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.
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.
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.
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.