I also absolutely love Halloween, something that I figure is far more obvious, so it seems odd that I've never tackled The Simpsons Halloween specials on here. So, starting today, I'm going to fix that. I'm just going to go over the first ten Treehouse of Horror episodes, give my thoughts on them, share what I feel are the highlights of each, and then after I've done the 10th maybe I'll rank them.
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR
BAD DREAM HOUSE
The family moves into a big haunted house in an awesome parody of the Amityville films and the first Poltergeist. The house, voiced by Harry Shearer in a variation of his Skinner voice, is fantastic, and Homer is truly at his A-game the whole story with such awesome bits as Homer arguing with the man who sold him the house over not being told that it was all built on an Indian burial ground, finishing with the revelation that he'd been told several times. Homer's complete disregard for his family's lives combined with Marge's mild annoyance towards him over it is always something I love in these Treehouse episodes. The ending, where the house decides to destroy itself rather than have to spend more time with the Simpsons, is probably one of my favorite segment endings in Treehouse history, and probably one of my favorite moments of the season as a whole.
HUNGRY ARE THE DAMNED
OVERALLAlthough not one of the best, the first entry in the Treehouse of Horror series is still quite fantastic, and a must in my Halloween special rotation, if not just for James Earl Jones reading The Raven. Maybe it's nostalgia, but there's just something about this episode in particular that catches the spirit of Halloween to me.
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR II
Ned Flanders ends up with it and quickly makes a bunch of wishes to defeat the aliens (with even more advanced board-with-a-nail-in-it technology), and a castle for himself. It's nice seeing back in the day where Flanders was essentially just the perfect neighbor and a do-gooder, because I really don't want to see what current Ned would wish for in the series.
This is pretty hilarious segment just for the banter between Mr. Burns and Mr. Smithers. I've always loved both characters, partly for the antiquated words and phrases the former tends to use, and thankfully they're both given the focus of the segment, with Homer not really doing much beyond causing some damage as a robot and being fired towards the start.
The segment ends with the metallic body of Homer falling and crushing Mr. Burns, leading to my favorite line of the episode, "every bone shattered, organs leaking vital fluids, slight headache... lack of appetite" as Mr. Burns concludes that he's dying. As Homer wakes up from his nightmare and into the wraparound of the episode, it's revealed that Mr. Burns' head had to be grafted onto his shoulder after the accident, and the whole thing was real, ending with an awesome preview for the next episode with Mr. Burns' head still attached to Homer's body.
OVERALLNot only one of my least favorite Treehouse of Horror episodes (at least before those that came after the Simpsons Movie), but also one of my least favorite episodes of the first ten seasons. It's got some laughs, but overall it just feels really weak and unmemorable.
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR III
CLOWN WITHOUT PITY
Amusingly this episode set off a bit of continuity that ended up paying off over a decade later: Maude commenting after seeing Homer naked "There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality."
This segment reminds me a lot of Airplane and other Zucker-Zucker-Abrams movies where they just put in a gag every second so that if one doesn't work, the next will, and it makes for something that is just so dense with comedy that you can rewatch it over and over and keep finding something else to laugh at. This is one of the reasons why Treehouse of Horror 3 is my favorite of all of the Treehouse episodes, and my second favorite episode of series overall.
DIAL 'Z' FOR ZOMBIES
Although not as densely packed with jokes as the first two segments, this is still something where I just can't stop laughing the whole way through. Bart using a Michael Jackson record cover as a hat during his magical incantations, Krusty trying to get kids to send him their parents brains, Homer shooting Ned Flanders without even realizing he was a zombie, and an amazing sequence wherein Homer shoots the zombies of a bunch of famous historical figures who all happened to be buried in Springfield for some reason.
OVERALLThis is just a -fantastic- episode, and if you only want to watch one Treehouse of Horror episode for some reason, it should be this. It's got some of the best writing I've ever seen in a comedy show, and it's all aged really damn well. Anytime I feel I need to point someone towards the high point of Simpsons quality, it's always this and Last Exit to Springfield.
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR IV
THE DEVIL AND HOMER SIMPSON
I love Flanders as Satan, there's just something about it that works. It also beats how the show used to depict him, which was basically just Herman with red skin and goat legs. I do miss Herman, though, he was a fun semi-regular character in the early years, the one armed man that owned the gun shop, but hasn't been seen since the 22 Short Tales about Springfield episode. I also really love the crazy depiction of Hell, like demons forcing Homer to eat millions of donuts, which doesn't actually bother him at all.
Probably the most memorable thing in the episode stems from the ending, where Homer's head is turned into a giant donut as punishment for beating Satan, a depiction I see constantly when it comes to Treehouse of Horror merchandise and referenced in some of the Simpsons video games.
TERROR AT 5 1/2 FEET
This is my personal favorite segment of the episode, in part because I love the source material, but also because I just love so many of the little bits strewn about, like Otto taking Bart's warning incorrectly and ramming an GMC Gremlin off the road, driven by Hans Moleman, which ends up exploding. I love Moleman, and I wish he popped up more in Treehouse of Horror episodes. I also love that, for some reason, the bus windows have airplane-style covers, there's just something about that that makes me laugh harder than it should.
BART SIMPSON'S DRACULA
The episode is not without amusing bits. Mr. Burns is funny as always, and I love how it all ends up ending in a weird parody of the ending to Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, but overall it's one of the weakest segments in the early Treehouse episodes. Homer at least gets a fantastic line partway in, "Kill my boss? Do I dare live the American dream!?" Admittedly I've usually found that in weaker Simpsons episodes where Homer himself isn't the focus, Homer ends up getting some great lines that sometimes end up making up for the lack of quality elsewhere in the episode.
OVERALLNot as bad as 2, but nowhere near as good as 1 or 3. The first two segments are alright, but there's not too much particularly memorable about either of them, and the laughs are pretty spaced out, and the third segment is just lame.
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR V
The best thing about this episode is how they handle Homer's descent into insanity. Mr. Burns removed all of the alcohol from the house, and upon discovering this Homer quickly moves into threatening to kill everyone before slinking off into the house, wherein the ghost of Moe (with no effort) convinces him to kill all of his family for a beer.
The scene where Marge walks into a big empty room to check out what Homer's written so far is an amazingly well done subversion of what you expect out of the parody, with just the words "Feelin' fine" written with the typewriter, only for a bolt of lightning to reveal that the entire room is covered in the words "No TV no beer make Homer go crazy."
I also absolutely love their twist on the ending, with the whole family frozen solid, watching things on a tiny portable TV, when they all end up having to sit through A Chorus Line.
TIME AND PUNISHMENT
I love all of the different realities Homer ends up in, especially the first, where everything is this sort of totalitarian state where Ned Flanders controls all, and forces people into reneducation camps to act more like him. Much like with the last episode, there's just something funny about Ned Flanders being something evil, it just works so well.
The climax of the segment is absolutely hilarious, with Homer going back in time and altering -everything-, killing every dinosaur, insect, and fish around, in hopes that eventually he'll end up in the right time. Which he does, with the exception of everyone now having frog tongues, not that he really cares much. Also Willie pops back up again to suddenly get axed to death, again. Poor Willie.
There's just something horrifying about Mrs. Krabapple, Principal Skinner, etc. fantasizing about eating the children, and they each become more monstrous as the episode goes on, with Lunch Lady Doris reduced to a hissing, hunched over beast by the end. The climax of the segment itself is kind of disturbing, with Milhouse falling into a giant blender, followed by Bart and Lisa. Also, of course, Willie gets axed in the back, exclaiming "Ach! I'm bad at this!"
Things wrap back around to just hilarious, though fairly disturbing at the same time, as it turns out it was all a dream, and that the only thing Bart has to worry about is some gas that turns people inside out. Said gas seeps into the house and does, in fact, turn the whole Simpsons family inside out in a fairly grotesque fashion, followed by them going over a parody of the opening song to A Chorus Line, tying back into the ending of The Shinning. It then moves right back into just disturbing by ending with Bart being ripped to shreds by Santas Little Helper, leaving a bloody mess behind. It may sound silly but somehow that still bothers me even to this day.
OVERALLOverall: One of the best Treehouse of Horror episodes, probably my third favorite of all of them. It's hilarious, it's packed with fun stuff that just sticks with you, and it even manages to be downright creepy in the final act, something that almost never happens in the series.