I’ve already written my love letter to the annual Simpsons Halloween specials (well, the 5 and a half good ones), but damnit, they are such a deep, elemental component of my Halloweens, it warrants even more adoration. If circumstances dictated that I had to drastically scale back my Halloween operations, heaven forbid, Treehouse of Horror episodes on DVD would be one of the very last things I’d give up.
So, I present to you what I consider to be the finest moments plucked from the finest episodes of Treehouse of Horror. Honestly, this list could be four times as long and I’d still be in no danger of running out of classic moments just from the first five Treehouse of Horror episodes. But these are the eight that sprang to mind immediately.
From the very first Simpsons Halloween special, this was the first appearance of the aliens Kang and Kodos, who would go on to appear in some form in every single Treehouse of Horror episode hence, but usually as a cameo. Here, the aliens abduct the Simpsons and, in a take-off on the Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man, appear to have hidden sinister intentions.
But while they give the family the tour of their spaceship, they delight in presenting their futuristic take on table tennis:
Kang: This is an electronic version of what you call “table tennis”. Your primitive paddles have been replaced with electronic-”
Bart: “Hey, that’s just Pong. Get with the times, man.”
Homer: “Hey, Marge and I played THAT old game when we were dating!”
Kang: “Well… we did invent this spaceship you know…”
Kodos: “Anyone from a species that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand…. alright then.”
Marge: “I’m sorry. Your game is very nice…”
Indian Burial Ground
The first segment in the first Treehouse of Horror episode was a parody primarily of The Amityville Horror, but with elements of other classic haunted house movies like Poltergeist and The Shining. In a scene deleted from the TV broadcast but replaced on DVD, the family discovers a fully intact Indian burial ground in their basement, which prompts Homer to place a very sternly worded phone call to his real estate agent a la Poltergeist.
Homer: “Mr. Bloot? Homer Simpson here. When you sold me this house, you forgot to mention one little thing: You forgot to mention, THAT IT WAS BUILT ON AN INDIAN BURIAL GROUND!!….. NO, YOU DIDN’T!… WELL! That’s not MY recollection…… Uh huh… OK, bye!
“He said he mentioned it five or six times.”
The Vanishing Shopkeeper
In Treehouse of Horror 2, Homer buys a wish-granting monkey’s paw from a creepy bazaar in Marrakesh. After the stereotypically ghoulish souvenir merchant sells Homer the paw and warns him of grave misfortune, Marge inquires:
Marge: “Eww Homer, where did you get that ugly thing?”
Homer: “Why at this little shop right over….”
(sees nothing but swirling dust where he points)
Homer: “…there. GASP! Oh no wait, it was over there.”
(Points to the merchant happily waving)
The Man in the Bag
Don’t ask me why this moment is so funny. I think it might just be one of those personal things that struck a funny bone that only I have, or maybe it has something to do with Smithers’ delivery. Another take from Treehouse 2, the parody of Frankenstein has Mr. Burns and Smithers kidnapping Homer (mistaking him for a corpse) in order to steal his brain for a mechanical monster. Smithers notices something amiss…
(Homer, being dragged in a giant sack, squirms and makes noises)
Smithers: “Did you hear that, sir?”
Mr. Burns: “No I didn’t, who was it? Frankenstein? The BOOOOGER MAN?”
Smithers: “It’s the man in the bag, sir! I think he’s alive.”
Mr. Burns: “Oh really?” (Starts whacking Homer with a shovel) “Bad corpse! Bad corpse! Stop! Scaring! Smithers!” (Homer finally passes out) “Satisfied?”
Smithers: “Yes sir.”
In Treehouse of Horror 3, the take-off of any number of “killer doll” horror stories, Homer goes to yet another merchant of bizarre and accursed occult curiosities, looking for a birthday present for Bart. The following exchange happens between Homer and the shop owner:
Owner: “Take this object, but beware, it carries a terrible curse!”
Homer: [worried] “Ooooh, that’s bad.”
Owner: “But it comes with a free Frogurt!”
Homer: [relieved]”That’s good!”
Owner: “The Frogurt is also cursed.”
Homer: [worried] “That’s bad.”
Owner: “But you get your choice of topping!”
Homer: [relieved] “That’s good!”
Owner: “The toppings contain Potassium Benzoate.”
Owner: “That’s bad.”
Candy Apple Island
This is another of those little moments that don’t normally get called out as classics, but still managed to get stuck in my head for years. A pretty straightforward parody of King Kong (in black and white no less), with Homer as the ape. Sailors played by Homer’s usual power plant co-workers discuss their mission to Ape Island.
Karl: “Hey I heard we’re goin’ to Ape Island.”
Lenny: “Yeah, to capture a giant ape.”
Karl: “I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island.”
Charlie: “What do they got there?”
Karl: “Apes. But they’re not so big.”
Dial Z for Zombies is one of the most classic and memorable of all Simpsons Halloween shorts. I was struggling with which moment to include on this list. The obvious choice is Homer blowing away the zombie Ned Flanders with a shotgun, then saying “he was a zombie?” But I’m going with something a little different.
Lisa: “DAD! We did something VERY bad!”
Homer: “Did you wreck the car?”
Homer: “Did you raise the dead?”
Homer: “But the car’s OK?”
Bart & Lisa: “Uh huh.”
Homer: “Alright then.”
The fifth Treehouse of Horror episode (season 6 remember) has earned a strong reputation over the years and is now widely considered to be the best out of all of them. I’m not sure I necessarily agree with that, but if not, it would probably be #2.
Everyone remembers the Shining parody The Shinning, and one little throwaway gag has to be my favorite part of the entire affair. While Burns is giving the Simpsons the tour of his mansion, an elevator door opens and blood gushes out in slow motion in a faithful recreation of the sequence in the Shining. Burns remarks:
Burns: “That’s odd. The blood usually gets off on the 2nd floor.”