270. Treehouse of Horror XII

(originally aired November 6, 2001)
A lot of the decline of these Halloween shows came from loss of tone. What were once special and unique stand-outs in a season would now just blend right in with all the rest of the monotony. A lot of this edition feels indicative of that: most of the time I feel like I’m watching a regular episode, but with more fantasy elements in it. Take the first segment, “Hex and the City”: a gypsy lays a curse upon Homer, causing all of his loved ones to undergo hideous transformations. Marge grows hair all over her body. Bart’s neck elongates itself. Lisa starts to turn into some bizarre centaur. But everyone’s just kind of sitting around the breakfast table talking like normal, no sense of any shock or worriment from anybody. If the characters don’t care, then we don’t. Also Homer’s kind of a jerk in this one, stubbornly refusing to admit he’s cursed, despite the horrible things happening to his family. I get that’s the joke, but you’d expect a bit more of a positive reaction of him trying to rectify the situation. A big non-ending caps off this humdrum segment.

“House of Whacks” has more potential, but I feel it falls a little bit short. Like the first one, everything up until the end feels like a normal episode… albeit with a hyper-sophisticated super house with the voice of Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan of course is the standout here, with a fair share of great lines (“This is Constable Wiggums. We’ll be right there. Remove your knickers and wait in the bath.”) as he attempts to off Homer so he can have Marge all to himself. Or itself. It’s kind of slow to start, but once Brosnan puts his plans into action, things start to pick up, with some neatly animated stuff with the various appendages and functions of the house as they attempt to thwart Marge from leaving and finish Homer off once and for all. I think the ending works too, with sending the house’s CPU off to Patty and Selma. A psychopathic machine, yes, but I guess Marge feels her sisters can deal with anything it can dish out. Not perfect, but it’s definitely memorable, and the best of the three segments here.

“Wiz Kids” is kind of forbearing, as it’s a story based on a pop culture item that is decidedly not Halloween-y, which we’d see plenty more of in the future. But Harry Potter’s kind of magical and fantasy, so it works well enough. A big annoyance is why they actually have the boy himself in class. Before that shot, we have the title reminiscent of the Harry Potter logo, the music queue sound-alike of the theme, we see it’s about magic, and the kids go to Springwarts School of Magic. At that point, we get the parody; we don’t need to have Harry fucking Potter sitting there in class to give a tepid joke. It’s such a small moment, but it just bothered me a lot for some reason. Anyway, there’s not much here in terms of story: Mr. Burns as Lord Montymort wishes to eliminate Lisa, the best wizard in school, for his own evil purposes, and enlists Bart to help him, who then feels bad and saves his sister. Whatever. There’s enough jokes here to keep it watchable, but I’m not too enthralled by this one. On the whole, this was an alright Halloween show, but that’s not too great praise considering they used to be season highlights. Ah well.

Tidbits and Quotes
- The Simpsons take a stroll through Ethnictown, a place where, as Homer puts it, “hard-working immigrants dream of becoming lazy, overfed Americans.”
- Tress MacNeille is the gypsy… of course. Though I do like her childish taunt when Homer comes back at the end (“Ah, the curs├ęd one. How’s that curse I cursed you with, Cursedy?”)
- Lenny and Carl give Homer advice on how to absolve his curse (“I was hexed by a troll, and a leprechaun cured that right up.” “Hey, you know what’s even better is Jesus. He’s like six leprechauns.” “Yeah, but a lot harder to catch. Go with a leprechaun.”) Then they are crushed and killed by a helicopter, a particularly poorly animated sequence. The body clearly falls on top of them, then when it tips over, we see that they’re crushed under the landing bar. Pretty sloppy.
- I really like Castallaneta’s insane crazed leprechaun character. I guess the writers did too because later he would show up in regular episodes. Like in “real life,” leprechauns apparently exist. Well, I guess if elves exist, then why not leprechauns? Goddammit.
- In addition to Brosnan, they got in Matthew Perry to do one line, for some reason. They also have Castellaneta doing Dennis Miller, and he’s specifically credited as such at the end for doing an impersonation. This show has its cast mimic celebrities all the time, why specifically mention it? Maybe because the other two are the genuine article, but then why not have someone imitate Perry if it’s just one stupid line? Whatever. Who cares.
- I remember as a kid… very much enjoying the sequence of Marge taking off her robe from behind. So does Brosnan, apparently.
- Not too big on the cavalier nature of Homer discussing his beloved wife, but it’s such a contrived, stupid line that I laugh anyway (“Lucky, schmucky! I knocked her up. But, she’s stuck now. We’re married till death do us part, but if I died, she’d be completely free, for man or machine.”) As he walks off, Brosnan repeats, “Machine, eh?” Dramatic music sting. Homer pops his head back in to confirm (“Yep, a machine!”)
- I like how despite how sophisticated the Ultrahouse is, the basement is as plain as can be.
- It’s gratuitous and stupid, but I still love Bart’s failed man-toad vomiting abomination (“Every moment I live is agony!”)
- Montymort and Slithers debate how to stop Lisa (“We’ll need a go- between to get it away from her.” “How about Satan?” “No, no, I’m ducking him. His wife has a screenplay.”) Yeah, so a gag about how Hollywood types try to get their loved one’s scripts off the ground by schmoozing? Reminds me of the teamster jokes in “Clod,” these gags don’t really appeal to people outside LA. All this stuff reminds me of the classic Krusty line from “Last Temptation,” “When your lazy butler washes your sock garters, and they’re still covered with schmutz!”
- Like Skinner using the amnesia dust twice, once to cover Milhouse’s failed invisibility trick, then to cover the audience’s disgust over his misguided ramping up of Lisa (“a sorceress so powerful, she made tonight’s refreshments out of dead people!”)
- The post-credits scene of Brosnan, the leprechaun and the toad thing is so bizarre, but it’s probably the best thing in the whole show, if only for more insane cackling from Castellaneta (inter-cut with “Can I turn on the radio?”)

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6 responses to “270. Treehouse of Horror XII

  1. This is my personal point-of-no-return episode where I completely lost interest in this awful show. The Halloween episodes were my favorites, but this one smacks of trying too hard to be ‘hip’ and ‘with-it’. Pierce Brosnan? A beyond lazy Harry Potter ‘parody’? Give me a fucking break. They should’ve stuck to ripping off old Twilight Zone episodes.

    Can’t wait to see what I missed in the decade or so of episodes I skipped. Good luck in your quest, sir.

  2. Yeah, most of this episode is pretty week. But I also liked the stupid “cursed-y” line, and the man-toad abomination :)

  3. I couldn’t put my finger on why this particular Treehouse of Horror never really connected with me the way the previous ones had, but you finally nailed it – there’s so little difference between the tone of these segments and the rest of the series. It really doesn’t feel the least bit Halloweeny. It’s just a few short years later when they’re wasting THOH segments on parodies of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Transformers and board games and God only knows what else.

    But, being a rather huge Harry Potter dork, the Wiz Kids segment does sort of stand out to me. It would appear they actually did their research on this one, not just spoofing the generics of the books but actually nailing several specific details (Montymort and Slithers/Voldemort and Nagini, entering the bad guy’s evil lair through a hidden entrance in the bathroom like the Chamber of Secrets, etc.). To that end, I definitely put it above that half-assed Twilight parody they did a few years ago, which started out with a couple of weak references and suddenly turned into “Homer meets Dracula”. Meh.

    I remember being baffled when FOX released a standalone Treehouse of Horror DVD with V, VI, VII, and this one on it. I remember thinking at the time that they should have dumped this one and replaced it with IV, thereby giving folks a collection of the four greatest Halloween episodes ever made.

  4. I’ve said this elsewhere, but if they swapped “House of Whacks” with “The Island of Dr. Hibbert”, we could’ve gotten one great Treehouse of Horror (XIII) and one of the worst ever (XII). But as it stands, we got garbage bookends with a nugget of gold in the middle, followed a year later by a special which is mostly good but has a below average third act. Which is a shame, because the last THOH special where all three segments worked was IX.

    That said, there are a couple laughs in the first and third segments:
    -”That gypsy said terrible things could happen to people you love. That could mean your family, Homer.” “Are you coming onto me?” “NO! GOOD NIGHT! Yeesh!”
    -”I’ve heard of a wailing wall, but THIS IS RIDICULOUS!” (everyone groans; “I am so SICK of that joke!”)
    -”Just keep drivin’, boy-o.”

    BTW, a nitpick: I’m pretty sure Burns is saying “No, I’m DUCKING him, his wife has a screenplay.” That makes more sense; if Satan did a favor for Mr. Burns, he would feel obligated to make Satan’s wife’s movie. Still a weird joke, though.

  5. This one is without a doubt the worst Treehouse of Horror ever. Even the horrific one from last year cannot compare to this garbage.

  6. “No! Not my British charm unit. Without it, I’m just a boorish American slob! … Ah, thanks a lot, ya ass-wipe!”

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