The Simpsons’ ‘Treehouse of Horrors’: All 33 of them

Before we start, I know what you’re thinking: a Halloween article in November? One may think I’m getting to this late, but I prefer to say I’m getting a head start on next year’s celebrations. 

Like death, taxes and tax evasion, the Simpsons’ Halloween special is an inevitability. Every year since the show’s second season, the cartoon has presented short stories themed around the holiday. While the collection is known as “Treehouse of Horror,” this was not the official name of the special until the 20th entry. Every title card before the special was simply referred to as “The Simpsons Halloween Special.”

I watched all of them. 

Let’s break down the structure of these specials. Typically, there is an introduction to the episode, sometimes setting up a framing device that shows the sketches as stories told by characters. This framing structure was abandoned early on in the history of the specials. Then, we get to the stories which are often parodies of horror movies. The Simpsons’ 34-seasons run is famous for its commentary on a variety of films, television shows, real-life events and classic horror literature such as Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” or Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Plus, the Halloween specials are famous for their alien running gag. They were in the first, and now we’re stuck with them, whether they contribute to the plot or not. It’s mostly the latter.

There is a lot of gore in the earlier specials that seems shocking by modern standards. Through the years, it’s become much less intense. While watching the specials, I ran into one themed around Thanksgiving. Somehow, this Thanksgiving special was the most gruesome and terrifying in years, with lots of blood and gore featured in the episode. Ironic, considering it wasn’t even an official Halloween special. 

This year’s special was preceded by another spooky parody: “Not IT,” a spoof on Stephen King’s “IT,” featuring Springfield’s resident clown Krusty as Pennywise. “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” itself is a traditional special, parodying Death Note, Westworld and the Babadook. But I didn’t just watch the most recent Halloween special, I watched all of them and have some thoughts on the collection.

My favorite parody is “The Shinning” in “Treehouse of Horror V,” based on Stephen King’s “The Shining” and Kubrick’s movie adaptation. The parody is successful in ways that others fail: While some of the homages retell the story in a funny way without regard to how the Simpsons characters would act, this particular parody felt accurate to both its inspiration and The Simpsons characters. 

My favorite non-parody was “Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die,” from “Treehouse of Horrors X” focusing on the Y2K crisis. While it certainly dates the sketch, it can serve as a time capsule of sorts, reminding older viewers of what the late 90s were like and making younger audiences curious about the time period.

My favorite alien story was “Hungry Are The Damned,” from the first Halloween special. Sadly, I feel this was the peak for alien characters Kang and Kodos. It’s the only episode where the aliens feel like real characters rather than shoe-horned in spoofs or simple stand-ins for generic non-human creatures. 

Was it easy to watch all of these specials? Yes, obviously. It’s watching TV. Would I recommend it, though? Not necessarily. The episodes become predictable at some point. Certain sketches stand out, but overall they’re rooted in the time they were made. My advice is to watch them as they air, and if you rewatch the old ones, just have Google ready for some of the jokes.

You can bet I’ll tune in next year and every year after that.


Spooky Scene Selections

Halloween is just around the corner, and Scene has chosen its favorite songs, films and haunting reflections to celebrate!

“Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge”

Rose Androwich, Scene Writer

The sequel to “Halloweentown” is better than the original. The first film relies too heavily on sheer shock factor. “Halloweentown II” broaches the idea of good versus evil. The 2000s nostalgia factor of “Halloweentown” makes it easy to return to every single year. Besides, who doesn’t love a good witch story? The good witch takes on the bad warlock, and it’s a Halloween must-have. Disney isn’t interested in scaring you, but their Halloween films are still great! 

Make Halloween ugly again

Gracie Eppler, Scene Writer

Perhaps the scariest thing about Halloween, to me, was when I discovered that costumes were meant to be cute. In Halloweens past, I have been a kayaker lugging around an orange boat made of cardboard strapped around my waist. I’ve become a glimmering silver robot with arms made out of dryer vent tubes. I have been transformed into (my personal favorite): Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece herself, the Mona Lisa, by sticking my face through a hole my dad carved in a large cardboard cut-out. I strongly believe that in lieu of dressing up as glamorized pirates, angels or bunnies, it’s time to bring back ugly costumes. This Halloween, I’m looking forward to seeing more Minions, Pitbull impersonators and Mona Lisas. 

The magnificent camp of “The Lost Boys”

Annie Brown, Scene Writer

As far as late ‘80s cult classics go, there’s no shortage of marginally terrible, very campy movies to choose from: “Cocktail,” “Spaceballs” and “Weird Science” come to mind. However, you’ve never seen a movie quite like 1987’s ”The Lost Boys.” From mullet-clad vampire gangs to saxophone raves to young Corey Feldman’s uncannily Rambo-esque vocal fry, it’s a sexy, dark and vaguely homoerotic delight that’s sure to change the way you think about both comedy and horror. After all, what could be a better activity on Halloween than watching some undead angst and incredibly corny one-liners? That’s easy: death by stereo.

“Skeletons” by Aja Volkman, “Breakfast” by Dove Cameron, “Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Maggie Eastland, Assistant Managing Editor

These three songs escalate in vibe.

The first is a chill, folksy number perfect for walking to class or around the lake during spooky season. It’s raw and emotional and reminds me of the Sunday scaries. “I make choices that I’m going to have to live with. I’ve been places that I shouldn’t have gone. And I know that you’ve got some skeletons, too.” Keep this one in your back pocket for the impending Halloweekend x Hangxiety crossover.

Next on the list, “Breakfast” by Dove Cameron, is best blasted in your dorm room under purple LED lights while applying your (sultry) vampire makeup before the Halloween festivities. Call it cringe if you want, this is the prime opportunity to play the siren you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

Finally, turn up the energy with “Heads Will Roll.” Again, Halloween only comes around once a year. Do not miss this opportunity to experience mid-2000s blockbuster euphoria. “Dance ’til you’re dead.”

An ode to the American Halloween 

Abigail Keaney, Scene Writer

Embarking on a transatlantic move at the tender age of nine was difficult for many reasons. But perhaps one of the most significant tragedies for my fourth grade self was the harsh realization that the Halloween I had celebrated in years past would not be matched by the holiday in my new home. Armed with hopes of trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving and costume contests, I was devastated to learn that the English, at least back in 2010, didn’t celebrate Halloween — or certainly not any version of it that I recognized. The vision of myself waiting at the door for the trick-or-treaters that would never come haunts me even now, my childhood delight crumbling in tandem with my love for Halloween. With that being said, I would like to proclaim an ode to the American Halloween. With its gaudy decorations, sickly sweet candy corn and general sense of indescribable madness, there really is nothing like the 31st of October in the good ole USA. For my nine-year-old self, I’m making this one count. 

Spooky, not scary

Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

Some horror movies are just a little too intense. That is why the difference between spooky and scary is so important. “Spooky” is plastic skeletons and paper ghosts. “Scary” is the ghosts you see in “The Omen” or “Paranormal Activity.” If you want something spooky, not scary, to watch this Halloween, here are some quick recommendations: “Over The Garden Wall” (streaming on HBO Max) is a miniseries about two brothers getting lost in a fantasy world, and “Gravity Falls” (on Disney+) has a fun mystery vibe while remaining goofy. Lastly, the “Goosebumps” movie (VOD) is a fun callback to the spooky book series by R.L. Stine and is a great Halloween flick for all audiences.

Better to be scared with others than by yourself

Gabriel Zarazua, Scene Writer

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all watching classic movies with friends such as “Monster House,” “Frankenweenie” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” but we need a good scare once in a while, especially now, to release tension in the middle of the semester. I would recommend the second movie by Jordan Peele, “Us,” in which a family tries to escape from getting killed by clones of themselves. It’s a fun watch and starts great conversations with friends on how they would try and fight a better version of themselves. Me personally? I would just have my clone do my art homework for me — if he’s so much better at it.