109. Treehouse of Horror V

(originally aired October 30, 1994)
The writers had pretty big shoes to fill after the last Halloween show, but wouldn’t you know, they managed to come back with a new one that’s just as phenomenal as last year’s, if not more so. First we have our The Shining parody, one of those most, if not the most, infamous of all Treehouse of Horrors. Now, it’s basically a re-telling of the film with the Simpsons, so what makes it so great? First, it recreates the visuals, but also the tension, fantastically. The scenery, the camera angles, the overall tone emulates the creepy, ominous nature of the film. Second, we turn character motivations on their ass. Jack Nicholson was a man tortured by his writer’s block, between that and his strenuous marriage drove him to madness. Here, all it takes to set Homer off is cut off his beer and cable TV. While supernatural forces persuade Jack to off his family, a ghostly Moe and a motley crew of famous horror icons have to drag an easily distracted Homer to carry out his mission. Third, it sports some spectacular animation, particularly Homer going mad, one of the best pieces the show has ever seen (done by, who else, David Silverman). Between all this, a bevy of great jokes, a fair share poking at the original film (“Yah wanna get sued?”) and a great twist to the original ending, it’s a segment in everyone’s top five list.

We follow with “Time and Punishment,” where Homer learns the dangers of time travel, and the ripple effect that can come about with even the slightest of changes. It’s a neat premise to start off, as it’s an interesting and heady theory, that Homer swatting one bug causes a totalitarian future ruled by Ned Flanders. This is a segment I think could have lasted twice as long, I’d love to see all the other ridiculous incarnations of the Simpson family. The best, of course, is when Homer stumbles upon an affluent and educated family (and dead sister-in-laws), but the caveat of a world with no donuts drives Homer off screaming. And of course, that’s not enough of a joke, so we get the kick in the ass of revealing a pastry rain storm. Homer eventually goes nuts, wrecking mad havoc on the past, which rolls through a variety of crazy futures, until he finally lands back to his reality… almost. It’s a really neat segment, with a bunch of laughs, and despite it being the lightest of the three retains a level of creepiness in the storyline.

Last up is “Nightmare Cafeteria,” really one of the most disturbing segments ever. Trouble making kids creates a beyond overcrowded detention, and budget cuts have left Lunchlady Doris scrounging for food options. Skinner kills two birds with one stone with the most logical solution: kill off the students and serve their steamed carcasses for lunch. Like most things with this show, it’s all way over the top, but the leering glances and satisfied lip smackings from Skinner and the teachers makes it all very disturbing. Any qualms about Skinner’s first kill are immediately diffused by a “Ha!” from Krabappel in the teacher’s lounge; everyone’s on board with this. Also great is how they name the dishes after the dead; Sloppy Jimbos, Uterbratten, like why would they do that? It’s hilarious as well as utterly sadistic. Among the last survivors, Bart, Lisa and Milhouse attempt to escape, but are left cornered, dangling above a high powered blender. Just when things look their most dire, Bart wakes up. It was all a horrible nightmare. Everything is a-okay… except the mysterious fog that turns people inside-out. Now I don’t think that’s a reference to anything, but it’s such a horrifying idea, and wonderfully grotesque image of the family’s skin inverting itself, revealing their organs. Nothing left to do from that point but have a song and dance number. How else would you end a Treehouse of Horror? Truly among the very best; I think IV, V, and VI are like the trifecta of awesome Halloween shows.

Tidbits and Quotes
We have the final pre-show warning, here of Marge being interrupted that this year’s show is so scary, Congress forbids them to air it. Instead we’re treated to the classic Glenn Ford film 200 Miles to Oregon. I was surprised to find out later it’s not a real movie. So this isn’t real and Paint Your Wagon is? Shocking.
The opening bits with Moe being hanged and Skinner willfully approving his execution are quite brutal. Overall this is one of the more violent Treehouse of Horrors, but I like that; something the show kind of lost in the later years was these shows should be pretty chilling and disturbing. You have free license to do whatever you choose, something I feel was kind of squandered later on.
Classic bit with the family’s multiple back-and-forth trips, going back to lock the front door, then the back door… then not going back for Grampa.
– I like how the hedge maze, a prominent part of the original film, is diffused in one moment where we see Bart chainsawed his way through the whole thing. Willie is proterbed, but then surprised Bart can read his thoughts, which of course leads to the great line, “But don’t be reading my mind between four and five. That’s Willie’s time!” So he’s predesignated that hour for himself?
I love how angry and vindictive ghost Moe is about getting Homer to kill his family; the line reading of his “I’m happy, I’m very happy” bit is a fantastic mood whiplash. Then of course later he has to drag Homer out of his gorging session to speed things along, accompanied by Pinhead, Freddy Krueger and others for no real reason.
Such an amazing fake out of the typewriter scene, and “Feelin’ fine” is so absolutely perfect. And great 360 shot revealing the scribblings on the wall.
– Of course we have the great hat trick of Willie being killed in all three stories, first by Homer (“Is that the best you can do?”), then Maggie, and finally Skinner (at this point he seems to have some meta awareness: “Ach, I’m bad at this!”)
The very ending of the Simpsons frozen is hilarious, but I also love that it sets up the finale that early and innocuously, of “A Chorus Line” playing on the TV.
More great animation of Homer flailing wildly and manically trying to get the toaster off of his hand… twice.
Great appearance by Sherman and Mr. Peabody (and again as they sub for Kang and Kodos). Also I don’t quite get Homer’s comment about being the first non-Brazilian person to travel through time. I’m guessing it’s a reference to something. I could look it up. …….naaah.
“Stupid bug! You go squish now!” is my go-to response when a fly is whizzing about my head.
Even though it’s the lighter one, seeing Marge and the kids lobotomized holding parts of their brains in jars is pretty…. jarring (“It’s bliiiiiiiiiss.”)
– Excellent guest performance by James Earl Jones as Maggie (“This is indeed a disturbing universe.”) I would have loved to see more of that world, of a homicidal baby with the voice of Darth Vader.
– Homer’s insane battering of the past is another great animated segment; I love his passionate squishing of a fish with legs (possibly halting all genetic evolution for good), then how he cold cocks a giant bug and starts bashing it with a club.
– I like how Jimbo bemoans his favorite outfit has been ruined, when it’s the same thing he wears all the time. I also like how the drama of him being cooked alive is diffused by his utter stupidity (“It’s hard for me to clean this giant pot when you keep spilling meat tenderizer all over me. oh, great, now I gotta work in the dark.”) Natural selection, only the strong survive.
– Along with the stupid nature of naming the foods after the students, I love how brazen and unguarded Skinner is about his infernal affairs. Greatest is his series of jokes to Bart and Lisa, until he goes too far (“In fact, you might even say we just ate Uter and he’s in our stomachs right now! …wait. Scratch that one.”)
– I love Marge’s brief appearance in the third segment (“You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye, and say ‘Don’t eat me!'”)
– This show is the perfect dichotomy of disturbing and hilarious, epitomized with Lunchlady Doris coming after the children, blood soaked and crazed, wielding… an egg beater. I’m sure killing so many kids has driven her mad, but damn, is it ever still funny.
– Yeah, so I love love love the ending. It may be my favorite thing ever done in a Treehouse of Horror. It’s so deliciously macabre, in its reformatting of the song One, how Willie reappears, and how the upbeat music contrasts Santa’s Little Helper ripping Bart’s organs out of his chest and pulling him off screen, leaving a trail of blood behind, and none of the rest of the family seems to mind. It’s the absolutely perfect end for such a tremendous show.

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4 responses to “109. Treehouse of Horror V

  1. This episode was my favorite Treehouse of Horror when it first aired and is still my favorite to this day. I love all of the stories from the 9 episodes, but this is the one that is the best. The animation is excellent, the jokes are incredible (“No Beer or TV make Homer something something…”, “Oh how I wish I hadn’t squished that fish,” and “Now kids, you are 8 and 10, so you are old enough to handle your own battles. You are going to march right into that school and say DO NOT EAT ME!”), and the stories are engaging. Not to mention Willie being killed by an axe in all three (yet, in sydication, they took out his death in Time and Punishment for some reason) is just classic. It is a shame that the writers forgot how to adapt horror stories by the time season 11 came around. Most of the halloween episodes from then on either really suck or only have one episode worth remembering and even that tends to pale in what we had in the 90s.

  2. This is one of the best episodes of the series — not just ToH, but of the series PERIOD. THE SHINNING is a work of art.

  3. “We have the final pre-show warning, here of Marge being interrupted that this year’s show is *so* scary, Congress forbids them to air it.”

    We also have the final outing for the amusing tombstones, which like Marge’s warnings had become too difficult to write. How appropriate, then, that the last such tombstone should read “Amusing Tombstones”.

    This was also the first TOH not to feature any Twilight Zone parodies or references – though it couldn’t have been a coincidence that The Outer Limits was parodied. Brilliant all the same, though, with Homer of course screwing it all up (“Hey, look! I can see my voice! Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh! Brrrrrrrrrrrr! Eeeee! Eeeeeeeee! Blub, blub, blub, blub, blub! Thiiis… iiis my voiiice… on teeeeeveeeee!”)

    What *was* a coincidence, however, was TOL being revived just five months later (and actually being almost as good as the original series, even if there was no oscilloscope in the title sequence).

  4. Oddly enough I didn’t like this one as much as the other treehouse of horror episodes back in the day, but really enjoy it now, mostly because I’m firstly more familiar with the shining, and secondly appreciate creepy a lot more.
    I don’t know why, but the nightmare cafeteria dream reminds me of so many similar ones I had when a kid, that a perfectly innocuous situation at school could get me killed, often eaten. Bravo simpsons for tapping into a personal fear of mine :D.

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