The newest installment of The Simpsons’ annual horror special, “Treehouse of Horror” is set to premiere this Sunday. While the year’s special does look promising, it’s a far cry from the classic episodes we were enjoying more than two decades ago. Rather than dwell on that fact, I thought to look back and my absolute favorite segments from past Treehouse of Horror specials.
5. “The Raven” (Treehouse of Horror I)
While this was the third story in the original “Treehouse of Horror” episode, this was the segment that solidified the fact that these were going to be special. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story is a classic and The Simpsons do it perfectly. This is such a well-told, beautifully directed segment that this was actually shown in my Lit class in high school as a companion piece to the reading. It’s absolutely perfect.
4. “The Devil and Homer Simpson” (Treehouse of Horror IV)
Homer Simpson meets the Devil. We all knew it would happen sooner or later, only we didn’t expect the Devil to take the form of Ned Flanders. It’s a great turn for the usual wet blanket character, but it never seems out of place. A great court room scene with everyone from Lizzie Borden to Richard Nixon (and Lionel Hutz, always a pleasure) makes this one a memorable one.
3. “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” (Treehouse of Horror VI)
This was essentially a toss-up between this segment and “The Shinning”. For me, though, this episode perfectly matched the tongue-in-cheek humor that existed in the Freddy Krueger series, form-fitted to Groundskeeper Willie. This is a great example of the writers taking a previous idea and just making it their own. The dream sequences are fantastic, Groundskeeper Willie is creepy, and the jokes are amazing. Also, this created the month of Smarch, which deserves its own mention.
2. “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” (Treehouse of Horror III)
Before the whole zombie craze that followed The Walking Dead, The Simpsons put together one of the most pitch-perfect send-ups to the genre. It manages to tell a perfect story in such a short amount of time: Bart and Lisa raise the dead, the Simpson family battles the dead, and finally, order is restored. In the middle, we get to see what Springfield would look like in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, with cameos from some of the most famous corpses in history, who are some reason buried in Springfield. The best moment is obviously when Homer kills Flanders, before he even realizes that Flanders was a zombie.
1. “Clown Without Pity” (Treehouse of Horror III)
It’s an upset! That’s right, Treehouse of Horror III claims both the 1st and 2nd overall spots in this list, so if you were wondering my favorite of the series, wonder no longer. “Clown Without Pity” is a classic example of the Simpsons taking a Twilight Zone episode and perfectly formatting it into their own realm. A lot of people would probably pick “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” over this, but this one wins out over all others for one simple reason: the scene in the gift shop. I leave that scene below, as a perfect example of how great The Simpsons could write a scene.