By Guest Contributer, Chris Hall
Welcome back, boils, ghouls and those beyond the realm of comprehension! We continue with our look at The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror in review – If you missed out on the first part, don’t worry, you can find it here.
Like last time, the episode begins with Marge in front of the red curtains, addressing the audience. However, instead of warning the viewers, she expresses dismay that her warning from the previous year went largely ignored. With disappointment in her voice, she concedes “Well, if you didn’t listen to me last time, you’re not going to now. Enjoy the show!”. Just like last time, we fly through the Springfield Cemetery in our opening (shoutout to the tombstone saying “Bambi’s Mom”), and Treehouse of Horror II officially starts.
We’re introduced to the episode’s framing device, as Marge and the kids return home after a successful night of trick-or-treating (just missing Homer getting extorted for candy by the local bullies). Marge tries to warn the family not to have too much candy or they’ll have nightmares but, predictably, she is ignored. As the Simpsons settle down for the night, we focus in on Lisa and her unfolding nightmare – And our first segment.
Unlike every other Treehouse of Horror episode, these segments do not have intro cards, nor official titles. As such, I’ll refer to them as whose nightmare they are.
Whilst on vacation to Morocco, Homer comes across a mysterious stall. He asks about one of the items, and the vendor informs him it is an enchanted monkey’s paw, able to grant each owner four wishes – At a cost. Despite being warned not to buy the trinket, Homer of course does so.
After a brief altercation with Moroccan customs, the Simpsons arrive back home, and the family discusses what to wish for with the paw: Bart wants real working X-ray specs, Lisa wants peace on earth, and Marge wants to forget about the whole thing. But before anyone can come to an agreement, Maggie picks up the paw and makes the first wish. A luxury car pulls up outside their house and Homer praises his youngest daughter for her wish… Until it turns out the car was only there to deliver the baby a new pacifier.
Next up, it’s Bart’s turn to take the paw and make a wish, giving up on his X-ray specs he instead wishes for the family to be rich and famous. And immediately their purses and wallets begin bursting with all their newfound wealth. Now famous, things take a turn for the meta with The Simpsons plastered over billboards, and all kinds of Simpsons merchandise being peddled. The town is sick of the oversaturation of the Simpsons which, from their perspective, has been going on for ages.
Realising their fame has more or less turned to infamy, Homer realises that maybe the vendor had a point. But before he can dwell on that, Lisa “selfishly” wishes for world peace. And that’s exactly what she gets: the UN delegates hug out their differences, the Pentagon gets turned into a mall, everyone melts down their guns and weapons, joining hand in song. And it’s beautiful… For about 20 seconds. For up in space our Rigellian friends from the previous Treehouse of Horror, Kang and Kodos, are watching and have determined that Earth is defenseless and now primed for an invasion. Humanity is quickly enslaved.
Concerned about how badly their wishes are turning out, Homer decides to use the last wish for something that can’t possibly go wrong. And what does he wish for? A turkey sandwich. In a shocking display of awareness, Homer warns the paw about any funny business regarding his wish: “I don’t want any zombie turkeys. I don’t want to turn into a turkey myself and I don’t want any other weird surprises.” And while the sandwich Homer receives seems perfectly fine… It’s a little dry! How horrendous.
Their last wish used up, Homer throws the paw in the garbage can outside. When Ned Flanders sees the paw, Homer decides to trick Ned into accepting it – and, now with a new owner, the four wishes are restored. With his first wish, Ned decides to do what the Simpsons probably should have done with their last wish, and gets rid of the alien invaders. Hailed as a hero Ned decides to use his next wish to turn his home into a castle much to Homer’s jealousy. He ends the segment wishing that he had a monkey’s paw.
This segment was pretty weird, and didn’t really get too scary. The lack of any negative side effects to Flanders’ wishes is also kind of odd; I guess we can assume it’d happen later? There’s also an awkward amount of obvious redubbing and animation reuse in this segment (and the episode as a whole, really), which makes the Halloween ‘special’ feel a little less that.
It still has some amusing lines and scenes, such as Bart’s “I can do that, but I don’t wanna.” upon seeing a contortionist in Morocco, or Homer’s sandwich wish that help it be entertaining. It’s also strange that for Lisa’s nightmare, it has very little to do with her – Something that’s inconsistent with the other segments. Overall, I’d give this segment a C+ – It’s enjoyable, but definitely has issues.
SEGMENT RATING: C+
Returning to the framing device, Lisa wakes from her nightmare, and goes to Bart’s room in order to ask to sleep with him for the night. He resists at first, but she bribes her way in using candy. This, of course, leads us to the next nightmare…
The opening of the episode is narrated, in an homage to The Twilight Zone (on one of whose episodes this short is based). We pan through an ultra-happy Springfield, forced that way through shear fear: The populace is forced to think happy thoughts, or face the wrath of Bart. Bart, in this world, is a powerful psychic, able to read minds and bend reality to his will – If anyone dares step out of line, he will warp their body into whatever he decides.
At home, his family bends to his will, even as he turns the house hold cat into a freakish, fire-breathing clown monster. He drives the bus to school, with Otto laughing that they’ll all probably die. And even at school, he is a king: He has a throne instead of a desk, is waited on hand and foot, and whatever answer Bart puts on his test is automatically the correct one.
Things take a turn, however, when Homer ignores his son’s desire to watch Krusty the Clown on TV, since he wanted to continue watching his football game instead. Bart responds by using his powers to replace the football with Homer, and with him out of the way Bart can watch a permanently on-air Krusty in peace. Or so he thought.
Once Homer has made it back from the football stadium, he’s decided that enough is enough and it’s time to put an end to this monster. Creeping up towards Bart with a chair held above his head, Homer mentally reminds himself not to think about anything about bludgeoning Bart. Of course, thinking about not thinking about anything is still thinking about something and so, without even looking in his father’s direction, or breaking his contact from the TV, Bart points at his dad and suddenly… Homer is now become a jack-in-the-box.
Shocked at what Bart has done, Marge finally stands up to her son, and drags him to a therapist. Dr. Marvin Monroe theorises that Bart just wants attention, and that it stems from Homer’s inattentive parenting – He urges the two to spend time together, and we’re subjected to a bizarrely sweet little montage of the two bonding. Soon enough, their relationship is strengthened, and Bart agrees to turn his father back to normal, and share a hug and kiss, leading Bart to awaken from his nightmare, screaming – The idea of loving his father being more terrifying than anything else he could think of.
Seeing everyone live in terror and bending to Bart’s will was quite the disturbing sight, but things stay nice and silly throughout most of this segment, like with the overly long and intentionally unfunny prank call to Moe’s tavern in it. I feel they could have done a bit more with his powers, though. The segment warrants a C in my opinion.
SEGMENT RATING: C
Back in the framing device, Bart and Lisa rush to their parents’ room, and jump into the bed. They explain they both had nightmares, and beg to sleep with thier parents. Homer reluctantly relents, bemoaning that it’s already 4AM and soon he will have to go to work… A sentiment that influences his nightmare, and our final segment.
The short begins with Mr. Burns watching his employees on the security cameras, disgusted by their lazy work ethics. He randomly picks a sleeping Homer to fire, in order to ‘strike the fear of God’ into the rest of the workforce. Afterwards, Burns leads Smithers down to his secret laboratory, and explains that he wants a better workforce. He realised that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak, and so he created a robot shell to house a human brain – which they would be going out to collect from the graveyard later.
Meanwhile, Homer – after looking for a job in the classifieds – settles on a Gravedigger position at Bart’s insistence. After being worked hard by Groundskeeper Willie, Homer falls asleep in a newly dug grave. You can probably see where this is going.
Burns and Smithers find Homer in what they assume to be a freshly dug grave, and after a moment of Burns considering using Smithers’ brain instead, they stuff Homer into a sack. When he shows signs of being alive, Burns beats the sack with a shovel, telling the ‘corpse’ off for scaring Smithers.
Back at the lab, they perform the surgery, in a very non-gory, and silly manner, with Burns briefly wearing the brain as a hat. Soon, the brain is connected to the robot, and it’s turned on… Only for the ‘Homer-bot’ to immediately head for a nearby box of donuts.
Annoyed with the failure, Burns decides to give up on his scheme, and orders Smithers to flush the brain down the toilet – thought Smithers manages to convince Burns to transplant the brain back into Homer’s body instead. Burns kicks the robot afterwards in frustration, but it topples on him, crushing his entire body. Smithers panics, but Burns assures him there’s a way out of his untimely demise…
Back at the framing device, Homer awakens from his nightmare and decides to go to the bathroom, but upon looking in his bathroom mirror he is shocked to find Mr. Buns’ head has been surgically attached to him – A follow on from the nightmare Homer thought he had just woken up from. Homer reassures himself this is still just part of the dream… But is it?
A final scene for the special treats us to a fake preview for next week’s episode of The Simpsons, where Homer still has two heads, much to his annoyance.
The only real scare of this segment comes from the weird twist at the end, and I feel it was probably the weakest of the three segments. But it was still fun to watch. Factoring the fake preview for the next episode, I’d rate this segment a C-.
SEGMENT RATING: C-
This episode is reasonably fun, but not particularly scary, and the redub and recycle issues mentioned in the first segment do drag the special down. It’s worth noting is that this episode introduced the concept of spooky names for the staff credits (such as James ‘Hell’ Brooks instead of James L Brooks, or ‘Diabolical’ Dan Castellaneta), and this would go on to become a tradition of the Treehouse series. It’s a shame that the second special is so unremarkable overall, though.
OVERALL EPISODE RATING: C
With Treehouse of Horror II now out of the way, hopefully future entries wow a little more – We’ll see how Treehouse of Horror III fares in the scares next time.Become a Patron!