“Spook Show 2019 – 03: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (2003)” by Richard F. Yates
Ah yes…The Simpsons! According to several articles I read online The Simpsons is now the longest running “scripted” television series in history. I’m pretty certain that most folks have heard of it. Bart Simpson, Homer Simpson, and “D’oh!” are part of popular culture---and I don’t THINK I need to explain who or what they are… (Am I right, still? I’m not completely current on my pop culture…but I’m pretty sure that The Simpsons is still pretty well imbedded in our society. AND, in a bit of a side note, if you haven’t been to “Springfield,” the Simpsons’ town in Universal Studios, Hollywood, it’s very cool. Definitely worth a visit. I have a few photos from our trip there last October…) I haven’t really watched any NEW episodes of The Simpsons in a few years (like 20, maybe), but the OLD episodes are some of my favorite TV programming of all time, and when it gets to be Halloween season, every year, we grab our Treehouse of Horror disc and give it a spin!
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual DVD that I watched. The image is included for review purposes only!]
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror is a compilation disc that collects four episodes of The Simpsons Halloween specials, which are called “Treehouse of Horror,” because the first Halloween special took place in a tree house, where Bart and Lisa tried to scare each other by telling spooky stories. UNFORTUNATELY, this disc does NOT include that original Halloween special (which aired in October of 1990 as the third episode of season 2!) This collection includes “Treehouse of Horror” numbers 5, 6, 7, and 12. I have no idea why the first four Halloween specials aren’t included, nor do I understand why they skipped over numbers 8, 9, 10, and 11, but decided to include number 12… There is no explanation for the omissions, and there has never been ANOTHER Treehouse of Horror compilation released with the missing episodes. (I would LOVE a COMPLETE “Treehouses of Horror” box set!!! Fox, get on this!!!)
Without dwelling too much on what ISN’T included, let’s talk about what IS on here…
For anyone who hasn’t seen a “Treehouse of Horror” episode, the creators of the show treat these as alternate universe playgrounds, frequently killing off cast members, liberally splashing blood all over the screen, and satirizing and mocking everything from advertising tropes to classic films to politics and the election process. The HORROR elements of the Treehouse episodes don’t pull punches and can often get rather gross and gruesome. (It’s all rather wonderful!)
The classic targets in the episodes collected here include movies, like The Shining, and A Nightmare on Elmstreet, 2001 – A Space Odyssey, and the Harry Potter films, as well as general jabs at such sci-fi / horror fodder as “evil twins,” “time travel,” and cannibalism. There is also the classic episode, appearing right before Bill Clinton was elected for his second term as president, in which the space aliens, Kang and Kodos, kidnap Clinton and his rival, Bob Dole, and take their places---leading to some fantastically funny political satire! In fact this entire collection is so full of fabulously funny, wicked, quotable moments, it’s tough to pick just a few to discuss. I’ll try, though…
“The Shinning,” the first story in “Treehouse of Horror V,” which kicks off this collection, is beyond brilliant. The music, the way the animators tried to make Homer mimic Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, and the hilarious but subtle jokes peppered throughout this vignette are almost unmatched, in the jokes per minute sense. As Homer is slowly chasing Marge down a hallway after she discovers his insane scribbling, (“No T.V. and no beer make Homer go crazy!”), we see a baseball bat in a glass case on the wall with the words, “Break Glass in Case of Spousal Insanity,” written across the case. It’s perfect---but only on screen for a few seconds. In another brilliant scene in this story, Groundskeeper Willy says to Bart, “Boy! You read my thoughts! You have the Shinning!” Bart says, “You mean the Shining!” And Willy quickly says, “Sshhh! You wanna get sued!” Again, this is PERFECT!
Then there’s the time travel episode, “Time and Punishment” (also from “Treehouse V”), where Homer soups-up a broken toaster and accidentally finds himself traveling to the distant past. Once there, he swats a bug, thinking that it’s just one little insect and won’t have much effect on the future---but when the toaster pops up and he’s thrown back to his house, he discovers that Ned Flanders is now the Lord and Master of the entire planet. Homer escapes the Re-Neducation camp that the family has been put in and uses the toaster to go back in time again, hopefully NOT killing the bug this time---but of course he ends up making things even worse with the second trip. This goes on over and over again, in a brilliant montage that pays homage to about a thousand classic cartoons and t.v. episodes (everything from Rocky and Bullwinkle to The Flintstones to The Twilight Zone, and so on… And, again, everything happens at lightning speed, so you have to really study the episode to catch all the weird little Easter eggs!)
Some of my favorite “Treehouse” episodes are missing from this collection, like the one where Mr. Burns is a vampire (parodying the hell out of the Gary Oldman version of Dracula), or the one where Lisa reads Poe’s poem, “The Raven”---but there are some great, funny, classic stories here, too, which my family and I have enjoyed watching, every year, since 2003 or 2004, when we first bought this disc, and with a run-time of over 90 minutes, you do get a substantial amount of entertainment for your buck. I should remind people, though, that even though these are cartoons that aired on prime-time TV, the stories DO get quite violent and gruesome. Kids are thrown into a giant blender, several axes are driven into people’s backs (Groundskeeper Willy gets THREE in one episode! One for each story…), body fluids (including vomit) are often splashed around the screen, and the body count, in general, is quite high---with primary characters, like Bart and Lisa, sometimes getting dispatched, or even splattered, before the episodes are over. These stories aren’t meant to be “canon” but work more like the old What If? comic series from Marvel, where alternate universes are posited where things aren’t quite the same as we’re used to them being and odd concepts are considered. (Like, what would happen if Homer slipped out of the cartoon universe and fell into the THIRD DIMENSION!?!?! Find out in Treehouse VI in an episode that nods at The Twilight Zone, Tron, AND Poltergeist, all at the same time!!! F.A.B.!!!)
This disc is played for laughs, but it’s also ACTUALLY horrific at the same time. If you are a Simpsons fan or someone who enjoys clever satire or you just like weird anthology stories, like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits or Tales from the Crypt or The Tales from the Darkside or Ray Bradbury Theater or One Step Beyond or Night Gallery or Creepshow or Black Mirror or… (You get the point…)...then The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror is a fun watch, and it’s old enough that you can probably find it for pretty cheap at your local pawn shop or second hand video emporium! If you can find this collection for ten bucks or so, I’d say it’s worth the dough… We like it, anyway! It’s probably not the SCARIEST thing I’ve reviewed, but definitely FUN! (And if you don’t think so, you can “Eat my shorts!” Ha!)
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
P.S. – I said I was going to include my complete Spook Show recommendations list with each Spooky review, just in case this is some reader’s first encounter with this series. Here are the films I’ve already looked at:
SPOOK SHOW 2019 Reviews!!!
SPOOK SHOW 2018 Reviews!!!
“Spook Show 2018 – 01: The Exorcist (1973)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 02: Curse of the Demon (1957)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 03: Frogs (1972)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 04: Child’s Play (1988)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 05: The Haunting (1963)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 06: Shaun of the Dead (2004)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 07: Fright Night (1985)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 08: Mr. Vampire (1985)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 09: The Devil Rides Out (1968)”
“Spook Show 2018 – 10: Ghoulies (1985)”
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!