643. Treehouse of Horror XXIX

Original airdate: October 21, 2018

The premise:
In “Intrusion of the Pod-y Snitchers,” strange alien spores start to infect Springfield residents, replacing them with pod people . In “MultipLisa-ty,” a crazed, dissociative Lisa enacts her bloody revenge on Bart, Milhouse and Nelson. In “Geriatric Park,” Mr. Burns opens up a scientific facility rejuvenating the elderly with dinosaur DNA, which of course goes horribly wrong.

The reaction: These Halloween reviews are somewhat of a slog to write, mostly in that I’ve had the same two major criticisms of them for the last twelve or so installments. First off, most of the segments are parodies of contemporary films, but light on the actual “parody” aspect. The second segment I think is supposed to be the story from Split, except it’s just Lisa talking in goofy voices for five minutes until we get the tired “explanation” of why she snapped. Bart wrote on her paper and got her an F on a spelling test! What a knee slapper, huh? Moments before the reveal, we see her snarl and growl as she pushes Milhouse into a newspaper crusher and has Nelson impaled on a forklift. None of it is shocking or scary, it was just very bizarre and uncomfortable watching this young girl murder her classmates for no reason. “Geriatric Park” came as a result of spending a couple minutes listing what words rhyme with “Jurassic” and building a flimsy story atop that. What monetary gain does Mr. Burns have for opening this facility, where he spent $30 million on giant doors alone? Surely it would be exclusive to those who can pay through the nose for this experimental treatment, not open doors to elderly riff-raff like Jasper or Hans Moleman. But none of that matters, they all turn into dinosaurs where we get some bloodless decapitations and limbs getting ripped off for some tepid gags (Willie shoves Kirk’s head in the “Heads” bin! What a riot!) But the bigger problem that’s hung over these annual events for a while now is the lack of any sort of dramatic or scary tone. Characters react to terrifying and deadly situations with no regard for the danger they’re in to spout off their labored jokes. Moments before her demise to the pod spores, Lisa gets in a lengthy jab about YA dystopian movies. Despite being chained to the wall and terrorized by the love of his life, Milhouse gets in a couple random humdingers (“I think encores are a ridiculous tradition! Just sing your songs and go!” “Careful, Lisa! If you keep yelling like that, you’ll get vocal polyps! Like Adele!”) Think back to the classic Halloween segments; though they had their goofier moments, the characters always treated the scenarios seriously. The kids at school were terrified that Willie would kill them in their dreams. Seeing his happily lobotomized family, Homer fearfully escapes Flanders’ Re-Ned-Ucation facility. Bart was ultimately driven mad at the gremlin on the side of the bus. Here, after seeing Groundskeeper Willie’s corpse with an axe through his head, Milhouse reacts to an effigy of himself burning with, “Wish I could burn the calories off that easy.” You can almost hear the corny laugh track playing. I’ve said it many times before, if the characters don’t give a shit about the stories they’re in, why in the hell should the viewer? This is a problem that plagues the entire series now, but it’s especially an issue in the Halloween shows where the life-or-death stakes are seemingly so much higher, but the characters don’t seem to care in the slightest.

Three items of note:
– We’ve actually already seen a Simpsons take on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” in one of the first Treehouse of Horror comic books I read as a kid. Not that the show can’t encroach on territory the completely unrelated comic series did, but it doesn’t help when they do it much, more worse. The comic starts in media res with Homer being hauled off to the insane asylum screaming about pod people, then telling his story from the beginning how everyone in Springfield slowly got replaced by emotionless pod copies who preferred tepid tap water to beer, much to Homer’s horror. The story wraps up at the end when Homer is vindicated, but everything goes off the rails as other post-apocalyptic cliches appear, and Sideshow Bob destroys the fourth wall revealing their entire existence is a fictional comic book. Re-reading it, it’s filled with a lot of fun moments, humorous lines, and even in a comic, a sense of real danger and risk. In “Pod-y Snitchers,” the alien species run Mapple, and are able to infect the planet from above because everyone is busy staring at their phones. Wow, what insightful social commentary for 2018. The twist ending has everyone’s consciousness being transported to an alien utopia, but then what was the purpose of the pod duplicates staying on Earth? Bah, who cares.
– Upon finally being “snatched,” Lisa goes into full 2001: A Space Odyssey mode, seeing flashing images of plant-related things. We then get a reprise of Homer and Bart’s “You don’t win friends with salad!” conga line from “Lisa the Vegetarian.” Is this supposed to be an ironic echo? Or yet another instance of the show reaching into their past for positive recognition points. We also get a short clip of Luci the demon from Disenchantment smoking, so maybe this is just all random, because that ain’t plant related. And I still couldn’t care less about a season 2.
– On the helicopter ride to Geriatric Park, the aircraft flies past five other facilities for each of the five Jurassic movies, with the brilliant punchline of the final one having the subtitle “This Time It’s Safe.” Later, when Burns reveals his grandiose facility, there’s a song set to a soundalike of the Jurassic Park theme touting how suspiciously safe this all is. What a biting commentary, huh? “Itchy & Scratchy Land,” which aired a year after Jurassic Park was in theaters, completely nailed this category of joke with the helicopter pilot’s “possi-bly” blunder. Why did they even make this segment? Everyone’s made their jokes about this series at this point. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was an even more absurdist take on the franchise than this segment, and I actually laughed during it too. A lot.

One good line/moment: Eh, I got nothing for this. I don’t know what I would consider the worst Treehouse of Horror, but this one has got to be up there. They’re just so completely unremarkable and disposable. The only segment in the last decade or so that actually felt like it took some kind of creative risk was that one from last year where Homer ate himself, but even that was just more gross than shocking.

7 responses to “643. Treehouse of Horror XXIX

  1. Remember when Halloween episodes were the most anticipated episode of the season? Remember when they were season highlights? I remember seeing the Comic-Con sneak-peak clip of the first segment before the season even started and what I got was a weak jab at Futurama fanboys, a weak jab at those phony hot singles ads, and CBG being used to point out how this is all a shallow “parody” of a classic movie.

    On the bright side, no new Simpsons for two weeks!

  2. This ended up being a major let down. I thought it started off quite good as the Cthulhu bit was pretty funny and I liked the Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s parody (kind of ironic too since I watched the original 50s movie just before the show aired and I watched the 70s version earlier this month with a plan to watch the Daniel Craig version tomorrow). At least I did until Lisa found herself transported to a new world, then it got kind of dumb.

    The Split parody also started off kind of interesting, but it just didn’t work having Lisa play McAvoy’s character. Her personalities sounded forced as I didn’t buy any of them.

    And then we have that horrible, dreadful Jurassic Park segment. Ugh, such shit.

    After watching that episode, I went ahead and put on THoHs VI and VII.

  3. No comment on the Orville blowing up the Planet Express ship? Dang, I’ve been wondering if you watched Orville and I was curious what you thought of it, given your dislike of Seth MacFarlane’s other shows.

  4. I remember the early Simpsons Halloween comics, so it’s great to see their parody of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ mentioned here. The closing line (“If I don’t exist…Does this mean I can’t eat Donuts?”) is funnier and smarter than anything from Zombie Simpsons…

  5. Big John's Breakfast Log

    Here’s to hoping Disney mothballs the franchise for years as they retool their asset.

    But, seriously, that Geriatric Park segment already happened in a cartoon… Pepper-Ann had a dream sequence in which the titular character imagined going to a nursing home was like going to Jurassic Park because the joke was that a teenager thought old people were actual dinosaurs due to their age.

    Though I do agree with how stupifyingly easy Mr. Burns made it so old people could get treatment considering any old person could get it. It’s a rare act of charity that is completely un-behooving of the miser and destroys your ability to suspend disbelief, even for Halloween segments. This is the same character who, in past THoHs, ran a human hunting reality show on his estate, hired Homer to assassinate Kent Brockman, and was playing the role of Lord Voldemort. I am aware all of those happened in the early days of “Zombie Simpsons”, but the point still stands.

  6. I don’t understand their usage of Steve Mobs anymore. They’ve done this before, with “talking beyond the grave”. But the last time they did, it was because Jobs died during production of the episode, so it was likely a quick line ADRed in.

    But it’s been YEARS since Steve Jobs died. It seems odd and tacky to make him seem like he predicted everything about the company and had everything prerecorded. I know I might be over-analyzing, but it’s not overanalysis if you realize it immediately!

    They could have just satirized Tim Cook, who they likely lazily would call Jim Cook. And also, he’s made a name for himself and isn’t just living in Jobs’s shadow.

  7. Hold on a second, Naked gun 33.3 already did Geriatric park as a parody, which was actually quite funny for what it was, namely a 30 second chase with a giant walking frame.

    Ye gods I’m glad I am not watching the Simpsons anymore.

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