Tuesday, October 31, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Extra Credit 1 - Treehouse of Horror (1)

Flay-dies and rend-lemen, welcome to your nightmares!  Yes, it is I, GORERETH F. HORRORONS, back from the pits of terror to be your guide to the ghastliest, most soul-scorchingly terrifying tales of...

(What do you mean, we're doing The Simpsons?  I was talking about "Zombie Flesh Eaters: Extreme Version!!" last time, isn't this a bit of a step down?  Sigh...  Yes, contractual obligations...  Yes, yes, massive financial penalty...  OK.  OK, let's carry on.)

Well if I'm here, it must be time for a Halloween special - and with The Simpsons, that can only mean Treehouse of Horror!

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Halloween is still catching on over here in the UK, but it's huge, huge news in the US.  I credit The Simpsons with at least some of the holiday's increased momentum in this country; aside from the odd Blue Peter about pumpkin carving, our eyes had usually been on Guy Fawkes' Night a week later, until these horror compendia started raising awareness on these shores.

Presented in three segments, traditionally with different writers (but increasingly these days just having the one), Treehouse of Horror episodes are non-canon, horror-themed segments, generally more violent than the show's usual fare - and therefore cut to shit by Channel 4, cheers guys - and often in homage to a classic horror or sci-fi show or movie.

Freed of the need for maintaining even the thin sheath of continuity the series exists in, the writers tend to revel in their liberation and pull out moments that are right up there with the show's best.  So, since 'tis the season, let me take you through the Scary Door and be your guide through the much-lampooned Twilight Zone that is Atomic Sourpuss' ten favourite Treehouse of Horror segments!

NUMBER 10: "If I Only Had A Brain"
Season 3, Episode 7
“Treehouse of Horror II”
First Broadcast: October 31, 1991

GHOULISH GOINGS-ON: Mr Burns and Smithers have a terrifying singular vision – improve the American worker…  By putting his brain into a ROBOT BODY!!!

When Homer is sacked from the power plant and takes a job as a gravedigger, he is accidentally ensnared in their plan!  Can he get safely back into his human body, or will Mr Burns win a can of Coke?

INVASION OF THE PLOT-SNATCHERS: Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein” is the first thing that springs to mind when considering brain-in-a-golem life after death, though “Robocop” and “Robocop 2” would have been more contemporary examples.

(BLACK) MAGIC MOMENT: "You're right, Smithers - I guess owe you a Coke” - Mr Burns, betting a single can of soda on life and death.  (I’m not sure if this is related to OSW Review’s “can of Coke for you!” catchphrase, but I’d say the chances are good.)

HORROR RATING: A Coke, of course.

NUMBER 9: "Clown Without Pity"
Season 4, Episode 5
“Treehouse of Horror III”
First Broadcast: October 29, 1992
GHOULISH GOINGS-ON: A father under pressure.  A mysterious shop full of cursed items.  An impending birthday...  It all adds up to a doll that's PURE EVIL!!!
But when the doll gets Homer in his sight, it's kill or be killed - and Homer's in a whole host of trouble!  Can Marge save the day?  And will Grandpa ever get the attention he so sorely craves?
INVASION OF THE PLOT-SNATCHERS: "Child's Play" will echo uncomfortably for our UK readers, but like many ToH segments, this also has its roots in a "Twilight Zone" episode called, surprisingly enough, "Living Doll".
(BLACK) MAGIC MOMENT: "The froghurt is also cursed!"

Courtesy 20th Century Fix, via Frinkiac.
HORROR RATING: 8 out of 10 toppings (that contain potassium benzoate).

NUMBER 8: "Homer3"
Season 7, Episode 6
“Treehouse of Horror VI”
First Broadcast: October 29, 1995
GHOULISH GOINGS-ON: Whilst trying to escape an interminable afternoon with his sisters-in-law, Homer falls into a rift, and finds himself rendered in a mysterious THIRD DIMENSION!!!
Things get a little hairy when the universe collapses in on itself.  Can Homer escape this confusing place and become flat again?  Or will his idiocy cause a further dimensional rift cause him to experience – shudder – real life?
INVASION OF THE PLOT-SNATCHERS: This could be taken as an inversion of “Flatland”, but it's actually - surprise! - thought to be based on a "Twilight Zone" episode.  So that's, er, unexpected.
(BLACK) MAGIC MOMENT: “I’m somewhere where I don’t know where I am!”
HORROR RATING: 69 erotic cakes.

NUMBER 7: "The Genesis Tub"
Season 8, Episode 1
“Treehouse of Horror VIII”
First Broadcast: October 27, 1996

GHOULISH GOINGS-ON: A meeting of school science projects turns into something so much more, when Lisa and Bart’s experiments combine to create LIFE ITSELF!!!

When Bart unwittingly commits genocide, the people of this strange new land decide to turn to their God: Lisa herself!  Can she escape the life she created, or will she be trapped forever, sockless in the Genesis Tub?

INVASION OF THE PLOT-SNATCHERS: ANOTHER "Twilight Zone" episode - but what's odd about this is that I know that from the "South Park" episode "Simpsons Already Did It"!

(BLACK) MAGIC MOMENT: The sight of poor, unfortunate Martin, whose milk carton ukulele is the stiffest competition the science fair can offer against Bart's entire race of self-created miniature people.

HORROR RATING: 6 baby teeth out of a mouth full of cola.

NUMBER 6: "The Devil And Homer Simpson"
Season 5, Episode 5
“Treehouse of Horror IV”
First Broadcast: October 28, 1993

GHOULISH GOINGS-ON: What price the human soul?  Meet Homer Simpson, who sold his for a single doughnut – and when hunger strikes, he gets DRAGGED TO HELL!!!

Forced into a bizarre trial for his very mortal existence with only Lionel Hutz for his defence, he’s going to need all the help he can get!  Can Marge prove a wife owns her husband’s soul?  And did we mention the Devil is Ned Flanders?

INVASION OF THE PLOT-SNATCHERS: Not necessarily any particular lift here, but the concept of selling one's soul to the devil goes right back to Theophilus, Faust, Robert Johnson and most famously, Vic Reeves in the final episode of "Vic Reeves' Big Night Out".
(BLACK) MAGIC MOMENT: Actually, Mr Engine Blood here likes a deleted scene the best - where Bart is vexing Devil Flanders by offering to sell his soul for a number of items, including...
Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
HORROR RATING: 5 pentagrams out of 666.

Join us tomorrow - if you daaaaaaare! - for the top frightening five of this terrifying ten.

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