The Best and Worst Simpsons Treehouse of Horror Segments
The Simpsons, believe it or not, have now been around for 26 seasons as of this writing. For every season save the very first one, a Halloween-themed episode has aired. Sometimes its the first episode of the season. Sometimes baseball forces it to air in November. However, the annual "Treehouse of Horror", so named as the very first Halloween episode took place in Bart's treehouse, has become a Halloween staple for many Simpsons fans.
Recently, the show aired its 25th Treehouse of Horror and, subsequently, its 73rd, 74th and 75th Halloween bits that usually feature Simpsons characters in your classic horror story, modern horror story, or unrelated movie parody. Some have been excellent, other not so much. On my blog Yellow Jay Sherman, I have, over time, reviewed each segment of each Treehouse of Horror separately, and here I'm going to list my favorite and least favorite segments.
To note, for each segment I generally give it a +0.1 each time it makes me laugh, +0.5 for an excellent comedy bit, or a -0.1 for a joke that misses the mark or a moment that makes me cringe in the wrong kind of horror. I have six segments that I have scored a 1.7 or higher, while I have four segments that I have scored a 0.3 or lower. We start with the worst of the worst.
The Four Worst Treehouse of Horror Segments
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterball (Treehouse of Horror XXII): Rated 0.3
Summary: Homer is paralyzed from a spider bite and despite Marge's continued love, his new restrictions cause him to go into a deep depression. Lisa, though, discovers Homer can still "pass gas" and using a communication system off that, Homer eventually "writes" a best selling book. Content with his life, Homer is now bitten by a radioactive spider and become a paralyzed Spider-Man, who is still loved deeply by his wife.
Problems: Not a lot of comedy besides the rather random Spider-Man bit at the end. Not very spooky either despite the possibility of being paralyzed by a spider bite an actual, scary thing.
3. In the Na'vi (Treehouse of Horror XXII): Rated 0.1
Summary: It's a full-blown Avatar parody like a year after the movie came out, with the show's Rigelian alien race the focus.
Problems: It tried too hard to follow Avatar instead of making fun of it, and the times it did "make fun of it", it did so very poorly.
2. Four Beheadings and a Funeral (Treehouse of Horror XV): Rated 0.0
Summary: Taking place in late-1800s London, detective Lisa along with her sidekick Bart investigate several murders by the "Mutton-Chop Murderer", whom they eventually discover to be Inspector Clancy Wiggum. It then turns out to be an opium-induced hallucination by Clancy's son Ralph, both of whom are in a different opium-induced hallucination.
Problems: The main plotline just isn't funny, and the way it ended with the opium wasn't any better. For a decade, this was the worst Treehouse of Horror segment, that was until...
1. A Clockwork Yellow (Treehouse of Horror XXV): Rated -0.1
Summary: A parody/reference of A Clockwork Orange, an old English gang led by Moe gets back together for one last romp which features mainly Stanley Kubrick references.
Problems: I'd like to hear from someone who is a fan of Kubrick's work and see if that person A) understood all the references, B) found them actually funny and C) if they found the entire segment funny. I ask because none of these apply to me. The only actual "joke" I liked was comic book guy's character noting he is no longer sure what is being referenced any more. It was just too much reference, too little comedy.
Treehouse of Horror V is in The Simpsons Season 6
The Six Best Treehouse of Horror Segments
6. The HΩmega Man (Treehouse of Horror VIII): Rated 1.7
"But, Aquaman, you can not marry a woman without gills, you're from two different worlds!" *bomb arrives* "Oh, I've wasted my life."
Summary: Mayor Quimby angers the French, and the French eventually retaliate by nuking Springfield. Homer is spared when he visits a bomb shelter store due to the scare and was inside one during the bomb. He slowly learns that everyone has died, and now that he's by himself he can do whatever he wants. However, a few others did survive but have horribly mutated and wish to feed on Homer for some reason. Homer flees to his house where he finds his family safe due to the many layers of lead paint on the house, and the family shoots the mutants apart.
Strengths: Homer provides a lot of comedy in this segment as he slowly discovers what happened to Springfield. The comic book guy quote above is excellent, and the overall premise is solid.
5. The Monkey's Paw (Treehouse of Horror II): Rated 1.7
"The turkey's a little dry... the turkey's a little dry!? Oh, foul, accursed thing! What demon from the depths of hell created thee!?"
Summary: On a trip to Morocco, Homer buys a monkey's paw with the premise that it makes wishes but with some kind of drawback. With four wishes, the following happens: Maggie gets a new pacifier, then the Simpsons become rich and famous, but hated. Lisa wishes for world peace, allowing Kang and Kodos to come and conquer earth, and Homer wishes for a turkey sandwich without any surprises, only to find that turkey is a little dry. Homer tosses the paw, which Flanders picks up and wishes the aliens to go away, making him a hero. He then wishes for a mansion with no apparent drawback, leaving Homer to want a monkey's paw of his own.
Strengths: Lots of good, quotable jokes in this segment, including some at the expense of the show's - at the time - exploding popularity and subsequent backlash of said popularity. The Rigelians being chased off with a nail on a board only for them to comment that humanity will eventually create too big a board with too big a nail that will destroy itself was great as well.
4. Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V): Rated 1.7
"This is indeed a disturbing universe."
Summary: Homer breaks the toaster, then radically fixes it where - by accident - pressing down on the toaster's timer sends Homer back to the pre-historic past. Every little thing he does in the past alters the present, from turning it into a world led by Flanders to one where everything is perfect except the lack of donuts (which Homer isn't aware is this world's rain), to eventually getting it back to almost normal except everyone now has lizard tongues which he's fine with.
Strengths: The time traveling hijinks work really well here, and features a good Peabody & Sherman reference, a continued theme in Treehouse of Horror V where Groundskeeper Willie gets axed in the back, this time by a murderous Maggie voiced by James Earl Jones, and Homer getting so tired of time travel he ultimately starts wrecking everything in the past in some vain attempt at restoring things to normal.
Treehouse of Horror III is on The Simpsons Season 4
3. Dial "Z" for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III): Rated 1.7
"Dad, you just shot the zombie Flanders!" "He was a zombie?"
Summary: Bart finds an occult section in his school's library, and sneaks off with a spellbook. Later, he sees Lisa lamenting the loss of her cat, Snowball I and decides to reanimate it with a spell at the pet cemetary. However, he casts the wrong spell and zombies pop up everywhere, devouring and 'turning' whomever they come in contact with. The Simpsons are attacked but are spared when Homer's sacrifice saves him as he has no brains for the zombies to eat. Bart realizes the spell book is the cause and so they return to the school library to reverse the effects, which they do.
Strengths: By far the most memorable two lines perhaps in all of the Treehouse of Horror episodes are the two listed above, first by Bart and then by an unaware Homer. All of the zombie antics throughout town were hilarious as well.
2. Hell Toupée (Treehouse of Horror IX): Rated 1.8
Summary: Snake commits his third crime, witnessed by Bart, Apu and Moe. As per Springfield's "three strikes" law, he gets put to death but Snake promises to get his revenge on the three witnesses. Just after he dies, Homer learns there's a new hair transplant for him: Snake's. Sure enough, Snake's hair implants itself into Homer's brain, turning Homer into Snake. After he kills Apu and Moe, Snake locks himself and Bart in the latter's room, but Homer is able to resist enough to pull the hair off him, and the hair is shot dead by police.
Strengths: A surprisingly great segment in an episode that aired in Season 10, Hell Toupée features many great character lines and quips from Homer, Dr. Nick, Chief Wiggum, Snake, Moe and Apu. So many great jokes worked well in this segment to strengthen what was an otherwise bland Treehouse of Horror.
1. Clown Without Pity (Treehouse of Horror III): Rated 2.0
"The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me!"
Summary: Homer forgets to buy Bart a present for his birthday. In a hurry, he goes to an occult shop to buy a Krusty doll, which happens to be cursed. Soon, the doll openly states he's going to kill Homer, and despite Homer's attempts at disposing of it, it attacks him nonstop. Marge finally witnesses this and calls a repairman who quickly flicks a switch on the back to turn it from "evil" to "good". From then on, the doll becomes Homer's personal servant.
Strengths: Beside the above quote, the episode is also well known for the "Frogurt" bit where Homer alternates between whether something is "good" or "bad". Grampa's senility-induced warning, the various attacks by the doll, and a few other bit make this the best segment in Treehouse of Horror history.
Review scores, pictures and information were acquired from Yellow Jay Sherman, a Simpsons blog run and written by the author of this article.