Halloween simply wouldn't be Halloween without these traditions: riding hayrides, carving pumpkins, going to parties, trick-or-treating, eating all the candy your kids got and stupidly forgot to hide and, of course, watching all 23 of The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror specials.
While the 2012 installment Treehouse of Horror already aired back on Oct. 7 (the silly, spooky episode riffed on things like the Mayan-predicted apocalypse and the wildly successful Paranormal Activity franchise, which pretty much go hand-in-hand), The Simpsons' contributions to Halloween keep up screaming with laughter right up until Oct. 31.
With nearly 70 memorable Treehouse of Horror segments, having to narrow down the 10 best made us go a little something something. (Crazy? Don't mind if we do!) From their inspired retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven to Homer's excellent adventure to the third dimension, we pick the best of the best. In no particular order, here they are:
"The Shinning": From 1994's Treehouse of Horror V (which has two other entries on this list, perhaps making it the single greatest episode out of all of them), The Shining parody perfectly named "The Shinning" puts Homer in Jack Nicholson's iconic shoes and makes him go crazy on his family after being holed up in Mr. Burns' mansion with no TV and no beer. (See photo.) Not only does this one have one of the very best ToH deaths (Groundskeeper Willie's recurring gag of an axe to the back is pretty gruesome, even for a mainstream cartoon), but one of the best endings when a freezing Simpson clan has to endure an even scarier fate in the snow: watching the Tony Awards.
"Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores": Yes, it's a brilliant analogy for the horrors of advertising and what it does to the American male psyche, but this segment from 1995's ToH VI features the one key ingredient for a great Simpsons episode: mmmmmm, donut. Moreover, mmmmm colossal donut that Homer steals from the Lard Lad statue, who comes to life and leads a reign of terror over Springfield with all the other gigantic mascots... and Kent Brockman. Plus, a Paul Anka cameo! (And come to think of it, ToH VI also has a perfect three segments, as the remaining two are also on this list. Simpsons debate: Is ToH V or VI better? Go!)
"Clown Without Pity"
: The Simpsons
spoofed both The Twilight Zone
(as they've done a few times with these specials) and the ridiculous Child's Play
franchise during ToH III
when Bart gets an evil Krusty the Klown doll as a gift, which comes to life as a knife-wielding, blood-hungry menace that terrorizes Homer. As it turned out, all they had to do was flip off the doll's "evil" switch to "good" and — voila! — Homer is alive and well and Krusty lives happily ever after with Malibu Stacy. The segment also has one of the all-time best Homer cries on The Simpsons: "Marge, the doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me!"
"Nightmare Cafeteria": One of the few legitimately terrifying and unsettling ToH bits, this segment from ToH V turned Springfield Elementary's staff into kid-eating cannibals after the cafeteria staff comes up with a final solution to classroom overcrowding. Mmmm Sloppy Jimbos. (Turns out, there's very little meat in gym mats. Or Malk.) Of course, it was all just a terrible dream, but not before a mysterious gas seeped in to turn everyone's guts inside out in a truly disgusting closing musical number. Equal parts gross and hilarious. (Poor Willie gets another axe to the back!)
"Time and Punishment": "Oh, I wish I wish I hadn't killed that fish." Homer didn't exactly have the best of luck as a time-traveler in one of the three great segments in ToH V, but lucky for us, it's probably the most hilarious of the whole bunch. When Homer tries to fix a toaster, he inadvertently travels through time and space only to find various terrible fates in which Flanders is an evil overlord and donuts don't exist. Homer finally settles on a world where everyone eats like lizards. Eh, close enough.
"Citizen Kang": Space aliens Kang and Kodos are ToH staples, but their appearance in 1996's ToH VII is simply the best. After they take on the human form of then-Presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, Homer accidentally ejects the real politicians into space and the aliens are elected into office. A sharply funny political episode, with one of the best Simpsons lines ever: "I say, we must move forward, not backward, upward not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom." I'd have voted for him, too.
"Lisa's Nightmare": When the Simpsons visited Morocco (Simpsons did it!) in 1991's ToH II, the segment became a lesson in teaching people to be careful what you wish for. Especially if you're like Homer and you make a series of wishes on a cursed monkey paw. You could wind up with evil alien overlords, or even worse, a dry turkey sandwich. Lisa's nightmare then gives way to "Bart's Nightmare" (he's a jack-in-the-box) and then "Homer's Nightmare" (the unnerving Robo-Homer).
"Homer³": One of the most inventive and groundbreaking things to be done on The Simpsons (remember what a big deal this was when it aired back in 1995?), Homer finds himself in another place when he discovers a third dimension. Even more amazing than the sight of Homer in 3D was the sight of Homer in our world. Well, a Los Angeles street in front of an erotic cakes store. Animation and effects have changed a lot since this ToH VI moment aired, but it can still give you goosebumps when you watch it today.
"Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace": Also from ToH VI, this spoof on Nightmare on Elm Street gave the relentlessly murdered Willie (this time thanks to a furnace fire because of lousy Smarch weather) power to haunt the nightmares of Springfield's kids, including Bart, Lisa, and even Maggie. They try to fight their sleep, but when they fail, they must fight Willie from killing them when he appears in the form of a lawn mower, a snake, and a giant bagpipe spider. The segment finds just the right balance of genuinely scary and funny.
"The Raven": In the early '90s, concerned parents/killjoys worried kids would be running around emulating Bart Simpson with a slingshot in their pocket saying things like "Cowabunga" and "Don't have a cow, man." But little did they realize The Simpsons had an entire generation quoting Edgar Allan Poe, too. In the first-ever ToH, which aired back in 1990, Lisa reads (with some narration help from James Earl Jones) Poe's classic tale The Raven, in which Bart is re-imagined as the menacing creature. Quote The Simpsons, ever more.
Honorable mentions: "Dial 'Z' For Zombies," "Terror at Five-and-a-Half Feet," and "Bad Dream House."
What's your favorite Treehouse of Horror segment from The Simpsons? Do you agree with our top 10? Share in the comments section!
[Photo Credit: THE SIMPSONS ™ and © 2012 TCFFC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED (10)]