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Katherine is the Managing Editor at The Hudsucker. She has been working in libraries for the past 10 years and holds a B.A. in American Studies & Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. In her free time, the Seattleite enjoys writing fiction, going to brunch, taking long walks with her roommate, and playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends. Katherine is a huge fan of the Seattle Mariners and has probably seen every Marvel movie at least five times. She loves classic rock and can quote even the most obscure lines from The Simpsons. Follow Katherine on Twitter: @thethingiskat.

The Five Scariest Treehouse of Horror Episodes of The Simpsons

Image Credit: FOX Broadcasting

Image Credit: FOX Broadcasting

The Simpsons has pretty much gone hand in hand with Halloween ever since they aired the first Treehouse of Horror during their second season. Since then, every season has seen Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie transplanted into everything from famous horror movies to the presidential election. Though the Treehouse of Horror episodes have gotten progressively less frightening over the years, at least in this author’s opinion, there are still a few that scared me as a child and still send a chill down my spine even as an adult. So without further adieu, here’s my list of the 5 scariest The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes.

Treehouse of Horror

Named just that, the original Treehouse of Horror not only gave the moniker by which all future episodes would be known, it also set a distinct tone for how future Halloween themed episodes of The Simpsons would play out. The episode begins with Marge standing on a stage warning parents that this episode may be too scary for children, and rightfully so considering the dramatic departure in tone and theme from anything else the show had done up to that point. Each segment is a separate story and each episode is self-contained so that none of the events in the episode have any bearing on the plot of the show.

The first segment called Bad Dream House is a take off on the movie The Amityville Horror and sees the Simpson family trying to fight against a house that is trying harm them. The second segment—Hungry Are the Damned—sees the first appearance of Kang and Kodos in a Simpsons episode. In it, the Simpson family gets kidnapped to be taken to a “feast” on the aliens’ home planet, but Lisa remains skeptical on what exactly their role in the feast will be. The final segment is a storytelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” featuring Bart as the raven, Homer as the main character, and featuring a delightfully creepy narration by James Earl Jones. Though it is just a direct reading of Poe’s poem featuring the Simpson family, the images and Jones’ narration make it probably the scariest of the three segments. The entire episode, though, was successfully dark and creepy and did a great job laying the foundation for the entire Treehouse of Horror franchise.

Treehouse of Horror III

Image courtesy of Fox

Probably the least frightening episode on the list, Treehouse of Horror III definitely has some spooky moments, but also brings a few laughs to balance it out. Beginning with a mock Alfred Hitchcock opening, this episode, like many of the early Treehouse of Horror episodes, sees the Simpson family reenacting classic horror movies. The first segment—Clown Without Pity—sees the Simpsons taking on the movie Child’s Play but with a Krusty doll with an “evil switch” instead. The second segment is a parody of the movie King Kong but with Homer as the hairy beast instead. The final segment – Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies – sees Bart and Lisa accidentally starting a zombie apocalypse. Arguably the scariest of the three segments, it does, however, have one of the funniest and most quoted lines from any Simpsons episode.

Bart: Dad, you killed the zombie Flanders.
Homer: He was a zombie?

Treehouse of Horror IV

Treehouse of Horror IV is set up to resemble the television show Night Gallery where Bart walks through an art gallery and stops at certain paintings which represent a different Treehouse of Horror segment. Marge’s customary introduction is skipped in favor of Bart giving a similar but creepy warning about the episode. The Devil and Homer Simpson is the first segment where Homer sells his soul for a doughnut and the family has to prove that Marge owns Homer’s soul instead of the Devil, who just happens to be Ned Flanders. Terror at 5 ½ Feet is a take on the classic Twilight Zone story of a gremlin on the side of an airplane that only one person can see. For The Simpsons, the gremlin is on the side of Bart’s school bus, and only he can see the impending destruction while the rest of his schoolmates and teachers think he’s crazy. The segment ends on a particularly creepy note when Bart is being taken away by ambulance to an insane asylum only to be confronted by the gremlin again, this time holding Ned Flanders’ head. The final installment is called Bart Simpson’s Dracula where Mr. Burns turns Bart into a vampire, and Lisa is on a quest to stop him. The episode ends on a lighthearted note, though, with the Simpson family wishing viewers a happy Halloween and doing a quick parody of a Peanuts holiday special.

Treehouse of Horror V

Treehouse of Horror V beings like past episodes with Marge giving a warning about the content of the episode. This episode, unlike others, features a running theme throughout the episode in the form of Groundskeeper Willie. He is present in each segment attempting to save the Simpson family from the impending doom of each situation but ends up getting killed each time before he can be of any assistance. The first segment—The Shinning—is a take off on Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining where Homer becomes a caretaker for Mr. Burns and but then everything goes awry once he realizes the television doesn‘t work and there is no alcohol in the house. The Shinning parodies many iconic moments from the film while still keeping its creepy essence. It also spawned another famous Simpsons quote.

Homer: No TV and no beer make Homer something something.
Marge: Go crazy?
Homer: Don’t mind if I do!

The second installment called Time and Punishment sees Homer accidentally inventing a time machine while trying to fix the family’s broken toaster. When traveling back in time the first time, Homer kills a bug and accidentally changes the future forever. The segment is a quest for him trying to get back to the present as he knows it but each time encountering increasingly disturbing worlds until he finds one that is close enough to the one he knows. The final segment – Nightmare Cafeteria—sees Bart and Lisa trying to survive at Springfield Elementary after Principal Skinner decides to start cooking students for the school lunches. The episode takes a disturbing turn when Bart, Lisa and Milhouse end up falling to their deaths in a giant food processor, but Bart suddenly wakes up surrounded by his family and realizes it was only a dream. The episode ends on a happier note with the family singing a song and dance about a fog that turns people inside out.

Treehouse of Horror VI

Though you probably wouldn’t be able to judge it by the first segment, Treehouse of Horror VI is arguably the creepiest, and at the very least the most ambitious, episode of the franchise to date. It is the first Treehouse of Horror episode to begin without a prolonged introduction to the episode, instead having a quick but frightening shot of Krusty the Clown as the Headless Horseman, riding across the screen and holding his laughing, severed head in one hand. The first segment—Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores— is definitely the most mundane of the three, in which advertisements come to life and Lisa enlists Paul Anka to try to stop them. The final segment—Homer³—isn’t much of a Halloween segment but is interesting because it shows Homer in the human world after getting trapped in, and subsequently destroying, an alternate dimension. After discovering this dimension while hiding behind a bookcase from Patty and Selma, Homer discovers a 3D world and becomes 3D himself. After destroying the dimension, he gets transported to the human world, still with this 3D body, and initially seems nervous until he discovers an erotic cake shop. The segment is mostly remarkable for the graphics since nothing like that had been done on The Simpsons before. It also adds a lighter ending to the episode after the genuine creepiness of the previous segment.

Image courtesy of Fox

By far the creepiest of the three and possibly the creepiest Treehouse of Horror segment in the history of the show, Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace is The Simpsons take on Nightmare on Elm Street with Groundskeeper Willie portraying the Freddy Krueger character. Bart wakes up from a nightmare where Groundskeeper Willie is trying to kill him and realizes that his injury in the dream manifested in his real life. When he gets to school, he finds out that the other students have been having similar dreams. Probably the most disturbing part of the episode is when Martin Prince falls asleep during class and ends up being murdered in his sleep by Groundskeeper Willie, all while his classmates are looking on. At home, Homer and Marge explain that Willie died when the furnace exploded and burned him alive at a school event where the parents sat back and did nothing. This is shown in a creepy flashback where Willie is actually ablaze for an extended period of time and then threatens the lives of the children before he dies. Though Bart, Lisa and Maggie eventually defeat him and the episode ends on a somewhat humorous note where Willie becomes human again, that in no way make up for the disturbing visuals throughout the segment. Even though each Treehouse of Horror episode has its share of scary moments, Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace doesn’t hold back and delivers scares that are more similar to the movie it was parodying than a Simpsons episode.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have a favorite Treehouse of Horror episode or segment? Am I ridiculous for being creeped out by The Simpsons? Let me know in the comments.

 

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