578. Halloween of Horror

Original airdate: October 18, 2015

The premise:
After getting traumatized by Krustyland’s Halloween Horror Nights, Lisa decides to sit the holiday out, but terror comes home thanks to a trio of disgruntled thugs who are out for Homer after he got them fired from Apu’s Halloween pop-up shop.

The reaction: It’s interesting that after all this time, we never got a “proper” Halloween episode. Outside of brief glimpses we’ve seen in the first few wraparound segments of Treehouse of Horrors, we’ve never been privy to seeing how the Simpsons celebrate the holiday, until now. This show is also a rarity in that it seems like the writers actually gave a shit, crafting a logical story with an emotional payoff and some real tension, albeit at the expense of laughs. One of the best things is seeing Lisa actually act like a child for once: she’s super psyched to be old enough to go to a Halloween event, but ends up getting scared out of her mind by the realistic looking monsters and ghouls. Things get real bad from there; Homer and Marge are dismayed to find Lisa has retrieved “Tailee,” an old stuffed raccoon tail she used for comfort when she was younger. As a result, Homer stays home with Lisa for a Halloween-free night. But unfortunately, the house ends up besieged by three jerks who got fired from their cushy temporary Halloween shop gigs thanks to Homer’s idiocy. We get a lot of dramatic music, stingers, some use of shaky cam, and some pretty great acting from Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith being genuinely out of sorts and scared. They surmise that they can alert others for help by using other holiday decorations, namely 4th of July fireworks. Unable to light the fuse, Lisa offers up Tailee to help (“This ratty piece of polyester has been soaking in face oil for eight years.”) This ending feels straight out of a movie, as Clausen’s music drops out as Lisa offers up her sacrifice, then swells again as the fireworks start going off. The framework and story progression is pretty solid and it’s a sweet Lisa story, but the problem is that it’s not really all that funny. There’s long stretches in the second half where the tension, scary moments, and Homer spouting the moral of the story completely eclipse attempting to be funny. The episode held my attention, and it’s definitely the strongest episode story-wise we’ve seen in almost a decade, but ultimately, it just makes me wonder what a true Halloween episode from season 4 or 5 would have been like.

Three items of note:
– We open with a meta moment with Homer and Flanders explaining that Treehouse of Horror is in fact next week (“It’s gonna be Psycho with Skinner’s mom, Muppet Wizard of Oz, I’m Scarecrow Fozzie, and then one where furniture gets smart and takes over the world or something.” “Sounds chilling!” “Eh. People love it.”) Homer’s apathy toward the annual specials feels very representative of the writers, given how awful the Halloween shows are nowadays. Also, Kermit was the Scarecrow in Muppet Wizard of Oz. And it’s the shittiest Muppet movie ever made.
– The Simpsons are all gung ho about Halloween at the start, elaborately decorating their house in preparation of the night. But after Lisa’s big scare, everything frightens her, which leads Marge to sadly request Homer take down their display. A barren house incites Bart, which motivates Marge to drive him around Halloween night in search of the perfect place to trick-or-treat, leaving Homer to care for Lisa. This all may seem fairly simple, but it was pretty stunning to me to watch an episode where logical plot progression resulting from characters acting believably.
– Marge and Bart end up staying out too late, and they end up bearing witness to sexy adult Halloween, featuring the denizens of Springfield in risque costumes and getting into PG-level shenanigans. They even have a Rocky Horror-esque song to go along with it. This scene fell completely flat for me. What scathing commentary, some people use Halloween as an excuse to dress sexy? These guys are on the cutting edge here.

One good line/moment: For once, this section is not a chore. I had a few chuckles, but I laughed aloud at a line from Homer as Bart gets upset at them taking down the decorations (“Lisa goes nuts and you turn us into… into skippers?!” “I know what this makes us.”) He’s seething in his delivery of this. Plus this ties into the beginning with Homer and Marge admonishing neighboring homes who don’t celebrate. Again, plot and jokes threads that connect. Just like a real story!

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11 responses to “578. Halloween of Horror

  1. My favorite HD episode. Great plot, good characterizations, jokes, animation… even got a catchy song. Definitely the best episode since “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind”.

    It’s a shame that this season’s Treehouse of Horror is absolute rubbish.

    • Eternal Moonshine is a great episode, but I think this episode is the best since 24 Minutes. I have never seen the show 24 before, but good god was that episode fantastic.

  2. I felt about the same about this one. I did admire it for making sense and some actual effort put into it in regards to plotting, and on an emotional level rather than comedic.

    Not saying it was bad (it’s actually pretty decent entertainment) but it jsut goes to show how sharply written those classic-era episodes were

    • This is certainly the best episode they’ve made in recent years, but it’s still just mediocre. The plot makes sense and the characters feel like themselves, but is it entertaining? Not really. It’s just kinda boring.

      • Kaiju no Kami

        As a horror movie fan, I was highly entertained. I especially love the scene when Homer starts whistling the Halloween theme. I can not believe they never did that before. It also made great timing because I was just getting ready to review the first Halloween on my Youtube channel and that is now part of my opening bit to all of my Halloween reviews.

  3. It’s funny how for me this one is actually memorable mainly for ditching the usual “and then this happens, and then this happens, and then for some reason this happens….” structure in place of a proper “this happens because of this, and because of that this happens, and because of that….” structure.

    It’s the difference between a memorable film with a good story and instantaneously forgettable nothingness like a Transformers movie.

    • I dunno. Lisa has always loved Halloween. Her role would have been better with a non Simpson. Otherwise though it is a good ep and definitely better than many treehouse of horror ones recently.

      • Kaiju no Kami

        Kids love to change their minds at the drop out a hat though. I’m a teacher and I’ve seen kids go from loving something one minute to hating it the next.

  4. Flat, but with good direction and a story that makes sense (which is the minimum a professional writer should be able to do). Arguably the best episode since Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind; both are not funny episodes, but the heart is in the right place.

  5. This gets an “At least they tried”.

  6. When I think of scary, “Muppets” is the first word that comes to mind. ::eye-roll::

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