Because nothing signals Halloween like The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes.
Growing up I was a) obsessed with The Simpsons (hence the title of this blog), and b) not incredibly popular, which led to a lot of Halloweens spent indoors watching marathons of the series’ Halloween specials.
I watched the golden-era Halloween specials countless times, and they left a huge impression on my little child mind. They served as my first foray into the horror genre, and marked the first time I experienced that hair-pricking feeling you get from watching something really creepy- not jump-scary, but deeply unsettling. Here are eleven segments that kept a young me up at night, and are probably responsible for a bunch of irrational fears I’ve carried into adulthood:
8. ‘Fly vs. Fly’ Treehouse of Horror VIII
In this segment, a fly lands on Bart’s arm, and Bart, thinking he would become a super-human fly-droid, uses a teleport to transmorgrify their bodies. I absolutely hated this segment growing up, because it just made my skin crawl. The Bart-Fly (that is, Bart’s body with a huge house-fly head) is perhaps the most grotesque one-off character ever featured on the series.
Creepiest moment: Bart and Lisa conspire to return him to his human-self, however Bart-Fly is literally a fly-on-the-wall during their conversation and watches Lisa from above ON HER CEILING before chasing and cornering her. Ugh.
7. ‘Bart Simpsons’ Dracula’ Treehouse of Horror IV
I always loved the spooktacular horror trappings in this segment, and, it was probably my favourite growing up. The Simpsons are invited to Mr Burns’ castle in Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to everyone except Lisa, Burns is a vampire overlord looking for “fresh victims for [his] ever-growing army of the un-dead”.
Creepiest moment: Well, perhaps not creepiest, but definitely the most frustrating- Bart and Lisa very nearly escape the clutches of Burns and his minions, but Bart indulges in the castle’s Super Fun Happy Slide and rides to his certain doom.
6. ‘Terror at 5 1/2 Feet’ Treehouse of Horror IV
This segment is completely-panic inducing. One of the most unnerving horror tropes is that notion that you are alone in the knowledge of an imminent doom threatening everyone. That level of responsibility, isolation and dread is unbearable. Bart and only Bart is aware of the little blue gremlin gleefully destroying the school-bus while everybody else dismisses his warnings.
Creepiest moment: It’s hard to choose just one moment since the tension mounts throughout this segment but probably the most disturbing image is that of the Gremlin brandishing Ned Flanders’ decapitated head as Bart is carted off to an asylum.
5. ‘Time and Punishment’ Treehouse of Horror V
Experimenting with a toaster-cum-time machine, Homer finds himself firmly within the uncanny valley. For every action he commits in the past, Homer returns to a disturbingly altered future. This segment wins for most infuriating dramatic irony when Homer leaves the ultra-luxe raining-donuts future in search of the sugary treat.
Creepiest moment: The Flanders-controlled 1894 parody-verse is super creepy, with the most uncomfortable gag being a lobotomized Moe baby-talking a piece of his brain in a jar. Shudder.
4. ‘The Shinning’ Treehouse of Horror V
The Shining is a perfect horror film and, since this parody borrows so heavily from its source, this segment is pretty perfect too. The Simpsons are care-taking Burns’ country lodge but there’s no beer and no tv which makes homer something…something. Murderous hijinks ensue.
Creepiest Moment: Too hard to choose, although a crazed Homer pursuing Marge as she keeps him at bay with a baseball bat is pretty menacing.
3. ‘The Thing and I’ Treehouse of Horror VII
Growing up, my brother tormented me with tales of our long lost (and made up) other brother. So this segment, in which Bart has a secret twin, probably hit a little too close to home. It also features one of my favourite lines of the entire series (“too crazy for boy’s town, too much of a boy for crazy-town”) and one of my favourite visual gags (Hugo eagerly goes to look at himself in a mirror, only to be punched in the face through an empty frame by a straight-faced Dr. Hibbert).
Creepiest moment: Hugo restrains Bart and prepares to sew them together. But it’s okay, he’s been practicing- he made a pigeon-rat.
2. ‘Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace’ Treehouse of Horror VI
Like I said, the Simpsons Halloween Specials were my introduction to the horror genre, and so a lot of the concepts (lifted directly from horror classics) blew my young mind. I saw the Nightmare on Elm Street Simpsons parody way before I was familiar with the 1984 slasher flick, and it chilled me to my core. The idea that you weren’t safe from danger even when you’re asleep, especially when you’re asleep, kept me fighting to stay awake night after night.
Creepiest moment: Groundskeeper Willie burning alive in front of a group of disgruntled parents is horrendous, as is Martin’s corpse accidentally being unveiled to a classroom full of children.
1. ‘Nightmare Cafeteria’ Treehouse of Horror V
I’ve featured all the segments from THOH V on this list (can you tell it’s my favourite?), but Nightmare Cafeteria is definitely the most disturbing of the three, and the bloodiest, to boot. On top of the plain ol’ grossness of the subject matter (cannibalism ew), the feeling of claustrophobia in this segment is palpable.
Creepiest moment: The teachers corner Bart, Lisa and Milhouse on a precipice overhanging a giant blender before all three fall (presumably to their deaths).