October 29, 2020

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Take A Look Inside The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror; Part 3, Episodes VIII-X

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As in the culinary industry they say that all good food takes time, the antithesis of fast food is slow food. Low and slow as they might say, and I feel that exact same feeling here as I am writing Part III of my eleven part series. The creators were saying the same thing while developing these special Halloween as well. Writer and Consulting Producer, Carolyn Omine, has stated in the past that these episode are very tough to make because they require a really long lead time that can take them anywhere up to nine months to write and animate an episode which is about three times the amount of design work than a regular episode. Since these episodes are set outside of the reality of the world created in The Simpsons, then it becomes increasingly hard on the animators when they have to fiddle with the set designs and costumes to accommodate the setting and era the story takes place in. How this show has found a way to stay true to beloved genre classics but also tell their stories universally so that everybody can either feel nostalgic or informed about required knowledge for any genre fan is unequivocally unique. Yes, we had shows like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and Groovie Goolies, but what The Simpsons were doing was totally trend-setting, parodying horror, sci-fi and fantasy pop culture from a complete era mishmash but also staying meta and relevant. These people got chops. Mutton chops. Big John Lennon Mutton Chops.

No more of my Semetery Segements, ixnay on the cemeteray, where couch-gags are seemingly thrown into the opening sequence and all of a sudden it’s beginning to feel like a whole new era of the Halloween Specials, since by the end of this article we will have reached nine full years of runtime with this hilarious family. So, to evolve as well, I will just call the intro to these episodes the “Tone-Setting Initiation” sequence . Look, Ma! I’ve growed up!

Treehouse of Horror VIII AKA “The Simpsons Halloween Special VII”

(Season 9, Episode 4)
Originally Aired: October 26, 1997.

Tone-Setting Initiation:

Mr. Fox Censor sitting at his desk laughing hysterically while stroking off what seems like every single line of the script for tonight’s episode. He states that it’s his job to protect us, the viewers, from reality. The reality of this is that the censorship of important media starting in 1942 with the creation of the Office of Censorship, which was used to shut down offensive radio stations during the second World War. This agency has since been disbanded but the rules of censorship still remain today, although, television has hit the peak of leniency lately. The Simpsons most likely benefitted in a way from the censors that restricted them because they were forced to write brilliantly formed characters with a high brow usage of both clever and crude humor, but I digress. Fox Censor reminds us that we dont need a joke about a crack pipe in there, but this guy is gonna try a dupe us thanks to his prudent editing by dropping the TV rating to TV-G, meaning there will be no “raunchy NBC-style sex, or senseless CBS-style violence, so sit back an enjoy a night of worry free….” while the on screen TV-G rating box pulls out a pirate sword called a cutlass from behind it’s back and begins to stab Mr. Fox Censor directly in the back multiple times, the TV rating in the box changing after every stab and wholesome obscenity uttered from suppressed vocabulary.

Story I: The Homega Man (dir. Mark Kirkland)

Homer Simpson takes the role of beloved Charlton Heston as what seems to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic. It all starts with a seemingly harmless frog joke and ends with an enhanced radioactive warhead explosion from a neutron bomb released from underneath the Eiffel tower, that Homer’s “bomb shelter” in the backyard surely wasn’t going to withstand. In a right place at the right time type moment, Homer is able to avoid being wiped out by the catastrophy, leaving him to berate ol’Herman, the Springfield Insectivorian whom runs the local Military Antique shop’s lifeless corpse about low grade food. If talking to one skeleton wasn’t enough to convince Homer that he may be the last man on earth, then it’s going to take a corpse holding him up in traffic, and a big newspaper headline informing him of a bomb that had blown up Springfield. It’s easy to forget how much you’d miss your family in this situation when Homer shows us that you can do anything your heart desires and takes his opportunities to the movie theater where he sits down and enjoys a classic David Spade and Chris Farley vehicle while stealing the skeleton audiences popcorn and soda. Homer’s bacheloresque, lone-survivor freedom wears thin after he runs into a pretty angry mob of mutant Springieldians who would rather be called “freaks” or “monsters”. After reuniting with his family, the fully intact Simpsons family and the radioactive populus come to an agreement that entails a dystopian society where the freaks can live amongst the normies in perfect harmony.

Story II: Fly vs. Fly (dir. Mark Kirkland)

The title card appears for this story and it instantly reminds me of Spy vs. Spy, the black and white words that instantly call back to the colors of said spies. Remember? That comic strip series featured in MAD magazine containing no dialogue that ran from 1961 to 1998? Well, if not than I highly suggest going back in time and checking out their wacky espionage antics. I digress. This story in the Treehouse of Horror VII episode introduces Professor Frink’s “Matter Transporter” which transports physical matter from one location to another. Homer purchases this machine at Frink’s yard sale for 35 cents after haggling the professor when he finds two dollars too handsome a price to pay for such a device. Just like in Treehouse of Horror II, at the beginning of Lisa’s nightmare about the monkey paw where the vendor warns Homer about careless usage of the magical item, this time professor Frink warns Homer in a hyperkinetic way that the “device carries a frighteningly high risk of catastrophic..”, only to be cut off and disregarded. Getting these things home must have been a pain in the ass, but we dont need to know how these got to the Simpsons residence but just that they did. Homer does actually use the machine semi-properly, suggesting that using them to get “beer” from the fridge and a means to urinate wherever and whenever possible is proper usage pales in comparison to the way Bart intends on using the machine. We dont get a fraction of the body horror that we get in the highly touted Cronenberg film, but I mean, it’s pretty damn creepy when Bart doesnt turn out like the jacked up super fly that he intended on becoming.

Story III: Easy-Bake Coven (dir. Mark Kirkland)

It was the year 1649, in the small, dreary town of Sprynge-Fielde. Where witch trials were in abundance, a quantity so large it warranted a thorough inspection by the Fallstaffian Chief Wiggum. The village folk all throwing blame at one another, accusations hurled at anyone who dare talk any sense into the hysterical bewilderment of the townspeople. The beautiful Marge gets caught in the crossfire and promised a proper trial by there terms, meaning to be pushed from a cliff with a broom in hand. A true witch will arise on her broom completely unscathed while a natural warm-blooded human will fall to their death. Who knew that the confession of withered livestock, soured sheep’s milk, itchy shirts, a swarm of bats, a pile of gingerbread men and treats would all be the catalyst for the joyous holiday we celebrate today. Halloween.

Horror References:

I Am Legend 1954 (Written By Richard Matheson)
The Omega Man 1971 (dir. Boris Sagal)
The Fly 1957 (Written By George Langelaan)
The Fly 1958 (dir. Kurt Neumann)
The Fly 1986 (dir. David Cronenberg)
The Crucible 1953 (Written By Arthurt Miller)
The Crucible 1996 (dir. Nicholas Hytner)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1900 (Writte By L. Frank Baum)
The Wizard of Oz 1939 (dir. Victor Fleming)

Treehouse of Horror IX AKA “The Simpsons Halloween Special IX”

(Season 10, Episode 4)
Originally Aired: October 25, 1998.

Tone-Setting Initiation:

An abbreviated version of the regular Simpsons opening sequence where Bart is forced to write the same saying repeatedly, but this time he writes the title card for the episode with a paint brush and a bucket of blood when the school bell rings, well it could just be red paint but it’s Halloween so let’s get crazy. Bart then takes off on his iconic skateboard. Homer screeches into the driveway of their Evergreen Terrace home just as Bart is arriving to ollie off of the neighbors ledge and onto Homer’s car, but of course, this is a Treehouse of Horror episode so things are a little different and this time Bart falls off his skateboard and breaks his neck. Simultaneously Lisa riding her bike up the driveway with her saxophone in hand, hitting Barts corpse, sending her flying head first into the top of the garage. Homer gets out of his car only to be slammed into the back of the garage by Marge in her car. The door from the garage into the house opens revealing Freddy Kreuger and Jason Voorhees sharing a few lines, with the one and only, Robert Englund providing the voice for Freddy. Once again, The Simpsons foresee an event in the future, that event being the horror mashup film, Freddy Vs. Jason from 2003. This episode coming 4 years, 10 months and 10 days previous.

Story I: Hell Toupèe (dir. Steven Dean Moore)

There will be hell to pay with this toupee from hell, and it all starts off with what would be a bylaw in my town, but seems to be a very serious offense in Springfield, especially if it is the bad-ass Snake Jailbird’s third offense and that offense is NOT combing nacho cheese sauce through his hair though it should be. He was handcuffed and arrested for smoking a cigarette in the Kwik-E-Mart, even after he protests against it stating that he will indeed pay the fine but it’s just wasted breath when Chief Wiggum informs him of the three strike rule and that the three witnesses in the building are fully capable of testifying against him. Later, on a FOX network reality show showcasing the “world’s deadliest executions” hosted by the McMahon himself, Ed, where Snake is seated in the electric chair, firmly reminding everybody that he will be back. After the execution has taken place, Homer wishes to get a hair transplant to be less follically challenged. In order for this to happen he goes to see the very untrustworthy Dr. Nick whom sways him towards a luscious looking wig that was taken from none other than Snake Jailbird, who was just freshly executed. As the full head of hair embeds itself into Homer’s brain and acts as the harbinger of doom, the lives of the three witnesses are in jeopardy and the amazing story unfolds…get it.

Story II: The Terror of Tiny Toon (dir. Steven Dean Moore)

If you find a hefty piece of glowing green plutonium hidden away in your unstable father’s toolbox, then I would highly suggest not hammering it into your television remote after your mother demands you to not watch your favorite TV show and takes the batteries from the remote to prevent it from happening. Which is precisely what Bart did in this situation, disregarding his sisters better judgement. Testing his own fate by Using this now plutonium injected remote control to watch their favorite show, Bart transports Lisa and himself into the TV, bringing them into Itchy & Scratchy Land. Watching hilarity ensue before their eyes, the two Simpson children get themself into a bit of trouble by making light of Scratchy’s death by decapitation to which he finds very rude and illiberal. Itchy and Scratchy engage in a newly formed friendship which allows them to put their differences aside in order to teach these meddling kids a lesson.

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Story III: Starship Poopers (dir. Steven Dean Moore)

Here comes the flying saucer! Marge is having a tough time feeding Maggie this morning, she is rightfully crying and whining because she has her first ever baby tooth starting to grow in. Marge unveils the tooth to the rest of the family whom are squeamish and disgusted by her one sharp, pointy fang-like tooth. Later, trying to cheer up the poor little baby, Homer gives her the “This Little Piggy” treatment on her tiny toes. He ends up pulling off both of Maggie’s legs, exclaiming in excitement to Marge that she just lost her baby legs. As Maggie continues to suck on her special pacifier, it sends a signal to our beloved green aliens, Kang and Kodos. “Holy Flurking Schnit” says Kang when they receive the sound waves of Maggie’s pacifier that warns them of her transformation, he then decides to head towards the obscure T-shirt producing planet known as Earth to rescue his “daughter”. They show up at the Simpsons residence to claim what his rightfully theirs, they easily persuade Marge into informing Homer that Maggie isnt his daughter. This causes Homer to call Marge an “intergalactic hussie” and break down into tears. Marge explains how this all came to be and hilarity continues to ensue. Jerry Springer appears in this episode alongside a classic brawl full of humiliation and angst, between two life forms duking it out for masculine supremacy.

Horror References:

Shocker 1989 (dir. Wes Craven)
Twilight Zone 1962 (S. 3, Ep. 18) “Dead Mans Shoes”. (dir. Montgomery Pittman)
Amazing Stories 1986 (S. 1, Ep. 21) “Hell Toupee”. (dir. Irvin Kershner)
Body Bags 1993 (dir(s). John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper)
Twilight Zone: The Movie 1983 (dir(s). John Landis, Steven Spielberg, George Miller, Joe Dante)
A Nightmare on Elm St. 1984 (dir. Wes Craven)
Starship Troopers 1997 (dir. Paul Verhoeven)
1979 (dir. Ridley Scott)
Friday The 13th 1980 (dir. Sean S. Cunningham)

Treehouse of Horror X

(Season 11, Episode 4)
Originally Aired: October 31, 1999.

Tone-Setting Initiation:

A minor call-back to the beginning of this fine journey through the years of treehouse tales of horror. Our two favorite slimy green aliens, Kang & Kodos, introduce tonight’s feature by way of variety show content featuring a live extraterrestrial audience. They arrive in a Jack-o-lantern style spacecraft to bring us bad jokes that are greeted with a laugh track after we are reassured that if you haven’t been probed by these two, you haven’t been probed at all. If you are wondering what aliens have to do with Halloween, then you arent alone because Lisa wonders the same thing while her and the rest of the family are sitting on their iconic brown couch watching this alien variety show from Century City. They are all dressed up as characters they have portrayed in past Treehouse specials, Homer as the Jack-in-the-box, Marge as the Witch, Maggie as the alien, Lisa with an axe in her head and Bart as the fly boy. Maggie tells Lisa to silence after asking that foolish question and shoots her with a ray gun, in which that makes her dissapear and the show begins.

Story I: I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did (dir. Pete Michels)

I Know What You Did Last Summer would have come out almost 2 years to the day before this episode, which is more than enough time to have a parody surface in the form of a Simpsons episode. Marge is behind the wheel of their pink 1986 Plymouth Junkerolla when she hits someone that they would realize shortly thereafter was their Evangelical Christian neighbor, Ned Flanders. After several attempts to stage the murder and disguise it as an accident, Homer finally prevails in garnering Ned’s wife’s attention. Maude shrieks at the sight of her dead husband which immediately brings us to his funeral. Afterwards, on the drive back home, Homer believes getting away with murder is just as easy as he’s made it seem and attempts to run over Millhouse. The Simpsons are stalked for the remainder of the segment by the silhouette of a man holding a meat hook, they encounter horrifying quotes chicken-scratched in a disorienting way and they discover the Wolfman himself in a series of unfortunate events that leads Homer to an impasse he will not be capable of overcoming.

Story II: Desperately Xeeking Xena (dir. Pete Michels)

Not so much a horror story as much as it is a sci-fi, fantasy, superhero story but I think it is pulled off extremely well, and would be an extremely fun little spin-off series. As all great origin stories begin, the emergence of “Stretch Dude” and “Clobber Girl” is no different, it is indeed a fun and credible superhero tale. It all begins on what seems to be Halloween night, after all the trick r’ treating has come to an end, Chief Wiggum has set up shop inside the Springield Elementary gymnasium with an X-Ray generator to inspect any collusion involving the kids of Springfield’s candy. The machine malfunctions, shocking Bart and Lisa and giving them super power capabilities. At a science fiction convention where Lucy Lawless is playing the character of Xena, is taking questions from audience members and being heckled for goofs that have showed up in episodes of her show. She is then kidnapped by The Comic Book Guy’s villainous alter-ego “The Collector”, and taken back to his layer, added to the collection and made his bride. Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl to the rescue, fending off a Darth Maul double edged lightsaber removed from it’s original packaging, the chink in every geek’s armor. Lawless plays herself in this segment, known for her role as Xena the Princess Warrior, she has stated in the past that this was the best experience she’s had as a guest star in a television show.

Story III: Lifes A Glitch, Then You Die (dir. Pete Michels)

Springfield is the host of the 1999 New Yeas Eve Rockin’ Eve celebrations hosted by famous radio and TV personality, Dick Clark. This is the perfect scenario for a large crowd to be overrun with virally infected modern technology. When Homer is delegated with the task of compliance officer from the Nuclear Power Plant to fix all the computers in the building. Leaving his own computer untouched and causing a rift in technology and abruptly spreads an unknown virus to all computers around the world. The town of Springfield turns to absolute anarchy, while the electronic devices around the town are going haywire, Krusty the Clown drops dead due to a malfunctioning pacemaker directly in front of mega-fan Bart Simpson. He finds a note in Krusty’s pocket stating that a rocketship by the name of “Exodus” is bringing the world’s best and brightest to Mars in order to help recreate civilization as we know it. Upon arriving at the space shuttle, Homer and Bart are turned away at the gate after a failed attempt at lieing their way aboard. This forces them to find another way out of the chaos around them and that brings them to such “mediocre” celebrities such as Dr. Laura, Spike Lee, Tonya Harding, Dan Quayle, Courtney Love, Ross Perot, Al Sharpton, Tom Arnold, Pauly Shore, Rosie O’Donnell. Airing just 2 short months before the year 2000 panic, predicting the chaos and hysteria in a seemingly accurate way. The Simpsons just have a knack for predicting the future.

Horror References:

I Know What You Did Last Summer 1997 (dir. Jim Gillespie)
When Worlds Collide 1951 (dir. Rudolph Maté)
& Comics

The curtain is closing on this latest edition of scary tales from the Treehouse. We didn’t get as many genre references as the previous two parts but we still got a tonne of horror-inspired satirical takes on relevant social and political issues.

I am truly having a lot of fun going back and rewatching these episodes to come up with my own synopses with the hope to bring you over to my side.

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