On October 7th, I had a day off - and in the spirit of the season, I tuned in to catch this year’s Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror Halloween Special. I enjoyed kicking back and witnessing the 2012 entry in this classic series of non-canon, sinister specials featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The middle segment, “Un-Normal Activity” was my favorite part of the episode.
As I had the whole day off, and could do whatever the heck I pleased, dammit, I also enjoyed revisiting some Simpsons Halloween Specials of the past. Like most Simpsons fans, I agree that the strongest material emerged from the early seasons. The Treehouse Of Horror episodes are no exception. In order of season, here are my top 13 favorite Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror segments.
13. “Hex And The City” - Season 13. The family is subjected to bizarre torments after Homer is cursed by a gypsy fortune teller.
12. “House Of Whacks” - Season 13. The family’s home is upgraded to a computer-run “Ultrahouse” which goes homicidal when it gets the hots for Marge.
11. “Starship Poopers” - Season 10. Maggie is revealed to be the result of a cross-breeding program in which Marge was impregnated by Kang the alien.
10. “Fly Vs. Fly” - Season 9. Bart fuses with a housefly, thanks to a teleporter purchased from Professor Frink's yard sale.
Season 6 may have delivered the pinnacle of Treehouse Of Horror awesomeness. In this installment, all three segments are gems:
9. “The Shinning” - Season 6. We learn that “no TV and no beer make Homer go crazy.”
8. “Time And Punishment” - Season 6. Homer repeatedly goes back in time and alters the future with a time-machine toaster.
7. “Nightmare Cafeteria” - Season 6. The teachers of Springfield Elementary grind up the students to turn them into food. (Cap this episode off with a mysterious fog that turns the Simpson family inside-out, and you’ve got pure Treehouse Of Horror gold.)
6. “The Devil And Homer Simpson” - Season 5. Homer sells his soul to the Devil - for a doughnut, of course.
5. “King Homer” - Season 4. On an expedition to Ape Island, Mr. Burns plots to use Marge as bait to snare a legendary giant ape.
4. “Dial 'Z' For Zombies” - Season 4. Bart and Lisa raise the dead inadvertently, subjecting Springfield to an invasion of ravenous reanimated corpses.
3. “The Monkey's Paw” - Season 3. A severed monkey's hand grants the family four wishes.
2. “If I Only Had a Brain” - Season 3. Mr. Burns scoops out Homer’s brain, and transplants it into a giant robot.
Season 2 of The Simpsons contained the very first Treehouse Of Horror special. It’s a great warm-up to what would become a ghoulishly grand tradition of Halloween television programming, embraced by millions of horror fans. The first two segments of this debut Treehouse Of Horror episode are funny and inventive, but what really stands out is the third segment:
1. “The Raven” - Season 2. It’s a clever, extremely well-done adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe poem, narrated by James Earl Jones.
Instead of layering on the gags, and presenting a wacky parody of the Poe classic, the segment sticks to Poe’s words, re-telling his tale - with a Simpsons twist.
Many creative forces behind The Simpsons, including the show’s creator, Matt Groening, had reservations about “The Raven” during the making of this introductory Halloween episode. They feared their rather faithful adaptation, with a deficiency of jokes, would bomb. However, “The Raven” struck a chord with the show’s audience, and further established The Simpsons as a program that can be quite intelligent, even refined, as well as hilarious and irreverent.
If the makers of The Simpsons wanted to grab the attention of horror fans right away on the Treehouse Of Horror’s maiden voyage, “The Raven” was a perfect salutation.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze