The premise: “Danger Things” is a Stranger Things “parody.” In “Heaven Swipes Right,” Homer dies unexpectedly, and is given the ability to swap into different bodies, trying to find the perfect one for his family. “When Hairy Met Slimy” is a Shape of Water “parody.”
The reaction: Another year, another Halloween special, where I struggle to articulate the same damn criticisms without seeming like I’m exactly repeating myself. Two segments here “spoof” contemporary media, the first one being especially confusing in that it references elements from all three seasons of the Netflix series, cramming so much into a mere six minutes that even as someone who’s watched the whole series, I couldn’t even tell what was happening. Treehouse of Horrors have been parodying horror fiction since the beginning, but a big reason it worked back then is that even within the framework of a reference to another work, they were still interested in telling their own stories. “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace” casts Willie as Freddy Krueger, but retold his death and origin story in a very Simpsons way. “The Shinning” recreates a lot of memorable moments from the movie, but also features new elements like Burns and Smithers kicking the whole plot into motion. I guarantee if they did a Shining segment now, it would feature Bart riding through the halls on a Big Wheel finding Sherri and Terri at the end of a hallway, because the name of the game now isn’t story, it’s references. The Christmas lights to communicate from the beyond, the water tank, the Upside Down itself, they’re all there, but ultimately meaningless with no story to hang onto, and what must be absolutely baffling to anyone who hasn’t seen the show. Segment two was just kind of boring, and had no creepy elements to it whatsoever. Neither did segment three, which I guess they only did because del Toro is such a big Simpsons fan. That’s the single biggest causality of these specials: they’re not scary anymore. Not that they were genuinely terrifying, but it was really impressive how this silly cartoon show managed to get pretty unsettling. Marge and the kids getting lobotomized as the Re-Ned-ucation Center. Martin letting out a horrifying death screech and collapsing in the middle of class. The family screaming in agony having their skin turned inside out. The gremlin holding up Ned Flanders’ severed head as he taunts Bart. In the last segment here, Kang bites off Smithers’ head, spits it at Burns to knock him out (complete with a coconut BONK sound effect) and they run away. It’s not so much scary as it is they had no idea how to end the scene and just bailed. Treehouse of Horror segments of old were kind of tense, they had a distinct atmosphere to them. But now, they’re just as meandering and pointless as any other episode.
Three items of note:
– We get a fairly long intro with an Omen parody of Maggie being a demon spawn. We open with Marge giving birth to a baby boy, but Homer doesn’t want another boy, so Hibbert just offers her demon Maggie instead? But regardless, the show already did an Exorcist spoof with Maggie two years ago, didn’t they? This is just the same thing over again. I guess it’s only here as the opening to tie into this being the 666th episode, but if that’s all it is, they could’ve made this a neat one minute long rather than three.
– In the Upside Down (or whatever hilarious name they decided to call it, I forget), we see a dead Uter prominently lying outside the town square wearing red glasses, clearly a stand-in for poor Barb from season 1 of Stranger Things. Odd choice, but there’s no Nancy analogue in the story, nor are they a whole lot of female characters from this show to choose from. Considering Russi Taylor just died, I was surprised they didn’t alter this at all, maybe just do a retake to remove just the Uter layer of the scene or something. I certainly wouldn’t cry insensitive, but it felt a little weird.
– Segment two ends with Homer finally landing on the perfect body to use: Moe. Marge seems perfectly fine with spending the rest of her days making love to the body of a creepy pervert who was unhealthily obsessed with her. Then Maggie shows up and Moe for some reason is now in her body, who tells Marge that he’s very thirsty. What better way to end your spooky Halloween special with your viewer imagining Moe in a child’s body sucking on Marge’s tits? It might be the most sickening thing ever done on the show. Like… Jesus.
One good line/moment: I think there was one scene I mildly chuckled at, but I don’t even remember what it was, so I don’t think it really counts if that’s the case.