When it comes to “The Simpsons,” a lot of people like to talk about how it’s no longer the shinning (not shining) star of animated television. Whether you agree or not, it’s hard to deny that the older series were some of the best in TV history. From Homer failing to jump Springfield Gorge to Maggie shooting Mr. Burns, those early years were truly unforgettable. Not only was the comedy at its best, but the scares were also out in full force. The annual Treehouse of Horror episodes were truly spooktacular, but which one still leaves us sleeping with one eye open at night?
Treehouse of Horror VII
Season eight’s offering of Halloween goodness isn’t as creepy as the other episodes on this list, but it certainly starts off strong. The opening segment provides the surprising revelation that Bart has a twin, Hugo, who The Simpsons kept locked in the attic. Granted, these episodes aren’t canonical, but the discovery was still a shock nonetheless. Unfortunately for Bart, that secret was one that should have stayed hidden. It wasn’t long before his family realized that he was the real evil twin, and the two brothers ended up trading places.
The second segment, “The Genesis Tub,” doesn’t offer much in the way of horror, but it was still an enticing seven minutes of TV. However, it was the final short, “Citizen Kang,” which was truly terrifying, though not in the way you might have expected. “The Simpsons” has never been afraid to get political, and it went all the way in this segment with some disturbingly realistic comments. Let’s not dwell on that though; let’s just keep twirling, twirling, twirling towards the next episode.
Treehouse of Horror VI
By seven seasons in, “The Simpsons” had really gotten a handle on the whole Treehouse of Horror thing. That’s why episode VI, which first aired in 1995, has just the right combination of horror and comedy. “Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores” provides plenty of chills (would you want to go up against a group of gigantic billboard mascots?) but it all starts because of Homer’s obsession with donuts. It’s hard not to laugh when Homer is urged by Marge to do the right thing, only for the rampage to continue unresolved.
The real terror comes in the second segment, though, where “The Simpsons” parodies “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” After a terrible fate befalls Willie on the 13th day of the 13th month, he gets revenge on the kids of Springfield. It gave us nightmares as children, which is unsurprising given that most of the short is set in people’s dreams. The final segment, “Homer³,” is the least compelling, although admittedly it was unsettling to see Homer in the real world.
Treehouse of Horror IV
High up on the list of Treehouse of Horror episodes is the collection of shorts from season five. Focused around a series of paintings presented by Bart, it goes straight for the laughs with its first segment, “The Devil and Homer Simpson.” With his lust for donuts (mmmm, donuts) once again landing him in trouble, Homer has to try and worm his way out of a deal with the Devil. Luckily for him, spending eternal damnation being force-fed junk food is basically a dream come true.
The episode ramps up the creepiness in the following segments, with “Terror at 5 ½ Feet” a real highlight. Bart’s paranoia as a gremlin tampers with the school bus is spooky enough in itself, but the gruesome sight of Ned Flanders’ decapitated head definitely adds to the fear. The Simpsons parody of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” also brings its share of horror and comedy, with Homer’s failure to put a stake through Mr. Burns’ heart definitely a laugh out loud moment.
Treehouse of Horror V
The fifth installment of “The Simpsons’” annual Halloween special is considered by many critics to be the show’s best, and we have to agree. It starts off with “The Shinning,” a more comedic yet faithful parody of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The short is as tense as the movie it was based on, even with the iconic “No TV and no beer make Homer something something” scene in the middle.
While “The Shinning” is certainly the highlight of the episode, the later shorts still make for great TV. Homer’s failure to quit messing with the past in “Time and Punishment” leads to some hilariously dark scenarios, though they’re not as horrific as those in “Nightmare Cafeteria.” The blender scene at the end was enough to stop any of us from sleeping (or going to school) for weeks!
The next time you need something to watch on Halloween, these episodes ought to do the trick. Even though some of them came out more than 25 years ago, they’ve never lost their ability to send a shiver down your spine. You may want to think twice before you watch them with the lights off!