Every Halloween since 1990, The Simpsons have had a special Treehouse of Horror edition of the show. The episodes are split into three segments and involve the Simpson family in a horror, sci-fi or supernatural setting, taking place outside the normal continuity of the show making them non-canon. Most episodes are based on popular culture and parody famous films, books, radio and TV shows – The Twilight Zone especially has been used as an inspiration in many of the segments.
This episode starts off with Marge talking to the audience alike the opening of Frankenstein (1931). She warns the viewers to send their children their children to bed, as this episode will give them nightmares. Unfortunately for Marge, the viewers ignore her suggestion and let their children watch on.
The wraparound story that connects the three segments together is a simple one; Homer comes back from trick or treating and sees Bart and Lisa telling scary stories in their tree house. He climbs up, hides around the back and eavesdrops on them.
Bart’s first story is called Bad Dream House, and features the Simpson family moving into a new house, that was exceptionally under price. From the opening shots, the house looks eerily similar to that in The Addams Family, and the interior especially look like the inside of the hotel featured in The Shining. The moment the family step into the house, supernatural things start to happen; books flying about, a vortex appearing in the kitchen wall, Bart being lifted up to the ceiling and getting strangled by a phone cord. Of course, Homer isn’t phased by any of this and tells the rest of the family to sleep on it, before moving out of the house. During the night however, even more surreal things happen to the Simpson family and they are all homages to older horror films.
* The Exorcist (1973) – Maggie’s head spinning around as she sits in her bed.
* The Amityville Horror (1979) – Walls telling Bart to kill his family.
* Poltergeist (1982) – Tree outside talking to Lisa.
* The Shining (1980) – Homer walking around with an axe looking to kill his family.
* Halloween (1978) – Marge playing with a kitchen knife.
The family then frantically chase each other around with their weapons until Marge decides to shout at the house. The house then threatens that they will all die a painful death, but Marge still carries on with her shouting. Eventually, the house forces them to leave whilst it thinks about what it really wants, then destroys itself, instead of having to live with The Simpsons.
The Simpsons family are seen having a barbecue in their back yard until Lisa notices an alien spaceship. As the ship abducts the family, we are introduced to Kang and Kodos – aliens from the planet Rigel IV. The aliens aren’t seen as a threat, as they treat The Simpsons to all of their favourite foods, but Lisa, being inquisitive decides to have a proper look around the ship. She goes into the kitchen and find a cookery book named ‘How to Cook Humans’. Immediately she runs back to her family, shows them the book, gets them on her side and accuses the aliens of wanting to harm them. Unfortunately for them, the aliens blow some space dust off the book and show them that it’s actually called ‘How to Cook for Forty Humans’. Feeling betrayed by The Simpsons, the aliens send them back home to live their normal lives again – instead of the god like lives they would have lived on Rigel IV. The cookbook in this segment was based on the one in the 1962 episode of The Twilight Zone; To Serve A Man.
Lisa starts off this segment by reading out Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, but each of The Simpsons take different roles in the famous poem; Homer is the lead, Bart is The Raven, Lisa and Maggie are angels and Marge is briefly shown as a painting.
After the short last segment, the wraparound story picks up again with none of the three Simpson’s children scared by any of the stories, unlike Homer who is quivering around the back of the treehouse after eavesdropping on everything said. As the children sleep well that night, Homer lies awake in his bed terrified and to add to his fear, Bart as The Raven appears at his window and laughs at him. He then decides that he hates Halloween now.
Seeing as this was the very first Treehouse of Horror episode, the writers sure crammed in a lot of references to other horror films and TV shows, not that this was a bad thing. However, none of the stories were particular scary, except for maybe the first one and it’s paranormal themes throughout, seeing as The Simpsons are aimed at a younger audience. To say the least, it was a damn good first episode to a series of other Halloween specials of The Simpsons.