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Treehouse of Horror: Every Halloween Episode Reviewed!

StericaSterica YesRegistered User, Moderator mod
edited November 2021 in Social Entropy++
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Hey, it's Halloween time, and what better way to celebrate the season than with annual traditions? Except...my tradition is to spend the weekend before Halloween with a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror marathon. While that was manageable like a decade ago, as this series refuses to die it becomes increasingly difficult to watch 30+ episodes of TV in a day. So I am trying something different: every day, I am going to watch one episode and review it here. All episodes will be on Disney+, which should retain scenes typically cut for syndication and will be in glorious 4:3 aspect ratio until we're forced into the HD era. We'll be using a standard American grading scale, so A is great, B is good, C is okay, D is poor and F is outright bad. Simple, right?

For those not in the know...somehow, Treehouse of Horror is the annual Simpsons Halloween Special. Starting in Season 2 way back in 1990, these episodes are each a trilogy of horror-themed vignettes that forgo the already dubious Simpsons canon entirely. And since Season 2, there has not been a season without a Treehouse of Horror, meaning that this year will make the 32nd episode. Wow, I got my work cut out for me, so check out below for how I tend to grade these episodes to get a better insight into my thought process. And remember, it's all opinion, so when you get upset that I'm dogging on the latter seasons like every aging, embittered Simpsons fan, just try to recall that I have no taste in television.

Theme: It's a Halloween episode; it should reflect that. I am not expecting to be terrified by a Simpsons episode, but it should have horror trappings and the right mood. I am going to be really annoying about this.
Writing: Is it clever? It is a solid parody? Is it well paced? While the writing of a ten-minute segment isn't of paramount concern, it counts for something.
Humor: Is it funny? It's a Simpsons episode. While technically part of writing, an episode can have good writing and still be lacking in humor or vice-versa.
Acting: Are the voice actors putting out a good performance or phoning it in? Are the guest stars putting in an effort or collecting a check?

This whole thing starts tomorrow, and continues every day until Halloween! So tune in tomorrow afternoon as we look at the very first Treehouse of Horror, back when it took place in an actual treehouse.

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    Captain InertiaCaptain Inertia Registered User regular
    Don’t blame me, I watched Kodos

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    PlatyPlaty Registered User regular
    The grading scale should go down to R

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    ProlegomenaProlegomena Frictionless Spinning The VoidRegistered User regular
    The review is also cursed

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    NaphtaliNaphtali Hazy + Flow SeaRegistered User regular
    Is this the end of Zombie Shakespeare!?

    Steam | Nintendo ID: Naphtali | Wish List
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    MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    The review is also cursed

    That’s bad

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited September 2021
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    Treehouse of Horror
    Original Air Date: October 25th, 1990

    Hey it's the first episode! This establishes a few very temporary traditions, such as the funny tombstones and the framing segments. Not much to comment on

    Bad Dream House: We start off really strong with this twist on haunted house stories. Homer being so stubborn and stingy that he will spent the night in the house that actively tried to kill him makes for a great premise, nad what I really want to focus on are the colors. This episode as a whole knocked it out of the park with excellent colors to drive the horror themes in deep. I like the house changing colors to invoke move and assist with the animation in giving the idea that this house is alive and "breathing." The family being egged on to murder each other to "DIE. DIE. EVERYBODY DIE." is pretty chilling and yet gets silly when it's the baby brandishing a small knife. To this day it bothers me that Marge is using a bread knife to spread her mayo on the sandwich. Really Marge?

    The Native burial ground bit is the one part that hasn't aged well, and is likely why it's a victim of syndication cuts. I still do like the exchange between Homer and the owner that he was warned multiple times that the house was built on a graveyard, but the "funny native names" tombstones is pretty hacky. Still, a good start to the Halloween episodes as a whole.

    Hungry Are the Damned: Colors work even stronger here, with the eerie green lights of the saucer, and the red and blues denoting a shocking reveal. And it's our first episode with Kang and Kodos! This might be the weaker of the three, but I still enjoy the twist that the Simpsons are just too paranoid for their own good. Kang and Kodos make for a fun duo, which may be why they became the unofficial mascots of the series, although that may be because they're the only real standout characters of the first episode. Still, a properly creepy episode with a fun twist.

    The Raven: This is it. We peaked at the first episode, and I think the Raven is my favorite of the shorts. The mood is phenomenal, and what really sells the whole thing is the acting. James Earl Jones gives a narration full of dread and not once does he drop the tone for a goof. It plays well with Dan Castellaneta stealing the show with the high-point of the short: his rant at the raven, sticking to the poem while expressing it completely in character. Nancy Cartwright also deserves credit for putting in solid delivery of just "Nevermore." The only flaws here are Lisa and Bart's little interjections, which I think just belies a lack of confidence in the premise (interviews show that they feared it'd come off as too pretentious) and Homer trying to get the Raven gets a little too cartoony. Still, a nice moody piece to bring the whole thing to a close, and I love the Bart Raven appearing at the end of the framing to menace Homer and bring the episode to a close.

    Fun Facts: The warning Marge gives at the start of the episode is 100% sincere. Nobody was sure how the episode would be received, so they covered themselves with the warning ahead of time. Remember that this is over thirty years ago, so there was no ratings system for broadcast television and sometimes not even adult supervision warnings unless it was a film being rebroadcast on TV.

    Did you know that James Earl Jones is in all three stories? He's more apparent in Hungry Are the Damned as Serak the Preparer and especially The Raven as the narrator, but he has a brief cameo in Bad Dream House as the mover that gets the buck from Homer.

    Rating: It's not surprising this was good, right? I mean if the episode was bad then they wouldn't have kept making them for the next three decades. What we have here is a perfect blend of spooky themes with Simpsons character-driven comedy. Not sure if I'd call it my favorite episode as a whole, but it's up there.
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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    Technically, there was one year after the first that didn’t do the Treehouse of Horror, and instead did a Halloween-set episode that was entirely in canon and not horrific at all.

    …so that same year, they instead had the Thanksgiving of Horror

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    PlatyPlaty Registered User regular
    Oh boy doing it backwards would've meant climbing up

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    Enlong wrote: »
    Technically, there was one year after the first that didn’t do the Treehouse of Horror, and instead did a Halloween-set episode that was entirely in canon and not horrific at all.

    …so that same year, they instead had the Thanksgiving of Horror
    Nope, those were two separate seasons and had Treehouses of Horror like normal. Not a single year missed!

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    Matev wrote: »
    The review is also cursed

    That’s bad

    can I go now?

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    #pipe#pipe Cocky Stride, Musky odours Pope of Chili TownRegistered User regular
    Bad Dream House is pretty clearly based on Poltergeist - Indian burial ground and all.

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    King RiptorKing Riptor Registered User regular
    Sterica this is gonna get bad very fast if you need to tag out for mental health reasons around the 15th we'll understand

    I have a podcast now. It's about video games and anime!Find it here.
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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
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    Treehouse of Horror II
    Original Air Date: October 31, 1991

    Our second episode uses candy-induced nightmares as its framing device. It's actually fun to see the Simpsons actually...doing stuff on Halloween. Lisa's costume has become somewhat interesting as a historical artifact, as in 1991 the writers probably made her seem super progressive and culturally aware but still a huge nerd impeding her own trick-or-treating to make a statement. In 2021 this still works, although Lisa would be seen as more of a clueless liberal putting on an inappropriate act than mere bookworm. Honestly I always liked that angle for Lisa as the show aged, to keep her intelligent and aware, but giving her needed flaws that, you know, make her a Simpson. But she is the writers' pet and her liberal tendencies are constantly upheld as good thing, especially in later seasons, so unless something has changed in recent years she'll just continue to be lost potential.

    But hey, back to the episode! Nightmares are a fantastic framing device, and these in particular provide a nice moody intro to their respective shorts. I also love the little touch of Lisa bartering with Bart via her Halloween candy: it brings me back to when I was a kid and Halloween candy was basically bartered back and forth with my brother. Peanut Butter Cups were premium currency.

    Lisa's Dream: We start with. in my mind, the weakest segment. It's not very horror-themed, as the price to the wishes don't work out. Like, the Simpsons become rich and famous, and the whole backlash to that fame from everyone else is an obvious riff on their explosive popularity over the past three years. In-universe, however, the Simpsons are already largely pariahs of their community, so as a catch to their wish it...doesn't really work. But what's really weird is how little of a role Lisa plays in what is supposedly her dream. Sure, her wish of world peace backfires horribly, but it's wedged in the middle of the short and the episode seems to revolve more around Homer. It even ends with him lamenting the loss of his paw as it bestows Flanders with good fortune, Lisa nowhere to be seen. We don't even get Lisa waking up in fear like with Bart and Homer. I really wonder if this was worked on before the framing device of the dreams, or if it wasn't going to someone else's dream originally or what exactly happened here. It could have worked better if the last wish was Lisa's, and everything goes wrong as Kang and Kodos take over. Then Bart gets the paw, wishes to get rid of the aliens, and everyone is celebrating Bart alongside guns, war, and violence as Lisa wakes up in terror.

    It's still a fun episode. The low-stakes battle for earth with slingshots and bats is funny, and I especially like that Kang and Kodos can't really foresee any greater development of weaponry than bigger boards with bigger nails. I especially like the turkey sandwich bit, and I will always make a reference to it in any media involving Faustian bargains.

    Bart's Dream: This short felt like something that wouldn't held up as far as the horror theme went, but the entire town being terrified of Bart is pretty unsettling. Especially little details like all the kids being way in the back of the bus and one of them screaming further towards the back when Bart gets on. I especially like the little bongo drum whenever he uses his gnarly powers, and Otto's enthusiastic "We're gonna die, aren't we?" is both very funny and pretty disturbing when you realize he's resigned to whatever fate this god-like ten-year-old has in store for him. Also, the callback to Bonerland on Marvin's Monroe's office is a really nice, subtle bit of humor.

    The whole "horror" of Bart's nightmare being him developing a loving relationship with his father is the perfect way to end the episode. It's have been nice to seeing more of Bart causing havoc as opposed to a montage of Homer and him bonding with some jack-in-the-back jokes, but I'm sure that would have taxed the animation budget.

    Homer's Dream: Here we go, saving the best for last. The establishing shot of Burns and Smithers in the cemetery is just perfect and really compensates for the lack of really horrific imagery in the first two shorts. Here we are in a spooky graveyard at night ready for some grave robbing. I also love the snappy animation of Burns whacking Homer with the shovel, and really just Mr. Burns blithely ignoring Smithers constant warnings that Homer is A. Dead and B. a bad employee. The casual nature of their playing God is also just quintessential Simpsons, and "Look at me I'm Davy Crockett!" is the kind of jokes you can only pull off in a Halloween episode. There's also a small, running gag of sorts with Mr. Burns saying he owes Smithers a coke that we'll see again in a few more episodes here. It's a cute line with good delivery, and once again the kind of overly casual situation that clashes with the grim task at hand to great comedy.

    The episode also closes strongly, with the classic bathroom mirror reveal. Mr. Burns gives a chilling line and evil laugh to give the episode a solid close. I will want to comment hat Mr. Burns is a perfect villain for these shorts, as his evil, uncaring nature as a corporate executive slides right into horror villains that treat acts of cruelty as just another day at the office. The whole episode is really everything I want from a Simpsons Halloween episode: ghoulish happenings juxtaposed with the devil-may-care attitude of the show.

    Fun Facts: This is the only episode to forgo names for the shorts. Fans did provide unofficial names, but technically they are the "X's Dream" titles.

    This is the first appearance of the scary names in the credits? These kinda come and go with the times, but they got their start here.

    In Bart's Dream, Krusty says he has been on the air for 346 consecutive hours, which is a little over two straight weeks of running the show. That is absolutely enough to cause permanent damage, if not outright kill a person, assuming they could even maintain consciousness.

    As a kid, I completely fell for the fake episode teaser and wondered why Homer didn't have two heads the following week.

    Rating: I think this episode falls a bit short of the first. The Monkey's Paw is a solid episode, but doesn't really play up the horror of the conceit very well, leading to a flat beginning that only picks up at the end, and it also clashes with the connective tissue of the three shorts. Bart's Dream does up the ante with some psychological horror, but again I feel it doesn't quite go far enough. Fortunately, Homer's Dream picks up the slack and gives me the fun, creepy experience I was looking for. The sophomore entry is still good, but when it comes to the classic Treehouse of Horror episodes it tends to fall off my radar.
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    MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    I mean, the Monkey's Paw is just as classic a horror story as the Raven, they just didn't have have Lisa wish Homer dead at the plant and become a nuclear zombie when she wished him back (Though that would've been a super gnarly dream if they'd gone that route)

    Bart's dream is of course based on a classic Twilight Zone episode with the same premise "Child is a reality warper, becomes a petty tyrant". The movie version gets pretty creepy.

    Honestly, Frankenhomer's the weak one of the bunch for me cause it's just so subdued compared to what comes after. Though it being the progenitor of the Burns/Smithers Coke bet will always make it a fun throwback.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
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    PlatyPlaty Registered User regular
    I remember being really scared by the Monkey's Paw segment as a child

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    I’m aware they’re parodies of existing horror stories (and they should still stand on their own regardless, the Shinning is excellent even before my knowing the Shining existed), but that doesn’t mean they’re well-executed.

    The Simpsons’ wishes are: a pacifier (no twist), fame and fortune (in return the Simpsons are hated but they were already low on the social standings and we don’t even really see the family react to it as it’s mostly people talking behind their backs), world peace (aliens invade and earth is defenseless), and a turkey sandwich (the turkey’s a little dry…THE TURKEY’S A LITTLE DRY)

    That’s two nothings, one horrific thing, and the most terrifying thing of all a joke. It just feels like missed potential.

    I think Bart’s Dream is more personal preference. I think it has a legitimate creepy first half, but Homer’s Dream is just that classic horror vibe I dig.

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2021
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    Treehouse of Horror III
    Original Air Date: October 29, 1992

    Again, I like the framing device of the Simpsons celebrating Halloween! The house is cute with the cheap decorations, I like the costumes, and of course Homer ruining their games (Marge cooked that meat…right?). Marge is at her best here being hopelessly naïve at she tries to make the holiday healthy and wholesome.

    Also Flanders had an awesome costume, and I much prefer when he's more a foil to Homer's seemingly lesser domestic life, as opposed to purely a shallow parody of Christians.

    Clown Without Pity: They really do a great job making Krusty a horrifying little doll. It honestly doesn't take much to make him a seriously threatening little toy, and I dunno if it's because he's a clown or what. His first interaction with Homer is pretty creepy, and the episode just runs on all cylinders. The dialogue is perfect, from Grandpa wanting attention to the dirty socks stopping Krusty to the famous That's Bad exchange. This whole episode just has incredible dialogue, as evidenced by half the quotes in this thread being from Treehouse III. I...don't have much more to say about this episode. It's a perfect send up of Child's Play, the doll's benign reason for being evil is a great way to close the episode, there's a lot of fun segments like Homer fleeing naked from Krusty as the house continues to think he's losing his mind. It's good!

    King Homer: I always underestimate this episode, going in expecting it to be the weakest of the three, and every time I'm proven wrong. Maybe it's because, even in 1992, King Kong was not exactly seen as a horror movie, but it works here. First, the black & white was a nice touch and I think helps sell the whole segment. The dialogue continues to be wonderful, and Candy Apple Island is one of the gags that I didn't appreciate as a kid, but grew to appreciate as an adult. It may be one of my favorite bits of dialogue in the Simpsons. Just the dull, wistful conversation of going to a different island with apes that aren't so big. Characterization is also key here. Homer slides right into King Kong, with his established character traits easily explaining his hunger, so when he starts eating people it's just a horrific extension of that. I actually forgot he literally eats a child, and Shirley Temple at that. This all pays off when Homer's aversion to exercise leads to just joke after joke as the planes have to refuel and Homer falls maybe two stories to his, well, injury. Mr. Burns is great for his typical poor foresight and ability to give great one-liners about celebrities and showbiz of the era (the Al Jolson line is just fantastic). I mean he already does that in the regular episode, so it's perfect here. It's good!

    Dial "Z" for Zombies: It's hard to judge if King Homer or Clown Without Pity is the better short, but I think Zombies has them both beat. It just zips right along with amazing jokes and one-liners firing left and right. Who can forget the end of Zombie Shakespeare? Or shooting the zombie Flanders? (he was zombie?) But let's not forget lesser gags like the John Smith mixup or the Occult Section only having 666 for its catalog. OW! Ow! ow!

    Yeah, it's a great short, and definitely in the top five overall. I appreciate the zombies not being instantly vanquished but just casually returning to their graves while making small talk. It's a very Simpsons way to resolve the conflict, and exactly what I want from these specials. Only oddity in this short is that the framing device doesn't return to close out the show. The zombie TV joke is a strong end to things, and it wouldn't work if you go back to the party.

    I feel like I didn't write enough here for such a great episode, but it just...works and like the other two the whole things runs without a hitch, only somehow the whole episode gets a second wind and manages to close incredibly strong. It's a straight-forward zombie parody that uses the Simpsons characterization to provide the kind of jokes you don't get in a standard episode. As I will say many times, that is exactly what I want. It's good!

    Fun Facts: This is the last episode to have a framing device within the normal canon of the show. Or as "canon" as the Simpsons gets.

    The funny Tombstones take a break soon, the writers having too much difficulty thinking up new ones. Fish Police, Capitol Critters, and Family Dog, tombstones featured in Dial “Z” for Zombies were all failed shows that were trying to follow the Simpsons trend with more adult-oriented primetime animated shows. And I watched all three back in the day! I think only Capitol Critters held any real potential, but I was a kid when I watched it so who knows.

    You may have noticed some lines were poorly dubbed out of sync with the animation. The episode was not well-received in early staff screenings, and a whole lot of the dialogue was changed up as a result. Really, it's impressive the episode is so good in spite of the last-minute overhaul to the script.

    At this point the pre-episode warnings are just poking fun at their earlier warnings and another excuse to ram in jokes.

    The intro, parodying Alfred Hitchcock, is a joke that Homer is fatter than the silhouette, but the writers realized upon airing that the animation was too subtle for most people to notice.

    Snowball I is an obscure character(?) that rarely gets mentioned in the series (and why their current cat is Snowball II, until it died but that was in the bad seasons so it doesn't count). It was the first cat they had, and it was run over by a car and died, something referenced in the very first episode. I don't think Snowball I has ever made an appearance in the show outside of flashbacks or pictures. Also, Lisa says it died four years ago, but the picture says the cat died in 1990 and this show aired in 1992. Do I hope someone got fired for that blunder, or do I make an increasingly flimsy theory about how the Treehouse of Horror are potential bad futures for the family?

    A lot of staff writing have this episode as their favorite for lines, segments, dialogue, etc.

    Rating: I was originally going to give this an A for the very arbitrary reason that you can't match the first episode because it was the trailblazer. But that's not really fair: these are three incredible shorts without a weak entry between them, and perfect sendups of classic horror films. I gave the first Treehouse of Horror an A+ for doing an excellent job executing a unique and creative concept with the Halloween stories, and while Treehouse of Horror III didn't usher in the whole tradition, it earns the same grade on pure quality alone. Excellent pacing, amazing writing, and a nice aesthetic throughout. It's good!
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited October 2021
    Fish Police was a comic book in the mid 80s!

    Epic I think?

    edit: nope, Fishwrap, Comico, some other publisher, then Marvel

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    King RiptorKing Riptor Registered User regular
    Sterica wrote: »
    I’m aware they’re parodies of existing horror stories (and they should still stand on their own regardless, the Shinning is excellent even before my knowing the Shining existed), but that doesn’t mean they’re well-executed.

    The Simpsons’ wishes are: a pacifier (no twist), fame and fortune (in return the Simpsons are hated but they were already low on the social standings and we don’t even really see the family react to it as it’s mostly people talking behind their backs), world peace (aliens invade and earth is defenseless), and a turkey sandwich (the turkey’s a little dry…THE TURKEY’S A LITTLE DRY)

    That’s two nothings, one horrific thing, and the most terrifying thing of all a joke. It just feels like missed potential.

    I think Bart’s Dream is more personal preference. I think it has a legitimate creepy first half, but Homer’s Dream is just that classic horror vibe I dig.

    The pacifier really did a number on Maggie's baby teeth

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
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    Treehouse of Horror IV
    Original Air Date: October 28, 1993

    Our last framing device! Night Gallery is as good as any, being our one and only break from the "regular" Simpsons framing device. No idea if they ran out of ideas for them or if they just wanted to use those precious minutes to flesh out the shorts better. There's a lot of references to popular paintings and art, and unfortunately I am too much of a philistine to recognize a good portion of them. Still, I appreciate the whole setup and Bart's attempt at being sinister undermined by his family.

    The Devil and Homer Simpson: Let's go ahead and start by saying that yes, Flanders as the devil is brilliant. Harry Shearer does an amazing job maintaining the tone and character of Flanders, while giving an undertone of menace throughout. It really, really works, and it's a clear highlight of the short. The animation here is also a bump up for the show, with the whole Hell sequence featuring some gorgeously chaotic scenery. I want to highlight some of the more subtle humor, like Homer keeping the literal tether to his soul in the fridge on a plate with nothing but sticky notes for protection, or Satan's casual greeting to Bart. There's also Lionel Hutz referencing Webster's dictionary, which may just be a coincidence, but I like to think of it as a small shout-out to the source material. And can we speak up about Hutz being a real gem in this? I think this was Hartman's largest role in any of the Halloween episodes, and he didn't waste that opportunity. From realizing he let the literal devil pick the jury, to emphasizing a point that severely damages his case. He doesn't even play a role in the resolution, and him returning after the fact lamenting his loss with an empty pizza box is great. I also enjoy the Jury of the Damned, from Nixon being the devil's minion to the starting line of the 1976 Flyers, and Blackbeard managed to steal the show despite mostly being the Sea Captain in all but name. Although I guess Captain McCallister is literate.

    The ending feels like something out of a parable, with Homer having to resist literally eating himself to death. It's humor that skews a bit darker than first impression, and the joke with Wiggum and the police doesn't give you much time to dwell on it. A great start to the episode.

    Terror at 5 1⁄2 Feet: This may be the creepiest of all the shorts. That gremlin is horrifying, and curiously he seems to share a bit of design with Krusty, with similarly colored hair. As a kid, it was just terrifying seeing the creature notice Bart and breaks into a grin as it tear gashes into the bus while never breaking eye contact with Bart. It's a really scary premise, with a young kid seeing a monster and the entire bus doesn't believe him, especially the adults, and he slowly breaks down into anxiety as he realizes he's running out of time before they all die. So it's credit to the writers that they can still juggle this desperate tone with plenty of comedy. From Joy Joys (mit iodine!) to Hans Moleman's Gremlin, it still manages to get in some legitimately funny moments. I especially like the gremlin's expression of extreme discomfort as Ned gives it a tender hug. Also, another Shout-Out to Shearer for being able to switch back to standard Ned. Like he was literally the devil less than ten minutes ago, and here he's completely believable as good ol' Flanders.

    And this leads to the ending, where Bart is still sent to a mental hospital for the rest of his life for being disruptive, some real dark humor there, and the infamous ending where Bart is strapped into a gurney on the ambulance, and the gremlin knocks on the door to reveal Flanders' severed head. I don't think any episode ever came close to this kind of scary ending, and I'm also curious as to whether or not "Hidely-Ho, Bart" was intended as disturbing or just legitimately scary because I can see it going either way.

    Bart Simpson's Dracula: This may have been the most recent film reference so far, with Bram Stoker's Dracula having only aired the year prior. It does deviate from the film into more generic vampire tropes, but I do love Mr. Burns dressed up in the films' Dracula outfit. As I mentioned before, Burns works great as a Halloween antagonist since he's already an amoral businessman that barely conceals his wrongdoings. So he fits in the role and adds humor with his more business humor such as buying a blood bank or forgetting to take his finger off the intercom. The episode is also just dark and atmospheric, with Vampire Bart confronting Lisa being pretty chilling as his fangs extend to bite her.

    The humor continues to stand up, from going to....PENNSYLVANIA to the Super Fun Happy Slide, the writers continued jokes with Steve Allen, vampires getting a free soda at the movies. I think Grandpa's joke about wanting to kill Bart despite not knowing he's a vampire is the only real dud, feeling like a retread of killing zombie Flanders. The Charlie Brown Christmas ending is NOT a reference to the show being pushed into November, as that wouldn't happen for a few more years, but just a non-sequitur that I don't think is a reference to anything? I think the whole intent is a horror twist ending that abruptly ends like a Christmas special.

    Fun Facts: As stated, this is the last episode with a framing device!

    This is the first episode without a formal content warning.

    Richard Nixon would die mere months after this aired. This led to the episode not being reaired for a period of time to avoid confusion, and it's a popular scene to cut for syndication. Also, did you know Milhouse was named after Nixon's middle name, Milhous?

    Uter made his debut in this episode, and he was intended as a one-shot character. However, he eventually made his way into regular episodes, and would even appear again in next year's episode in less fortunate circumstances.

    Rating: This episode feels a bit different in focus, going more for setting a horror aesthetic over a real sharp set of jokes. It's still very funny, but not so upfront compared to the wonderful settings and above-average animation going on throughout the episode. Again, I really don't see a weak segment of the three, with maybe Terror being the weakest comedy-wise, but it's so different in how far it goes for the horror theme that I think it manages to stay shoulder-to-shoulder with the other two shorts. So yeah, another top scoring episode.
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    MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    IV is the first Treehouse of Horror I can remember watching, and as a kid that was already terrified of gremlins, Terror ended up hitting way spooky, so it helps that Burns Dracula ends up being much less serious. This episode is still my favorite of the Treehouses since it's such a good blend of comedy and horror.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2021
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    Treehouse of Horror V
    Original Air Date: Oct 30, 1994

    We lost the framing! Not a huge loss, and I love the Outer Limits parody, which starts off goofy but ends on a strong, sinister note as Bart announces the episode. We also lost the tombstones, but what we get in its place are some really striking dark humor. Patty and Selma lighting cigarettes off their own witch burning, Seymour giving Bart a hearty thumbs up to signal his own decapitation, and Moe…well Moe’s hanging is just creepy. I definitely miss these openers, as opposed to the longer segments we’ll be seeing in the future that basically count as a fourth short. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    The Shinning: When making these parodies, you have to balance following the original’s plot beats (or else why do the parody) and knowing when to deviate (or else…why do the parody?). This is why the Shinning stands out as one of the best shorts of all the specials: the Simpsons slot perfectly into the original cast, and their personalities contrast so much it provides for easy comedy while sticking close enough to the source material. And as a bonus, we get a taste of Burns and Smithers to ease us into things (and we close out the coke saga).

    I want to first give credit to Marge, as her humor really shines through this episode, and I think jokes with Marge tend to be more subtle and I know I didn’t pick up on it as a kid. “We’re just going to have to wait and see” as a response to your child asking if their father is going to murder them is just darkly funny, and her under-reaction to Homer going berserk continues to be a highlight throughout.

    Then you have Homer, who contrasts with the source material to great comedic effect. From going insane over no TV and no beer, to losing interest in his rampage to the point where Moe has to get the ghouls to force him back at it. And the “Feelin’ Fine” is one of the most brilliant scenes in Simpsons. The typewriter is a lovely bit of satire, whereas NO TV AND NO BEER MAKE HOMER GO CRAZY being revealed by a flash of lightning scrawled all of the wall puts its own horror spin on the story. I don’t think a different show would have taken that extra mile and just been happy to leave it at a funny phrase on the typewriter.

    I could go, and this is as someone who has never seen The Shining in full. I know a few of the major scenes through osmosis, such as the frozen ending scene or the typewriter. And this short still holds up wonderfully despite that. I’m actually not all that into horror movies, so will I ever see the movie to better appreciate the Shinning? We’ll just have to wait and see.

    Time & Punishment: Another short that I tend to underestimate. I mean, time travel is a broad topic that doesn’t immediately bring horror to mind, but this short puts that on full display. It’s a pretty basic concept, Homer accidentally goes back in time and has to keep going back to fix the present he messed up. It’s something that works well as a short, as Homer just keeps going back to the same time period and goes back to the same scene in the present to see the results. I also give credit to the writers for sticking to this simple premise and not going beyond that. We get a few glimpses into potential alternate timelines, and that’s enough.

    The Ned Flanders future is incredibly disturbing, from the monitor rising out of the floor like a T-1000 or something, it starts very unsettling and keeps going. It’s a real testament to the writers that we can have Ned as the villain a second year in a row and it still works. His calm, friendly demeanor juxtaposed with the Big Brother-esque nightmare works, and it works in a manner very different from devil Flanders. I still have no idea how much of the lobotomy scene is supposed to be for laughs, as Homer’s family urging him to join them in bliss is super unsettling.

    The other alternate presents help keep things balanced. The other extended scene, the Good Present, is funny and kills you as Homer leaves his perfect life just a minute too early. Meanwhile we have Willie dying in the same manner as in the Shinning, building on a running gag just so perfect for Halloween. And James Earl Jones is back to voice Maggie, giving the gag its own darkly humorous twist.

    I also like the animation here, from the floor morphing into the TV during the Ned present to all the animals dying abruptly from Homer’s sneeze to Homer’s rampage in the past, him beating the giant mosquito to death being a highlight. The ending is great, taking the twist horror ending and contrasting it with the Simpson’s nonchalant humor to wonderful effect.

    Nightmare Cafeteria: Okay, so maybe this is why the episode decided to bring back the content warning one last time. Honestly, when you watch these shorts as a kid you don’t really consider how messed up it is. And I wasn’t watching this with the volume turned down in my room: the Simpsons was our family show throughout most of the 90s. So I was watching this tale of cannibal teachers right alongside my parents.

    So yeah, a really grim episode, and the jokes really seem to come from the very dark nature of how fast the staff commits to murdering and eating the children, alongside just how bad they are at keeping it under wraps from the students. It’s also a gory episode, with climax featuring the school staff drooling, covered in blood, as they back the remaining kids into a giant blender with incredibly realistic blood splatters around it. Alongside the previous episode’s gremlin, it is definitely a short that goes way heavier on the scares than the comedy. There's even little details, such as Wendell’s soft sounds of terror as he realizes his time is up or Martin’s anxious shaking in his cage that is really damn chilling.

    And I’m completely for this. I don’t think every episode should be like this, as Simpsons should prioritize comedy first and foremost, but for a Halloween episode I think it’s a fun treat to go a bit further in that horror direction every once in a while. Which is probably why this episode ends with a nightmare fake out, something I’ll let slide here but becomes obnoxiously common later on, and the whole inside-out gas goes for a pure comedy ending to utterly defuse the tension. It’s gory, yes, but it’s so over the top compared to earlier scenes like Milhouse falling in the blender that it lands quite differently. Having said that, I still wince when Santa’s Little Helper goes for Bart’s intestines. This episode won’t be for everyone, but I think it pushes boundaries without going too far.

    Fun Facts: This is last episode with a content warning…at the start of an episode anyways.

    The film Marge claims Congress is forcing them to air in lieu of the episode is not a real movie.

    John Denver was intended to guest star in the Shinning as himself, but for reasons I could not ascertain it ultimately didn't happen. His tragic plane crash couldn’t occur for a few more years, so it wasn’t that.

    In Time and Punishment, the line from Homer “I'm the first non-Brazilian person to travel backwards through time.” was originally “non-fictional” instead. The change was apparently the result of the writers having gone over the line quite a bit and, being sleep-deprived, found the non-Brazilian version to be hilarious. Most writers now think this was a mistake, but I actually prefer the line as it aired. Besides being a funny non-sequitur, it also harkens back to jokes about Homer having hidden depths such as his knowledge about the Supreme Court. Although this does give it a weaker connection to the Mr. Peabody joke that follows, it does kinda go well with Grandpa’s weird wedding advice. Maybe Abe was really into physics and imparted it onto Homer.

    Homer was going to be appear in Nightmare Cafeteria, but didn’t make it in.

    Matt Groening pushed for more blood and gore in this episode after complaints about the violence in the previous specials.

    Rating: Whereas III went for big laughs with sharp, witty dialogue and situations, and IV went more for horror with beautiful animation and creepy aesthetic, I think Treehouse of Horror manages to be the balanced episode of the three. It’s definitely the most gory so far, with every short featuring blood and guts of some type. Yet it defuses that with a lot of strong comedy, and again letting the character’s dictate how the parodies and humor will flow. Yes, it’s another perfect score. There’s a reason these specials were held in such high regard, so this hat trick shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
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    Sterica on
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    rhylithrhylith Death Rabbits HoustonRegistered User regular
    I am pretty sure this one is my favorite.

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    I quote all of these episodes at least a dozen times a week

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    JSSPmit.jpeg
    Treehouse of Horror VI
    Original Air Date: October 29, 1995

    Really love the intro to this episode. The quiet scene except for the hooves of the horse, and Krusty revealing his severed head letting loose his raspy laugh. They have learned how to angle these characters for horror, and it pays off to great effect here.

    Attack of the 50ft Eyesores: I...don't really like this episode. The advertisements aren't particularly scary, and instead of any build up the episode goes for something I am going to call a Wacky Murder Montage. This is where I assume the writers just shrugged and instead of focusing on plot or anything, just give us a montage of people dying to whatever monster or villain got unleashed. It's not that terrible here, and in fact I like the gag with Bart on the devil ad's shoulder it to destroy the school. It gets way, way worse in the future, so this won't be the last we see of it.

    The episode just feels so unfocused. It just kinda flits about until it gets bored and decides it needs a resolution. Homer returning the donut resolving nothing is a funny and appropriate horror twist, but the Simpsons just feel so extraneous here. Ads requiring attention to stay alive is clever, but the execution is week with Random Celebrity as Themselves slotting in there for no particular reason. Again, future episodes are worse about this, and Paul Anka singing an advertising jingle to draw attention away from killer ads does fit. It's just a trend I don't like.

    I will give props to the sound team, as the ads giving off distinct kaiju roars and their movement punctuated with bending metal sounds really good.

    There's a good concept here, but it's buried in a subpar execution. The humor is off, the horror just really isn't there, and the Simpsons are there to kick off the episode and little else. I think the problem is that there’s a lack of that biting Simpsons satire, and if you’re going to take on ads I just expect a bit more than a meta joke at the end.

    Nightmare on Evergreen Terrance: Now THIS, this is good. This feels like the writers had one last killer short left over from the last season, and I am thankful for it. Again, it's all about that formula of knowing how to cast your characters in the role of this film, and Willie as Freddy Krueger is brilliant. Having his origin being death at the repeated incompetence of Springfield is fantastic, and another example in knowing when to deviate from the source material. Modern Simpsons would have likely had Willie stick closer to the murderer origin, and give us a one-liner about killing Milhouse or something before being executed. By creating an origin unique to the parody, we need more time to flesh that out, which means more jokes and more time to make the parody uniquely Simpsons. Willie reduced to a burning skeleton is both a tremendously scary visual (and something we haven't seen yet) while also being hilarious as he politely sits down and waits for Milhouse's dad to whine about spaghetti.

    Then you have the scenes that hew more closely to the original, like Martin dying in the classroom. We still get Martin's frightening dream as Willie reveals himself and murders him in that creative Freddy-esque way, and then the scene plays up the morbidity for laughs. The distant screams of the kindergartners as Doris wheels in Martin's corpse, frozen in mid-scream, is just an incredible bit of black comedy.

    The animation is great too, from the more stretch and squash style of the opening to Willie morphing into various things to escape the sinky sand. One flaw was the colors in the final scene were super bright and saturated. Almost like they used the backgrounds from the opening to save tome and money.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop there. It’s a blast, giving the kids an adventure while still squeezing in some fun moments with the adults. Definitely one for the top ten.

    Homer Cubed: I feel conflicted about this one. It’s really banking on the marvel and novelty of the CGI graphics, which in 2021 still manages to hold up (okay Bart looks pretty weird). But even modern Simpsons has put out more impressive CGI, and that shows looks awful most of the time.

    The jokes are solid, but nothing super up there. I love Homer screaming at his 3D butt, the scenes with Frink, the TRON joke, and who can forget erotic cakes? But it feels a bit empty. Homer wanders the 3D plane, a joke happens, and then we go back to the living room for more jokes from a grab-bah of characters. I imagine I’d get more out of this was I more familiar with the episode this is parodying from that Twilighty show about that Zone. However, I’ve seen very few horror movies, and a lot of those parodies rank as my favorite shorts, so that isn’t a perfect excuse. The climax, and the only real horror, is the place collapsing, and that’s resolved in about a minute. There’s just not a lot of meat on this episode’s bones.

    The music is good though. When Homer is walking through the 3D realm, there’s a beautiful, slightly melancholy song that really captures the feeling of being in a amazing, awe-inspiring place while at the same time realizing you’re stuck there.

    I don’t want to be too down on this short. I like it better than Eye Sores, and it’s nice change of pace from shorts like Nightmare. I just feel the limitations of CGI in 90s television really restricted the narrative of this one.

    Fun Facts: This is the first episode to forgo the intro (the clip that starts with the graveyard and amusing tombstones) they had been re-using for the past five years. TOHV did heavily alter it to accommodate for the lack of tombstone jokes.

    This was the episode used for their Emmy submission for the year, heavily banking on the CGI segments to clinch the award. However, they ultimately lost to Pinky & the Brain.

    Al Gore had been asked to guest star on the episode, but they didn't get a response. I'm not 100% on this, but from what I've read he would have hosted the episode, so maybe they had a idea to bring back the wraparounds only featuring a different guest star as the host each year. Definitely would have kept things different.

    David S. Cohen (more popularly know as David X. Cohen due to Guild rules requiring distinct names for credits) is responsible for the Homer Cubed short and a lot of the equations in the CGI universe were his doing. Something of a playground for him until he was allowed to really cut loose with the nerdy stuff in Futurama.

    Rating: Wow, do I not like this episode? I do, but it didn’t have me as engaged as the last three episodes. It’s still a thoroughly entertaining episodes, and I content the whole way through. It just seemed a bit muddling, like they were trying to switch up the kind of stories they told this year but the execution wasn’t right. I still appreciate that kind of experimentation and I bet in another week I’ll be pining for a solid episode like TOHVI
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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    I’m watching Treehouse of Horror 32 so I can have a few more watches for a later episode, and I’m so sorry, Treehouse of Horror VI.

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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    lousy Smarch weather

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    ProlegomenaProlegomena Frictionless Spinning The VoidRegistered User regular
    Do you see towels? If you see towels you're probably in the linen closet again.

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    PaperLuigi44PaperLuigi44 My amazement is at maximum capacity. Registered User regular
    Homer Cubed actually freaked me out the first time I watched it, both from Homer being trapped in the 3D realm and later the real world. Even if he's kinda just hanging out, the concept of him not getting back was scary.

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    Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    You mentioned the equations in the background of Homer³

    One of them is 1782¹² x 1841¹² = 1922¹²

    Which, on a standard calculator, is a counter-example to Fermat's Last Theorem

    WoooOOOoooOOOooo

    [Muffled sounds of gorilla violence]
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    HeadCreepsHeadCreeps NOW IS THE TIME FOR DRINKING! Registered User regular
    The '93 Treehouse of Horror is probably my favorite but the '94 episode is a close second

    My brothers and I still quote them constantly

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    NaphtaliNaphtali Hazy + Flow SeaRegistered User regular
    Oooh, how are you going to get them? Skeleton power?

    Steam | Nintendo ID: Naphtali | Wish List
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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    So they finally showed the poster for this year’s episode, and it’s five shorts, consisting of:

    A Parasite Parody
    A Bambi Parody
    A Nightmare on Elm Street Parody
    A Telltale Heart Reading
    A Ring Parody based on, I shit you not, TikTok

    So another Elm Street parody and another Poe reading. At this point I think the writers have a humiliation fetish, but we shall see in a few weeks!

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
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    Treehouse of Horror VII
    Original Air Date: October 27, 1996

    Another short but sweet intro! Homer burning to death trying to light a pumpkin is fitting, and while not as creepy as Krusty the headless horseman, it still has a nice, haunting aesthetic. Very Halloween.

    The Thing & I: Bart having an evil twin that his parents hid from him is a fun idea, and I like how poorly Marge and Homer hide it from the kids. Also, Dr. Hibbert gets some time in the spotlight, and his frank, uncaring demeanor is a real treat. I did not, until this year, realize the paper cutter was a fakeout and not how he actually separated the twins.

    Hugo himself doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but that’s very intentional to build the dread and of course for the twist, which I’ll touch on soon. I do appreciate Nancy Cartwright putting a bit of effort into giving Hugo a gruffer voice that’d you expect of a kid living off fish heads in an attic. He also manages to have a fairly calm demeanor while maintaining an air of menace, which is perfect for the reveal that Hugo is the good twin. It’s a twist that you can catch early on if you remember the scars’ positioning, or the fact that Bart is, you know, Bart. The ending with their fates twisted is a cruel but funny way to close it out.

    So, a good start! I like the whole thing taking place within the house, as it makes you feel just as trapped as Bart inside the house with Hugo. Great short.

    The Genesis Tub: Oh I hate this episode, and it has nothing to do with the quality! I have hated how Lisa winds up at the end of the episode, trapped as a shrunken part of her tooth people, and at the mercy of Bart. Maybe they felt Bart needed a win after how we wound up in the previous short, but c’mon!

    As an episode, it’s kinda okay? It’s a solo Lisa short, something, but it lacks real substance as it’s mostly Lisa just observing her petri dish and dealing with Bart. It has some cute jokes, the the square pancake “waffles”, creating Lutherans, or Lisa’s eagerness to ruin soda for people. It’s a nice, even-flowing episode with a simple premise. Of course, I am going to harp on the lack of real Halloween spirit. The tooth people are just blue humans and worship Lisa, and the only other menace is from Bart, who looms over the dish looking to finish the job, but just steals it and passes it off as his own.

    The art in this episode is great, though. The elaborate cities in the dish, the distinct look of the tooth people (almost all original character designs), the scene with the tooth people attacking Bart is fun, it all looks great. A fun episode, if not amazing.

    Citizen Kang: Oh, here we go. Perhaps the last truly great TOH short, Citizen Kang combines alien invasion and the US political system to wonderful effect. Aliens abusing our shallow, limited elections to take over: that’s really horror for you.

    It really just melds the two concepts together wonderfully: aliens land, demand an earthling to take them to his leader, but there’s an election so it’s hard to say. The aliens see a practical way to conquer us by infiltrating our election. Americans can’t tell the difference, because elections are about spewing feel-good speeches that barely say anything of substance anyways. This mundane invasion also colors the humor, with Kang and Kodos spraying Homer in rum to prevent word from getting out.

    It’s a solid send-up of our elections, as Kang and Kodos give ridiculous speeches that lampoon our own politicians and their meaningless buzzwords that, if they do contain anything of import, will be abandoned a week after inauguration. They did make a conscious effort to avoid getting specific and going after either candidate, and this isn’t out of personal politics as the Simpsons has gone hard against republicans and democrats in prior episodes. I think it’s the economics of the episode, and keeping the political humor tightly focused on the satire of American elections. It gives the episode a sharp focus, and honestly Bob Dole was…eh.

    It all culminates in the ending, where Kang and Kodos remind us that we’re trapped in this shit, and even the obvious solution is doomed in the two-party system. I’m sure there’s something poetic about the last Republican candidate of the 90s talking about bipartisanship before being injecting into the vacuum of space. All hail the neocon flesh. Also, just a darkly funny scene as the briefly flail naked in space before going still.

    Wow, speaking of which, I’ve written a lot and barely talked about the joke. “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” is a perennial favorite line, and there’s a dark edge to it. Homer’s ignorance of how the system is built so he can’t win, and saying this while literally being a slave, is just really horrifying the more you think about. It’s a line of thinking developed by the system to make us think that we’ve done all we can to changes thing. We’re trapped in a broken system, the world is collapsing around us, and our government has incentive to do anything but help us.

    But don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

    Fun Facts: There's a band named I Voted For Kodos

    David Cohen said that the Citizen Kang violated the rules of the Simpsons by dating itself. This is odd because, for one, he wrote the episode and also the Simpsons frequently dates itself throughout the years even prior to this. Ironically, future segments that cover election will date themselves far, far worse.

    Rating: A nice batch of episodes! An obvious standout, but other two offer different types of solid shorts so you got something good no matter your tastes. I think this is the last truly great episode of TOH, but we still got a few more solid episodes before…things…happen.
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    PaperLuigi44PaperLuigi44 My amazement is at maximum capacity. Registered User regular
    Twirling towards freedom still makes me smile even now.

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    ChicoBlueChicoBlue Registered User regular
    What the hell is this, some kinda tube?

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    EnlongEnlong Registered User regular
    Sterica wrote: »
    So they finally showed the poster for this year’s episode, and it’s five shorts, consisting of:

    A Parasite Parody
    A Bambi Parody
    A Nightmare on Elm Street Parody
    A Telltale Heart Reading
    A Ring Parody based on, I shit you not, TikTok

    So another Elm Street parody and another Poe reading. At this point I think the writers have a humiliation fetish, but we shall see in a few weeks!

    That last one is... yeah. Thing is, I've already seen a cartoon do the concept of a monster being summoned by social media recently (Amphibia), and I doubt this upcoming thing is gonna do that concept better.

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    StericaSterica Yes Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2021
    I forgot to mention the one thing I’m critical of in Citizen Kang, amidst my gushing.

    When Homer first boards the shop and sees Kang and Kodos face-to-face, he begs on his knees that he has a wife and kids, eat them. A funny line, but it feels wrong, right? I mean, just a few years prior the same character got between his family and flesheating zombies to protect them.

    It’s almost like Homer is slowly becoming kind of a…

    …jerkass.

    Sterica on
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    PeewiPeewi Registered User regular
    edited October 2021
    Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!

    Peewi on
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
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