The Top 5 Treehouse of Horror episodes

By Brett Reardon

Courtesy of Brad Cerenzia/Flickr

Fall is the time of the year when your television screen is a burst of all things spooky and Halloween-y. For as long as I could remember, I’ve always loved the long-running Simpsons Halloween specials, otherwise known as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. Each Halloween, the staff behind The Simpsons completely disregards all continuity to bring some of the funniest episodes ever aired.

Each Treehouse of Horror is broken up into three segments, all containing different stories that have parodied everything from “Twilight Zone” episodes to fairy tales. Here are the Top 5 Treehouse of Horror stories:
1. The Shinning: Treehouse of Horror V (1994)

In this episode, the Simpsons family has become the caretakers for Mr. Burns’ hotel. Burns cuts the cable and removes all the alcohol to ensure ‘honest work’ out of his caretakers. Once Homer realizes the beer and cable are gone, his sanity begins to slip.
Homer even says it himself: “No TV and beer make Homer go crazy.”
In the final scenes, Homer chases his family through the snow with an axe, until Lisa notices the portable TV that Groundskeeper Willie had left behind. As Homer’s urge to kill fades, the family gathers around to watch TV in the snow. The episode ends with the family frozen by the cold.
This episode is a pitch perfect 11-minute comedy version of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” – shots, music and all. The detail put into this short segment along with the perfect comedic timing makes this a truly unforgettable episode.
2. Time and Punishment: Tree House of Horror V (1994)

It all starts with the Simpson family eating breakfast together. Everything is fine until Lisa realizes Homer’s hand is caught in the toaster. After destroying the toaster to free his hand, Homer brings it down to the basement to “repair.”
Once finished making repairs, Homer takes it for a test toast, which ends up sending him all the way to the age of the dinosaurs. It’s the butterfly effect; each time Homer goes back to the age of dinosaurs, he inadvertently touches something. After what seems like countless time hops, Homer comes back to a present where mostly everything is the same.
It’s great to see Homer put in delicate situations like time travel, because he’s an oaf who muddles everything up. Each distorted present Homer wound up in were interesting, some changes were minor and others were colossal.
3. The Devil and Homer Simpson: Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

It’s a normal day at the plant for Homer, but as he goes to grab a donut, he realizes there are none left. Homer then says, “Oh I’d sell my soul for a donut.”
Suddenly, Ned Flanders as the devil appears ready to give Homer a donut in exchange for his soul. Homer scarfs down all but one bite of the donut, saving his soul from eternal damnation at the moment.
Soon, Homer eats the bite and is sent to hell for one day before a fair trial at the suggestion of Lisa. At the trial, the jury of the damned find Homer’s soul is actually property of Marge, not the devil. The quick one-liners make this episode so great. Like the casual greetings between Bart and the Devil, Smithers telling Mr. Burns that the lord of darkness is his 11 a.m. appointment. My personal favorite is when Nixon refers to the devil as master.
4. Desperately Xeeking Xena: Treehouse of Horror X (1999)

Bart and Lisa acquire super powers after an X-ray machine explodes next to them. Bart has the ability to stretch and Lisa is given super strength; they dawn the names Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl.
Elsewhere, Xena actress Lucy Lawless is kidnapped by The Collector (Comic Book Guy), who puts her in a PET film bag to keep her in mint condition. Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl infiltrate The Collector’s base in an attempt to save Xena, but are captured as well.
Lawless defeats The Collector, saves Bart and Lisa and flies them home. This segment felt like a Saturday morning cartoon, making it more fun and less scary than other Treehouse of Horror segments. The running gag of Lawless telling people she’s not actually Xena was always good for a chuckle. It’s nice to see a light hearted special once in a while, as it’s a reminder that underneath all the spooky gore it is still The Simpsons.
5. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace: Treehouse of Horror VI (1995)

The kids of Springfield have been having nightmares about Groundskeeper Willie trying to kill them. The strange part is that the injuries they got in their dream happen to them in real life. Marge tells Bart and Lisa about how Groundskeeper Willie burned to death and how he swore he’d get his revenge in their children’s dreams.
Bart decides they need to stop Willie, and he, Lisa and Maggie end up defeating Willie in their dreams. The next day, Willie is back to normal.
I love anything with the disgruntled Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie and making him a villain in this segment was the right choice. His thick Scottish accent makes any line a laugh. This is such a radical spoof of Nightmare on Elm Street, and the writers did a wonderful job turning Willie into Freddie.
There are so many other episodes within the Treehouse of Horror series and with the Simpsons recently airing their 25th Treehouse of Horror there are now even more. So, this Halloween, set aside some time and crush Treehouse of Horror I XXV if you dare.
Brett Reardon can be reached at [email protected].