Halloween Watch: The Treehouse of Horror

Good evening.  I had another book review planned for you today, but I was attacked by a goblin before I could finish the novel I’m reading. So instead I threw something together about The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror!

Okay, fine.  There wasn’t a goblin. I just really like The Simpsons.  And I want to talk about it.

Join me if you dare.

Forgive me a bit of a stretch in honor of Halloween.  I know this is a READERS advisory blog.  And I’m supposed to be talking about scary BOOKS.  I’m well aware that a discussion of the institution that is the Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror episode might not precisely fit my mission.   So I’ve made sure to include a clip that is directly book-related at the end of this post.

Besides, in the early days, The Simpsons had truly brilliant writing.  Since the yearly Halloween episode usually gave more creative freedom to the writers and animators, Treehouse of Horror could always be counted on to deliver strong writing, creepy visuals, and dark humor, as well as to be among the best episodes of any given season.

People my age and younger have never known a world without The Simpsons.  I don’t mean just watching the show.  I mean generally participating in society.  It’s inescapable.  The style, the humor, and the ideas of The Simpsons have become part of the cultural lexicon.  And that includes the annual Treehouse of Horror.

And for many of us, Treehouse of Horror is the first truly scary thing we were permitted to watch.  For primetime  TV, in the 1990’s, the Halloween specials were quite intense–funny, scary, well-written pastiches of everything from old B-movies to classic horror stories to The Twilight Zone.

“The Twilight Zone” was an oft-visited well for Halloween episodes. Shown here: “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet,” a pastiche of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

If you’re interested in lists and rankings, Joshua Kurp drew up a ranking of every Treehouse of Horror segment, “From Worst to First.”  I totally agree with his top ten.

“The Shinning”–a classic, Kurp’s #3, and one of my very favorites, from the very first Treehouse of Horror that I was allowed to watch.

Here at the library we have the complete third season of The Simpsons on DVD, which includes Treehouse of Horror II.  Two of the three stories have a literary connection–one is based on the short story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, and the other is a Frankenstein take-off.  The one in the middle, of course, is a Twilight Zone inspired tale.  It’s one of my favorite Halloween episodes.

Now I am feeling the need to bring this whole post back to literature.  Let’s talk about the very first Halloween special.  Back in the day it wasn’t called Treehouse of Horror, but the name derives from that very first episode.

Lisa, Maggie and Bart telling scary stories in their treehouse on Halloween, in “The Simpsons Halloween Special.”

The crowning achievement of this episode is the third and final segment, The Raven, narrated by James Earl Jones.  I daresay it’s one of the best adaptations of Poe’s  “The Raven” out there.

But judge for yourself.  A user on TeacherTube has it uploaded in its entirety, here.

Quoth the Raven: “Hey Pointdexter, it’s Halloween!  Put the book away!”

One thought on “Halloween Watch: The Treehouse of Horror

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s