For 31 Days of Halloween this year, Dan Aquino will be reviewing a staple of October TV of the past few decades: The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror Halloween Special. Here’s Treehouse of Horror III from Season 4.
The Simpsons are hosting a Halloween party for the local kids, with Marge bringing out ordinary kitchen items and passing them off as body parts (brains, eyes, etc.) to scare the kids. After Homer eats all of the food, it’s up to Bart, Lisa, and Grandpa to save the party with scary stories.
Clown Without Pity
Oh man is this one ever sweet. Homer forgets to buy Bart a birthday present and runs out to a local shop, aptly named House of Evil. In the shop he finds a Krusty doll and decides to buy it but the clerk issues a grave warning about the doll being cursed. The doll does the trick as Bart loves it, but soon after it starts to try and kill Homer. None of the family members believe Homer when he tells them until one day Marge comes home and sees the doll trying to drown Homer. She calls the doll manufacturer who sends over a worker and claims the reason why the doll is trying to kill Homer is because someone left it switched on “Evil” mode. Once that’s fixed we cut to Homer bossing around the Krusty doll and then Krusty going home to a Malibu Stacey and complaining about working for Homer.
This might have my favorite back-and-forth dialogue in any Simpson’s episode ever. The shop clerk warning Homer about the doll and then saying it comes with a free Frogurt is absolutely classic. Growing up and seeing this segment, I always thought it was based on Childs Play what with a murdering doll and all. I was surprised to find out it’s actually based on a Twilight Zone episode titled “Living Doll” which pretty much hits the nail on the head. You also have a Gremlins reference thrown in there with the House of Evil and the old Asian man telling the buyer to beware of his purchase for his son.
Owner: “Take this object, but beware! It carries a terrible curse.
Homer: “Ohh, that’s bad…”
Owner: “But it comes with a free Frogurt!”
Homer: “That’s good!”
Owner: “The Frogurt is also cursed.”
Homer: “That’s bad”
Owner: “But you get your choice of topping!”
Homer: “That’s good!”
Owner: “The toppings contain Potassium Benzoate…that’s bad.”
Homer: “Can I go now?”
Based on one of my all-time favorite movies ever, the 1933 classic King Kong, this segment shows us what Homer would look like as the giant ape. It follows the same beats as the movie it parodies, with Mr. Burns venturing to Ape Island instead of Skull Island and sacrifices Marge to King Homer. Homer falls in love with Marge and is eventually captured and brought to Manhattan to be a part of a big show. There, he escapes and goes on a rampage where he eventually tries to scale the Empire State Building, but only makes it a story or two high before becoming exhausted and collapsing. At the end of the segment, Marge ends up marrying King Homer and they have a big wedding to celebrate.
One of the reasons why I enjoy this segment so much is because the writers take some pretty classic shots from the movie and put them into the show. The scene where King Homer comes crashing out of the jungle with Marge screaming while tied up is taken directly shot for shot as well as all the close ups of King Homers face with him grinning. One of my favorite shots is King Homer’s hand coming through the hotel window to snatch up Marge, with her kicking and screaming. I remember how cheesy it looked in the 1933 film and they capture those shots perfectly. A very well done parody of a great movie.
Carly: “Hey, I heard we’re going to Ape Island”
Lenny: “Yeah to capture a giant ape. I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island.”
Charlie: “Candy Apple Island? What do they got there?”
Carl: “Apes. But they’re not so big.”
Dial “Z” For Zombie
The Simpsons wander into zombie territory here, but before zombies became oversaturated thankfully. Bart wanders into the Springfield Elementary library and comes across an occult section where he finds a book of black magic and takes it home. He uses the book to try and bring back the family pet, Snowball I but accidentally uses a spell that brings back all the corpses in the nearby cemetery. From there the zombies roam Springfield eating all of the inhabitants while the Simpsons barricade themselves in their home. Homer forgets to lock up the back door, and the zombies break in sending the family fleeing. Lisa theorizes that there might be a book at the library where they can reverse the spell and they head there, killing a bunch of famous zombies along the way such as George Washington and Shakespeare. From there, Bart speaks the spell and sends the zombies back to their graves.
An obvious parody of Night of the Living Dead and some of its predecessors, this segment follows up on some classic zombie movie tropes. Specifically, the zombies eating brains, and the overall theme that we the people are actually the zombies (shown when the Simpsons are watching television). We also have a Pet Sematary reference with Lisa asking Bart to resurrect the family cat Snowball I. Probably the most famous reference is the Thriller album that Bart has with him when he’s raising the dead, which is obviously a nod to the famous Michael Jackson music video of the same name. We also end up with another cameo from Kang and Kodos who talk about how the zombie invasion will help them conquer the Earth.
Lisa: “Dad we did something very bad!”
Homer: “Did you wreck the car?”
Homer: “Did you raise the dead?”
Homer: “But the cars okay?”
Bart and Lisa: “Uh-huh.”
Homer: “Alright then.”
Now we’re cooking with oil folks. This Treehouse of Horror might be the best of the best in my opinion. They reference some great movies and shows and the dialogue is fantastic. Seeing Homer blasting zombie Shakespeare and Einstein is always fun to see, and we also get to see some Alfred Hitchcock during the opening to the show. The Dial “Z” for Zombie segment was also named the 16th greatest film reference in the history of The Simpsons according to Total Film.
This episode is just a lot of fun, the show was in its 4th season at this point and many would say it is one of the best seasons of the show. The creator of the show, Matt Groening even says that the King Homer segment is one of his all-time favorites in the Treehouse series, that’s pretty high praise. This segment is even referenced in the film 28 Days Later when one of the army men quotes Smithers saying “Women and Seamen don’t mix.” As far as classic Treehouse of Horror go, you might be hard pressed to beat this one.