Top 15 Treehouse of Horror Stories

Ah, the annual ritual that is The Simpsons Halloween special. Also one of the high points of the season these anthology episodes are often as chilling as they are funny. Sometimes original stories, sometimes spoofs of well known tales and always imaginative, the writers and animators have given us plenty of great material over the years.

This list was intended to be a Top 10 but it just wouldn’t be possible to pick some of these gems over others. Even with expanding the list out to 15 there are plenty more great stories left out. Make sure you note your favourites in the comments!

15. Send in the Clones

Send in the Clones

When Homer needs a new hammock he is in such a hurry to relax that he ignores a warning about a curse. The curse soon takes effect and the hammock starts spitting out dimwitted clones of Homer. At first he’s pleased with having extra versions of him to do his chores (and assure Marge that her new outfit “flatters butt”) but when one clone decapitates Ned Flanders with a chainsaw Homer tries to abandon them in a field, assuming they won’t return. Instead they create more and more clones until an army of half-brained Homers descend upon the town.

14. Starship Poopers

Starship Poopers

Maggie causes a stir when her first baby tooth emerges as a sharp fang – even stranger her ‘baby legs’ drop off to reveal a cluster of tentacles! The mutant Maggie caused havoc throughout the house until Kang and Kodos arrive at the door with Kang claiming to be Maggie’s real father (with Marge accused of being an ‘intergalactic hussy’). There’s only one man to sort things out: Jerry Springer.

13. Dial Z For Zombies

Dail Z For Zombies

The Simpsons were actually a bit ahead of the curve when looking at the modern zombie fad, with this episode first being broadcast in 1992. Bart and Lisa are depressed about the anniversary of their cat’s death and Bart, having recently obtained a book of the occult, attempts to bring her back. The spell works better than expected and all the dead in Springfield rise from the grave and head into town to feast on the residents brains. With the hordes of the dead on the prowl, along with an oddly high number of historical figures, the Simpsons family must battle their way to the library to reverse the spell.

12. Nightmare Cafeteria

Nightmare Cafeteria

Principle Skinner finds a way to solves the schools overcrowded detention rooms and the increased costs of cafeteria food – students who have been given a detention are to be put on the menu. Bart and Lisa find out about the ploy, but with Homer and Marge refusing to help and almost no students left alive in the school they have to face the horror on their own. One of the more visceral of the Halloween episodes with a particularly bloody finale. Story goes that the producers wished to respond to complaints about violence on The Simpsons and set out to produce an especially horrific Halloween special (see also #4 and #5 on this list).

11. Bart Simpson’s Dracula

Bart Simpson's Dracula

Although the title suggest that Dracula is the only source of parody in this story there are several vampire films and books being referenced here, right up to The Lost Boys. Essentially melding together the most famous moments from vampire pop-lore, there are plenty of sight gags and downright oddball moments such as the Super Fun Happy Slide and the brilliant “um Dad? That’s his crotch”.

10. Bart’s Nightmare

Bart's Nightmare

One of many awesome ‘Treehouse of Horror’ episodes that retell classic episodes of The Twilight Zone with a Simpson’s twist. In this particular story a small town is beholden to the whims of a 10 year old boy with the ability to read minds and alter reality as he sees fit. With the brattish Bart carrying the mentality of an average ten-year-old this puts everyone in a difficult world, Homer in particular. When Bart turns Homer into a Jack-in-the-box he is forced to bond with Bart to earn his forgiveness. The trademark Twilight Zone twist in this instance is that Bart actually comes to respect his father.

9. The Raven

The Raven

The Simpsons are not shy about pillaging classic horror and sci-fi in the interests of their Halloween specials, but they have never gone quite as far back as this Edgar Allen Poe chiller. Instead of reworking the story it is narrated outright with James Earl Jones lending his impressive vocal talents to the episode. In spite of the tale being re-enacted by Simpsons characters and the raven breaking character to utter “eat my shorts” this is still as creepy as ever, and introduced a generation of young viewers to the works of Poe. And Matt Groening thought it would be viewed as pretentious.

8. The Devil and Homer Simpson

The Devil and Homer Simpson

Homer wants a doughnut. Expressing his extreme desire for a doughnut he openly declares that he would sell his soul for one. The Devil promptly appears (revealed to be Ned Flanders) to make that offer. Then Homer realizes that his soul will be safe so long as he doesn’t finish the doughnut, but it isn’t long before he caves and is sent to hell. The Devil agrees that Homer deserves a trial leading to Lionel Hutz squaring off against the Devil and his jury of the damned. Packed with brilliant moments, like the ironic punishment Homer suffers and Hutz making an escape out of the bathroom.

7. Bad Dream House

Bad Dream House

Bad Dream House was the first story to be shown as part of the ‘Treehouse of Horror’ series and it feels as though the writers hadn’t quite decided what tone they wished to strike with these short episodes. More recent stories have gone for a wacky humour punctuated with some cartoony gore, but Bad Dream House is scary on a level we rarely see on The Simpsons. The Simpson family have moved into an old mansion that they got at a suspiciously low price. It quickly turns out that the house is haunted, throwing around objects (and Homer), blood pouring out of the walls and the family members being possessed during the night. Ultimately the house elects to destroy itself rather than live with the Simpsons.

6. King Homer

King Homer

King Kong is one of the most famous movies in history for a very good reason, and it’s fitting that The Simpsons would pay tribute to it in a Halloween anthology. What makes this a particular solid parody us the attention to detail. Many shots from the original film are faithfully recreated, making this a treat for film fans. Plus the gags are brilliant. Just try and read the following line without giggling:

“Ok you big ape…get a snoot full of this gas bomb!”

5. Time and Punishment

Time and Punishment

When the family toaster breaks down (in the most hilarious fashion) Homer decides to take a crack at fixing it. Through his over-enthusiastic efforts the toaster winds up becoming a fully functioning time machine. Homer first winds up in the prehistoric era where he makes a “stupid bug go squish now”. Arriving back in the present he finds that this small action has had drastic consequences. He heads back into the past to fix things, and things spiral from there. To sum up: Homer Simpson + causality in time travel = brilliant.

4. The Shinning

The Shinning

In this inspired parody of the Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining the writers and animators managed to…aw hell, just watch the clip:

3. Terror at 5 1/2 Feet

Terror at 5 1/2 feet

Returning once again to The Twilight Zone, but not the classic series. Taken instead from the movie adaptation, specifically a segment where John Lithgow is a nervous passenger convinced that there’s something on the outside of the jumbo jet he’s traveling on. Although it doesn’t come close to the source material in terms of terror, the transition to the school bus makes for plenty of laughs as Bart desperately tries to warn his fellow passengers of the danger only to be branded insane.

2. Clown Without Pity

Clown Without Pity

Homer forgets to buy Bart a birthday present so he dashes out to grab one last minute. Pulling up at an occult store he selects a Krusty the Clown doll, ignoring the shopkeepers warnings about a curse. The doll naturally turns out to alive and very, very evil. The doll begins a campaign to terrorize and kill Homer, ambushing him in all manner of places and lunging at him with all manner of sharp implements. The hit rate of the jokes is second to none with almost every second line being a side-splitter, such as “the doll’s trying to kill me and the toaster’s been laughing at me!”

And then there’s the always classic Froghurt scene:

1. Hungry Are the Damned

Hungry are the Damned

One of the original three ‘Treehouse of Horror’ stories and the debut appearance of the legendary Kang and Kodos. In yet another The Twilight Zone tribute the Simpsons family are abducted into a flying saucer during a BBQ. Meeting the advanced race of B-Movie inspired drooling alien octopusses they are promised a life of luxury and wonder on the alien homeworld where they would be treated as gods. For the journey they would be provided with advanced entertainment and an endless supply of their favourite foods. Lisa becomes suspicious about the alien’s motives and begins snooping around, finally finding a book that suggests the aliens intend to put the family on the menu.

As noted earlier, the first round of ‘Treehouse of Horror’ was still finding its feet in terms of tone. This story allows the humour to come from the implied horror, such as when Homer and Marge are shot in a manner where it appears that their heads are on platters. The over-the-top manner of Kang and Kodos is also a rich source of comedy, plus we have the only appearance of their third crew member Serak the Preparer (voiced by James Earl Jones). Unlike later Halloween specials they took a rather surreal approach to the animation with high contrast colour and lighting, giving the whole episode a creepy feel. Top work from The Simpsons crew.