly see what Hell is like as Homer gets cut up on a conveyer belt and turned into hot dog meat, and then see him get stuffed with all the donuts in the world in the ironic punishment department. But then the day is over and it’s time for the trial! Of course they hire Lionel Hutz, because they just can’t learn that lesson and he gets off to a terrible start by letting the Devil pick the jury. And man does he pick a crazy one. It consists of Benedict Arnold, Lizzy Borden, Richard Nixon (who was still alive at the time), John Wilkes Booth, Blackbeard the pirate, John Dilinger, and most baffling the starting line of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers. Marge gets everyone chairs (“This chair be high, says I) and the trial gets started. Hutz gives up very quickly, leaving Homer without representation, and he loses the case pretty fast. But right as the Grim Reaper is about to sentence him to Hell Marge shows up with a photo album. Turns out Homer gave his soul to Marge when they got married, so it’s legal property of her, not the Devil. So the Simpsons win! But because you never get one over on the Devil, he gives Homer a parting gift of turning his head into a giant donut, which he starts to eat, since he’s just so sweet and tasty.
Terror at 5 ½ Feet
The next story is introduced with a painting of a school bus, and is a parody of the wonderful Twilight Zone episode “Terror at 20,000 Feet.” It also starts off with a dream, where Bart is hanging out with Milhouse on the school bus as they look at Krusty’s lackluster trading cards. But then the bus crashes and everyone dies. Thankfully it’s a just a dream though, and everyone’s okay. Bart then goes downstairs, shaken by the dream, and then has to get right on the real school bus. Principal Skinner is on the bus with them, since apparently Agnes is punishing him for talking to a woman on the phone, which holy shit, that’s scarier than anything in the episode. The bus then gets going, and Bart quickly realizes that there is a small Gremlin crawling around the outside of the bus, dismantling it. Bart runs up to Otto to warn him of the Gremlin on the side of the bus, which causes Otto to ram Hans Moleman’s AMC Gremlin off the road, which gingerly touches a tree and explodes. Bart quickly goes crazy and starts demanding that everyone look at the Gremlin, while no one else seems to see it. We then get our obligatory Kang and Kodos cameo, who are apparently just watching Bart’s pain while mocking him, before realizing their space ship has a Gremlin as well. But back on Earth, Bart has really started to go crazy as the Gremlin begins taking off the wheel, which leads to him being tied up with Uter the German exchange student. Bart befriends Uter by eating his crazy iodine candy, and gets him to untie him so that he can continue attacking the Gremlin. Once untied, he grabs some flares that Jimbo has stuffed in Martin’s pants, and opens the bus window, which depressurizes the bus. He waves the flare at the Gremlin, causing it to fall off the bus, saving everyone. We then see Ned Flanders pull over and save the Gremlin, as it tries to claw his eyes out. But as the school bus finally gets to school and Bart is carted off to a “madhouse” they realize that the bus is destroyed, and the Gremlin was real. The episode then ends with the wonderful joke of Bart all tied up in the back of an ambulance before seeing the Gremlin pop up and show Bart Flanders’ severed head.
Bart Simpsons’ Dracula
The last story at first begins by Bart showing up the painting of dogs playing poker, before explaining that the story they wrote about that painting was too horrifying to show, so they just threw something together with vampires, and the last segment begins. It’s just a Dracula story, but one that specifically borrows from the version Francis Ford Coppola directed, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It starts off with the family watching Kent Brockman report about a blood-drained peasant that was found with a black cape monogrammed Dracula, and how they’re completely baffled. We then see that Wiggum thinks it’s a mummy, while having his men destroy the Egyptology section of the museum. Lisa announces it’s obviously a vampire, but Homer mocks her by saying that vampires are fake like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos. We then learn that Mr. Burns has recently bought the Springfield Blood Bank, and has invited the family to a midnight dinner at his new castle in Pennsylvania! Which has always made me laugh, and has forever ruined my mind from taking that state’s name seriously. So they get to his crazy castle, and see that Burns is rocking the ridiculous Dracula costume Gary Oldman wore in that movie with the red capes and man-bun, and that Smithers is of course Renfield. And man is it great the Burns’ shadow plays with a yo-yo while he talks to them. So the Simpsons get ready for dinner and are served blood to drink, I’m sorry, free blood. Lisa freaks out and makes an excuse for her and Bart to sneak off and find evidence that Burns is a vampire. They start looking for his secret room, and accidently pull down a torch sconce, while reveals a hidden laundry room behind a brick wall, which is amazing to me. One of my ridiculous dreams has always been to have a room that’s hidden by a bookcase door in my house, even if that hidden room is something mundane like a bathroom, and this gag may be the impetus of that stupid dream. But anyway, right after the kids find the laundry room they come across a neon sign labeling the “Secret Vampire Room.” So they go down the steps and find a room full of coffins and a pedestal with a book called “Yes I am a Vampire,” written by Mr. Burns, with a forward by Steve Allen. But right then the coffins open and the vampires inside attack, causing the kids to run back up the stairs. Unfortunately when Bart gets to the top he finds a lever with a sign that says “Super Fun Happy Slide,” which he pull, causing him to slide back to the vampires just in time to get bitten by Burns. So Bart’s a vampire now, and he starts trying to get Lisa to turn as well, since he made most of the kids in the neighborhood vampires too. But as he tries to bite Lisa Homer, Marge, and Grandpa come in while Grandpa announces they need to kill Bart, without realizing he’s a vampire. Bart gets away and Lisa decides they need to kill the head vampire. So Lisa, Homer, Marge, and Maggie head back to Burns’ castle to kill him, and get down to the crypt pretty easily. Homer then stakes Burns in the crotch before correcting to the heart, killing the vampire. The family then come back home to have breakfast, while Lisa thinks they’re over the ordeal. But then it turns out everyone else is still a vampire, because Burns wasn’t the alpha, it was actually Marge. The episode then ends in one of the most baffling ending ever as the vampire family lunge at Lisa before breaking into the Peanuts Christmas song while snowflakes fall and Milhouse plays a tiny piano. It’s so weird and wonderful.
This is such an amazing episode. It’s still not my favorite Treehouse of Horror, that’ll be next time, but this is probably second. It’s so wonderful. All three stories are great and are just firing on all cylinders. They’re all three wonderful parodies of great stories, and work perfectly as Treehouse of Horror segments. We get a lot of great character moments and some really classic jokes. It’s just A+ work all around.
Take Away: The Devil cheats, don’t drive AMC Gremlins, and never turn down free blood.
“Treehouse of Horror IV” was written by Conan O’Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, and Bill Canterbury, and directed by David Silverman, 1993.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons