This week hasn’t exactly been off to a great start. But, that’s all about to change, because today we’re going to be discussing a very strange and enjoyable little episode. The Simpsons has a very specific relationship with Halloween, in that every year since the Second Season we’ve enjoyed a Treehouse of Horror episode. And yet, we’ve never actually had a Halloween episode that’s been in canon, outside of the Treehouse confines. Until today! We have an honest-to-god episode all about Halloween that takes place in the normal reality of the show. And it’s a whole lot of fun.
The episode begins with the Simpsons outside of their house, setting up an incredibly elaborate set of decorations around the house. They call it Evergreen Terrors, and apparently, it’s something that they do every year, and the whole family loves it. They even make comment we’ve just missed it each year because we’re busy watching the Treehouse of Horror episodes, which they imply is just their annual tradition of going up to Bart’s treehouse and telling each other scary stories each year.
As the family is setting up their decorations though, they realize they have a slight problem on their hands. All of their plastic skeletons have melted in the garage, leaving them in a bit of a pickle. So, the family pile into Homer’s car, and head out to a pop-up Halloween store to stock back up on skeletons. And, lucky for them, Apu is running the temporary store, whipping the werido drifters who work at the store into shape to prove the people of Springfield with plastic ghosts and goblins.
Homer wanders around the pop-up store, eagerly looking at all the new decorations and costumes, when he comes across a group of singing mariachi skeletons. And, noticing that he’s interested in them, the weird drifters offer to help Homer scam Apu, and steal some of them. So, Homer accepts, but also accidentally tells Apu what’s going on. And he is not pleased. Apu ends up firing the trio of drifters, and they swear vengeance on Homer. But he doesn’t really care, and just drives of.
The family then finish off Evergreen Terrors in time for another one of their traditions. The night before Halloween Bart and Homer always go to Krustyland for a massive park-wide haunted house, and this is the first year that Lisa is old enough to come. She’s incredibly excited, and heads into the park with her dad and brother, confident that it’s not going to be too scary, and that she’s going to impress the other kids at school the next day.
However, as soon as Lisa goes into the park she realizes that she may have been a little over-confident. Because this place is no joke, and she instantly becomes overwhelmed with fear. There’s no respite from the terror, and she even gets separated from Homer and Bart, getting lost in the park. She then begins screaming, and draws the attention of the people operating the park, who have no option but to shut things down and rescue her, earning her the ire of all the other park-goers.
Even when she’s in the safety of her home though, Lisa finds that she’s still petrified with fear. She sulks around the house that night, and the next morning when Bart puts on his pirate costume and heads to school, Lisa announces she doesn’t want to wear her Frida Khalo costume. And, not just that, she has no interest in celebrating Halloween anymore. She doesn’t want to go trick-or-treating, and just wants to stay home where it’s safe and quiet.
Marge is worried about this, but tells Lisa that she may change her mind after school. So, Lisa heads to school where she’s immediately inundated with kids in costumes and rather benign decorations. But it’s too much for her. She ends up having a sort of Haunted House PTSD, and ends up becoming terrified in the school. In fact, she gets so scared that she just hides in a locker until Marge is called to bring her home.
This is a pretty big red flag for Marge, and when Homer gets home that night she suggests something a little radical. She wants to take down Evergreen Terrors and skip Halloween. Homer is horrified at that suggestion, since it’s everything he stands against. But, Marge ends up winning the debate when she shows Homer that Lisa has become so distraught that she’s found an old childhood safety toy of hers, a gross little racoon tail called Tailee. Homer realizes that his daughter is so scared she’s backslid into a more vulnerable state, and decides to agree with Marge.
Homer and Marge then take down Evergreen Terrors, much to the fury of Bart. He doesn’t give a damn about his sister being scared, and is pissed off that they’re ruining his favorite holiday for her. But, to help ease the sting of this move, Marge tells Bart that she’s going to take him out to a special block party in a ritzy part of town that night, getting him special candy and Halloween fun. And, he accepts this offer.
But this also means that Homer is going to have to stay home with Lisa that night, ignoring trick-or-treaters and just having a quiet evening at home. Lisa really appreciated it though, so Homer decides to get over himself, and just give into the peaceful night. Which is when the psychopaths show up. Those weird drifters that Homer got fired have somehow found out where Homer lives, and they ring the doorbell, promising him revenge.
Homer slams the door on them, figuring that they’re all talk, but then starts to get creeped out that these jobless weirdoes have found his home. So, he quickly runs around the house, locking all the doors and windows while trying not to panic Lisa or let her know what’s actually going on. He knows that he’s got to keep strong in front of Lisa, and does his best.
Meanwhile, Marge and Bart have arrived at the amazing block party, only to find a massive line. They wait in it forever, and when they finally get to the front they get some bad news. Only people who actually live in the neighborhood are allowed in. Marge tries to bribe the guard, but he remains resolute, so Marge has no choice but to turn around, briefly teasing Bart and Maggie with the wonderful delights of the block party, before beginning the trek back to their own neighborhood.
And things are getting much sketchier over in Evergreen Terrace. Because while Homer is trying to surreptitiously lock up the house, he realizes that he missed a window, and the weirdoes have gotten into the house. Homer still tries to keep calm, and goes to call the police, only to find that they’ve stolen his cellphone and he didn’t pay his landline bill. So, as calmly as possible, Homer convinces Lisa that they should quickly leave the house and go visit the Flanders’.
Lisa is confused, but goes through with it, and the two start heading next door. However, as they get outside Lisa realizes that she forgot Tailee, and runs back into the house, against Homer’s wishes. They both get back into the house, which is when the fog machine starts. Lisa freaks out, and the weirdos end up waltzing out of the living room, saying they’re here to beat up Homer. So, terrified, Lisa and Homer run away from the weirdoes, and end up finding refuge in the attic after they seal up the entrance.
While Homer and Lisa are staring in a home-invasion thriller, Marge, Bart, and Maggie are sadly driving back to Evergreen Terrace. Marge feels terrible that she’s stolen Halloween from Bart, and does her best to find some houses still giving out candy. But they’re too late. The streets of Springfield have changed, and are no longer kid-friendly. It’s now time to grown-up Halloween, with the adults of Springfield wandering around drunk and horny, and singing a fun little Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque song about Halloween debauchery.
And, back at the house, things are getting real. Lisa is panicking, but keeps telling herself that it’s all a joke. So, unfortunately, Homer has to tell her the truth, that this is a real thing that’s happening, and it makes sense to be scared. Lisa freaks out a bit, but when faced with reality realizes they have to come up with a plan. So, noticing that all of the decorations from Evergreen Terrors are up in the attic, Lisa devises a plan where they use them to signal the neighbors that something is amiss.
Lisa and Homer then begin taking stock of all their decorations, and all the decorations for the other holidays that are held up there, and get to work. They sneak out of a window and onto the roof of the house, where they begin setting up an elaborate light-show, complete with fireworks. Homer is doing most of the work, while Lisa is still pretty petrified with fear, but when the creeps find out how to get into the attic, she has no choice but to get onto the roof as well.
Which is when they run into another problem. It’s too windy up there, and Homer isn’t able to light a match to start the firework’s display. So, pushing through her fear, Lisa takes Tailee and makes him into a pretty effective torch, setting off the fireworks and drawing the attention of all the adults partying. They come to help, and find the criminals inside, letting Chief Wiggum arrest them. Marge and Bart then get home, and Bart is overjoyed to see everyone in town hanging out at his house, complete with Halloween decorations, and the whole town have an impromptu Halloween party, while Lisa realizes that she’s conquered her fears.
I’m about to say something I haven’t said on this site in quite a while. I loved this episode. I really can’t think of any major complaints, other than the fact that the drifters breaking into the Simpson’s house to beat up Homer and Lisa is a little too extreme. It’s just an incredibly solid episode that actually succeeded in being something I haven’t seen before. The idea of having Lisa be confronted with fear, and slide back into a more childish state, and the ramifications that that causes is really interesting, and this episode ends up becoming a very solid Homer/Lisa story. I love that Homer gives up his Halloween passion to take care of Lisa, and then is willing to deal with psychotic drifters to keep her safe and calm. Her realization that she doesn’t need to be scared of everything, but that there are still somethings in the world that you need to be scared of is a really interesting premise, and it works pretty beautifully. Lisa makes some serious growth in this episode, and it’s just delightful to see Homer being this good of a dad. The whole drifter thing gets a little crazy, but other than that this is a very grounded episode, and something that could actually happen to a normal family. It was funny, sweet, and emotional, and just a hell of an episode.
Take Away: You can’t go through life being afraid of everything. And, even when you’re put in a legitimately scary position, you can’t just fold, you need to fight back and solve things.
“Halloween of Horror” was written by Carolyn Omine and directed by Mike B Anderson, 2015.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons