In honor of All Hallows Eve 2016, I intend to revisit every single Simpsons Halloween special. Many I’ve seen countless times before, but many I’ve never seen at all. So this should be an interesting experiment… at least for me. However, because The Simpsons has been in continuous production for the majority of the years I’ve walked this planet and because I have a day job, I won’t really be able to dig deep with a lot of substantive commentary. And it will still take me most of this week anyway. I hope you enjoy this quick-and-dirty nostalgia trip anyway.
Simpsons Halloween Special (1990)
The frame: Bart and Lisa tell scary stories in the tree house while Homer eavesdrops.
The stories: 1) Bad Dream House, riffing off of The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and similar; 2) Hungry are the Damned, an alien abduction tale; and 3) The Raven, more or less a direct translation of Poe’s classic poem.
Favorite tombstone: Casper the Friendly Boy
Favorite quote: “Anyone from a species that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand. All right then.”
Notes: James Earl Jones classes up the joint as a guest voice. Marge delivers her first opener in her inimitable style. There aren’t any spooky nicknames listed in the credits yet.
Simpsons Halloween Special II (1991)
The frame: Nightmares induced by overindulgence on Halloween candy.
The stories: 1) The Monkey’s Paw; 2) a parody of the Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life;” and 3) Mr. Burns turns Homer into a cyborg.
Favorite tombstone: Lose Weight Now Ask Me How
Favorite quote: “Behold! The greatest breakthrough in labor relations since the cat o’ nine tails!”
Notes: Marge has her second opener, stirring up even more fatal curiosity this time around. And the nicknames appear! That didn’t take long.
Simpsons Halloween Special III (1992)
The frame: Attendees of the Simpsons’ Halloween bash tell scary stories.
The stories: 1) Clown Without Pity, nodding to the Child’s Play Chucky doll; 2) King Homer as an homage to King Kong; and 3) Dial Z for Zombies, where Lisa and Bart try to summon the dearly departed Snowball I and get a whole lotta brain-eating human corpses instead.
Favorite tombstone: Family Dog (which isn’t actually in the opening credits, but rather a pet cemetery (sematary?) later in the episode).
Favorite quote: “I think women and seamen don’t mix.” “We know what you think!”
Notes: Homer opens so they can work in a nifty Hitchcock reference, and we have our first couch gag — skeletal Simpsons on the couch. And there’s a significant section in a library (which gives me a happy). “To the book depository!”
Simpsons Halloween Special IV (1993)
The frame: A Rod Sterling-esque Bart in an art gallery depicting nightmarish scenarios.
The stories: 1) The Devil & Homer Simpson, regarding a Faustian bargain for a doughnut; 2) Terror at 5 1/2 Feet with Bart on a bus standing in for John Lithgow’s gremlin-fearing passenger; and 3) Bart Simpson’s Dracula (tonight the part of Gary Oldman will be played by Mr. Burns).
Favorite tombstone: Subtle Political Satire
Favorite quote: “Big deal. It’s no different from the basement of Grampa’s rest home.”
Notes: There’s no opener unless you count Marge popping up to rain on Bart’s hosting parade. A zombie version of the Simpsons clan bursts up through the floor for the couch gag. A mash-up of the Simpsons theme and the Addams Family theme plays over the end credits.
Simpsons Halloween Special V (1994)
The frame: N/A
The stories: 1) The Shinning (perhaps my all-time favorite Treehouse of Horror segment); 2) Time and Punishment, which finds Homer time-traveling at his own peril; and 3) Nightmare Cafeteria a.k.a. cannibalism with Lunch Lady Doris.
Favorite tombstone: Amusing Tombstones. (This is the only tombstone. The cemetery gags are gradually giving way to more elaborate credit sequences).
Favorite quote: ::shudder:: … “John Denver.” (I have always found this joke unduly hilarious because my mom is a huge John Denver fan.)
Notes: The Marge opener is back with a vengeance, and it segues into a funny send-up of The Outer Limits credits. Frankenstein-ed versions of the Simpsons swap heads in the couch gag. James Earl Jones is back for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it voice cameo. I can’t get enough of the running gag with Groundskeeper Willie taking an axe to back immediately in every segment. And there’s a surreal inside-out show tune dance number at the end. What’s not to love?
Simpsons Halloween Special VI (1995)
The frame: N/A
The stories: 1) Attack of the 50-ft Eyesores, which reminds me of this old beer commercial but might actually reference something unfamiliar to me; 2) Nightmare of Evergreen Terrace (Groundskeeper Willie as Freddie!); and 3) Homer3, which finds Homer getting a lot more three-dimensional.
Favorite tombstone: N/A
Favorite quote: “It’s like… did anyone see the movie, Tron?”
Notes: No opener again, and no tombstones at all. Have they retired those tropes for good? And only six years into the game? Shocker. Instead of a worried Marge we have Krusty as a headless horseman and a couch gag featuring the Simpsons hanging from nooses. Also, hello, 1990s computer animation. How I have not missed you at all (even though you are well-applied here).
And that’s it for tonight, folks. I binged watched all night, and we’re not even past my high school years yet. Wow.