Tricks And Treats: Josh Shaffer Sees Treehouse Of Horror XXVIII (And Lives To Write About It!)
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVIII reviewed by Josh Shaffer
Hey ho, gang! Hope you had a great weekend. Well, another Halloween is upon us, and with it comes an always fun tradition – The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror. Now, I’m sure many of you share the mindset that the show’s quality has waned over the years, and it’s a fair assessment. Still, as an animation buff, I’m thrilled by the increasingly smooth animation, use of shading and gradient color, and constantly growing list of guest voices (almost 800 by my estimation!). And let’s be honest, with so many shows out there of varying levels of quality, it’s a comfort to know The Simpsons is always reliable for a laugh.
Treehouse always takes a bold approach. After all, the beauty of animation is its ability to stretch reality to surreal and bizarre levels which simply cannot be achieved with live action comedy. Characters squash and stretch, environments fade and switch in the blink of an eye, and situations defy logic and gravity. And again, Treehouse allows the writers to take bigger risks and really let their imaginations run wild. This occurs, most notably, by torturing and killing key players from Homer to Selma while parodying classic horror and sci-fi films and shows.
Treehouse ’17 is their funniest episode in years.
“The Exor-Sis” is a great tribute to what most consider the scariest movie of all time. Marge is understandably puzzled when a statue of the demon Pazuzu arrives, and naturally Homer is no help (“I thought it was pizza.”) And when Homer – under the influence of Pazuzu – sings a bizarre parody of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” to Maggie as her toys either off themselves or run for the hills, the viewer suspects things are going to get disturbing. Enter Ben Daniels playing an Exorcist (just like in the Fox show) to save the day. Well, for Maggie at least. The segment overall is well-done, and it was genuinely funny to watch Dr. Hibbert get stabbed in the trachea by his own thermometer. It’s a satisfying segment.
“Coralisa” is pitch perfect both in design and execution. A frustrated Lisa finds the family affection she’s been craving in an alternate universe through the guidance of Snowball V (voiced with gentle grace by Coraline creator Neil Gaiman.) This features intriguingly stylized CGI, successfully blending the lanky, dull-colored look from the stop-motion film with Simpsons personality. Grandpa Simpson is one of my personal favorites, so it’s a pleasure seeing him featured in both this segment and the equally great CGI intro “The Sweets Hereafter.” Plus, real Homer meeting button-eye Homer is so visually bizarre I couldn’t help but rewind several times to take in the full effect. Maggie’s mega-barf is nothing groundbreaking while still hilarious.
“MMM…Homer” is, to quote Comic Book Guy, “the most disturbing segment ever.” Homer’s limitless hunger takes a seriously screwed-up turn when his accidentally severed finger lands on the grill, and his appetite soon focuses entirely on self-cannibalism. The pacing in this segment is equal parts imaginative and gross, particularly when he drizzles a side dish with a pink goo from a corkscrew he plunged into his ear. The Exorcist director William Friedkin makes a humorous cameo as a marriage counselor, though the damage is too much for Marge to bear, given Homer’s lack of legs, hands, and belly. Ick. Enter celebrity chef Mario Batali, who convinces Homer to, on a culinary level, give all he can for the benefit of all.
I’m not ashamed to admit I had nightmares after watching this episode (likely due to a combination of reading Stephen King and researching the meaning of the film Jacob’s Ladder.) I’m not even usually prone to residual scares. So while I’m happy to give this Treehouse of Horror a well-earned 3 out of 4 stars, I must say it’s both the reliable laughs and surprising elements of horror which set it upon a shelf entirely its own.