Total Recall

The 9 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments According to Critics

by | October 14, 2015 | Comments

The scariest of months is upon is, so Rotten Tomatoes asked its TV critics to pick their favorite “Treehouse of Horror” segments of The Simpsons. From movie parodies to classic literature to political satire, these critics’ faves are frighteningly funny.

“Treehouse of Horror IV: Terror at 5½ Feet,” Season 5, Episode 5

Neela Debnath, The Independent: Like all Halloween specials on The Simpsons, this episode combines horror and humour perfectly. I love how deliciously creepy and sinister this tale is. Bart is not usually one to lose his cool, so watching him freaking out at the sight of a demonic little gremlin is priceless.

“Treehouse of Horror VI: Homer³,” Season 7, Episode 6

Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post: Such clever graphics, humor rooted in quantum physics combined with dumb sight gags, you know, the usual brilliant mix.

“Treehouse of Horror V: Time and Punishment,” Season 6, Episode 5

Michael Calia, The Wall Street Journal: The donut rainstorm after Homer flees an ideal, luxurious alternative timeline otherwise free of donuts is a painfully ironic belly laugh and a textbook example of the writers’ knack for economic storytelling and character work.

“Treehouse of Horror VI, Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace,” Season 7, Episode 6

Chris E. Hayner, Zap2It: A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the most terrifying movies of all time, so having The Simpsons take it down a notch was a welcome sight to anyone who grew up in the ’80s. Groundskeeper Willie as Freddy Krueger is equal parts funny and creepy, plus the Stephen King’s It” twist ending of Spider-Willie is just perfect. Leave it to Maggie to save the day.

“Treehouse of Horror III: Clown Without Pity,” Season 2, Episode 3

Mark Ellis, Schmoes Know: Homer rushes to get Bart a last-minute birthday gift, and it ends up being a Krusty doll that, in the words of Grandpa Simpson, is “evilll…EEEVVVILLLLL!!!” As far as I’m concerned, this segment was also the pop culture moment that put the term “frogurt” into the lexicon. The pièce de résistance has to be the service hotline that Marge dials once they realize the doll is out of control… “Everybody loves a clown, so why don’t you?”

“Treehouse of Horror XIX: It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse,” Season 20, Episode 4

Eric Deggans, NPR: I’ve always liked Treehouse XIX, which aired in 2008 with a satire of It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Here’s what I wrote for the Tampa Bay Times then: “Trust schlubby Homer Simpson to come up with a sidesplitting Halloween episode two days after the holiday ends. Still, the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode shines, powered by gory, animated takes on Mad Men, a Simpson-ized version of Peanuts’ Great Pumpkin story and an Election Day bit on a malfunctioning touch-screen voting machine. For Floridians, it may feel just like home.”

“Treehouse of Horror VII: Citizen Kang,” Season 8, Episode 1

Todd VanDerWerff, Vox: “Citizen Kang.” “Citizen Kang,” “Citizen Kang,” “Citizen Kang.” “Abortions for some! Miniature American flags for others!”

Karmen Fox, Baltimore Sun: “Citizen Kang” from “Treehouse of Horror VII” is hands down the best “Treehouse of Horror” segment, if not one of the best Simpsons stories of all time. It mercilessly and hilariously pinpoints everything wrong about elections: the pandering, the flip-flopping and worst of all the candidates. Whether you vote for Clinton, Dole or whoever’s on the ballot twenty years later (or you know, now), it doesn’t matter. After the election, the mask comes off and we’re stuck with Kang. Don’t blame me, I voted Kodos.

Verne Gay, Newsday: The installment from this particular edition where Kang and Kodos come to earth and impersonate Clinton and Dole in their thwarted effort to take over earth. It was brilliant — Simpsons political satire at a very high level. I love it.

“Treehouse of Horror I: The Raven,” Season 2, Episode 3

Brian Tallerico, It broke the mold, proving that The Simpsons was more than just a wacky comedy and had actual literary pedigree.

Tim Surette, Maybe it’s Bart as a mischievous raven, Homer’s slobbery voice echoing Edgar Allen Poe, or James Earl Jones’ narration, but “The Raven” is the best homage The Simpsons ever did and gave this lunkhead a more fundamental understanding of one of the great horror poems ever written.

Witney Seibold, Nerdist: Back when The Simpsons Halloween specials were something of a novelty, rather than a reliable tradition, it was something of a shock to see our familiar characters getting murdered and/or mutilated and/or enacting scenes from famous pieces of American horror poetry. However crass the show may have been at times (belching and familial dysfunction was not yet a common TV site in 1989), and however closely it stuck to a traditional sitcom template (especially back in the early seasons), you could always tell that The Simpsons writers were well-educated and well-read. If you were a kid you would laugh. If you were a college grad, you would roar. “The Raven” cannily blended the show’s traditional slapstick sensibility with a respectful (if not fitfully irreverent) rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic tale of terror, reimagining Homer as its protagonist, Marge as his lost Lenore, and Bart as the interloping raven, wandering from the night’s Plutonian shore. Add to that the wonderful narration by James Earl Jones and you have a segment that is not only funny, but teeters on actual fear. This is the way Halloween specials ought to be.

“Treehouse of Horror V: The Shinning,” Season 6, Episode 5

Erik Adams, AV Club: I love “The Shinning,” which is more than just a spot-on parody of my favorite horror film — it’s also a cockeyed love letter to television. Driven “something something” by a lack of TV and beer, Homer reaches out to a handful of absent televised buddies, building on Jack Torrance’s Tonight Show-riffing murder taunt by also trying out the introductions for David Letterman, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, and Ed Bradley (all that plus Andy Rooney). I’m a sucker for a good 60 Minutes gag, but it’s the segment’s conclusion that shows where its true heart lies, building to The Shining‘s famed shock cut with a pair of boob-tube epigrams: “Television: Teacher, mother, secret lover” and “Come, family. Sit in the snow with daddy and let us all bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow.” TV’s never seemed more important — or more terrifying.

Ben Travers, IndieWire: If asked to pick the best, I’d have to choose “The Shinning” from Treehouse of Horror V. It truly is at an iconic level, so much so if you mention the best adaptations of the Stephen King novel, “The Simpsons” always comes up. Always a sucker for film/novel parodies, the dynamic of Homer becoming a homicidal lunatic after being denied TV and beer proves too much for me every year — of course, so does “Easy Bake Coven” in Treehouse of Horror VIII. “That sounds like witch-talk to me, Lisa.”

Chris O’Hara, TV Fanatic: Iconic Homer Simpson acting out what was one of my favorite real life actor icon’s best performances. Jack Nicholson’s insanity was cartoon-like in that scene so it played perfectly when Homer was subbed into the role.

Drew Grant, New York Observer: First of all: Willy’s response to Bart when he calls it The Shining: “Shh! You want to get sued?” Or Marge going up to the typewriter and seeing the words…”Feelin’ fine?” That segment stands out because I remember (and I know we all have this memory somewhere) it being the first time I could recognize that the show was referencing/spoofing something very particular, although I hadn’t seen The Shining yet. It was like an educational class in Kubrick, except with a happier ending and not nearly as long.

Tag Cloud

children's TV Superheroes hollywood feel good Sundance cooking Masterpiece natural history The Academy die hard Hear Us Out teaser medical drama SundanceTV italian Schedule Instagram Live HBO Toys Horror Oscar boxing comic books Avengers biography nbcuniversal razzies aliens GLAAD TV Tubi Comedy renewed TV shows criterion reviews Comedy Central golden globes japan Television Critics Association Tumblr See It Skip It Box Office blockbusters 79th Golden Globes Awards joker Hallmark Christmas movies telelvision japanese TV movies Nominations slasher Valentine's Day Tarantino hispanic BBC America nfl Musical dc sopranos Stephen King stop motion rotten movies we love LGBTQ VH1 book adaptation dramedy Baby Yoda disaster 2021 animated best IMDb TV richard e. Grant hispanic heritage month Rock Acorn TV Tags: Comedy kaiju cults Best Director venice travel robots 73rd Emmy Awards deadpool Bravo ViacomCBS Showtime spider-man james bond sequel AMC Plus Comic-Con@Home 2021 game show Film zero dark thirty Spike TNT slashers Animation Reality MGM Martial Arts ITV 72 Emmy Awards royal family Academy Awards Freeform 20th Century Fox Mudbound IFC Films award winner Disney Channel USA Network Captain marvel Tomatazos rom-coms name the review Walt Disney Pictures Cartoon Network Neflix Summer SDCC black comedy ratings spider-verse Holiday History Biopics sag awards Anna Paquin YA TCA sports obi wan Extras Prime Video video on demand President Women's History Month vs. cartoon Sony movies anime pirates of the caribbean Lionsgate Disney golden globe awards action-comedy BBC Pirates summer TV CMT BET Fox Searchlight Black Mirror twilight Rom-Com HBO Max lord of the rings The Walt Disney Company ABC LGBT TV One transformers diversity remakes spy thriller Native films spain mockumentary sitcom Endgame Fall TV Tokyo Olympics Winter TV WGN TCA Winter 2020 cancelled TV series Columbia Pictures New York Comic Con TV Land Apple TV+ Musicals Spectrum Originals Netflix Christmas movies strong female leads Amazon Prime Funimation Pixar Amazon Syfy PBS Best Actress Polls and Games jurassic park RT History streaming movies women TCA 2017 MTV screenings superman Hollywood Foreign Press Association new zealand Vudu vampires Amazon Prime Video romantic comedy scary satire australia rt labs Star Trek MSNBC streaming Awards prank mission: impossible police drama target scene in color comiccon dceu marvel comics Sony Pictures documentaries Comics on TV child's play breaking bad asian-american indie discovery Comic Book Marvel Studios Heroines crime drama CBS 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Wes Anderson halloween tv Teen classics WarnerMedia Alien Fox News Adult Swim TV renewals Pop TV Lifetime FXX San Diego Comic-Con book latino what to watch Premiere Dates South by Southwest Film Festival critics TCM godzilla nature AMC crossover HFPA Esquire science fiction universal monsters dark olympics 2017 mcc interviews OWN Rocky Cosplay versus parents zombies zombie Holidays 21st Century Fox stand-up comedy scene in color film series documentary toy story NYCC free movies miniseries boxoffice Hulu Nat Geo stoner Mindy Kaling BET Awards talk show biopic Video Games First Look ghosts TruTV adaptation Emmys Drama political drama Pop wonder woman Cannes CBS All Access Character Guide 007 NBC composers A&E Marvel debate Awards Tour DC Comics Pet Sematary Epix The CW emmy awards Super Bowl Classic Film The Witch DC streaming service ID American Society of Cinematographers Television Academy Apple posters cancelled Focus Features DGA MCU Winners Apple TV Plus rotten Thanksgiving DC Universe christmas movies Trailer Rocketman chucky canceled TV shows popular NBA ABC Signature Film Festival concert X-Men scorecard football 24 frames Kids & Family IFC Mary Poppins Returns Disney+ Disney Plus laika ABC Family Quiz archives a nightmare on elm street high school cancelled TV shows war Christmas tv talk 45 cars FOX cinemax psychological thriller Legendary 4/20 Fantasy crime Grammys 2019 Binge Guide fresh toronto Watching Series Set visit independent Ellie Kemper Interview directors legend Shudder Elton John CW Seed monster movies international casting Black History Month Sneak Peek romance Reality Competition screen actors guild witnail rt labs critics edition The Purge Emmy Nominations mutant 71st Emmy Awards kids TLC Red Carpet kong finale elevated horror 2018 GIFs Dark Horse Comics dragons Universal Country Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pride Month game of thrones cats docuseries E3 TIFF Nickelodeon Chernobyl justice league El Rey comic dreamworks worst movies Ghostbusters south america scary movies summer preview binge SXSW Image Comics space know your critic cancelled television Trivia anthology Paramount Pictures SXSW 2022 Ovation Superheroe revenge singing competition true crime jamie lee curtis Lucasfilm Star Wars hist marvel cinematic universe USA Arrowverse saw crime thriller Crackle Music all-time Oscars quibi Song of Ice and Fire GoT live action Mary Tyler Moore Discovery Channel trailers spanish language adventure Calendar Trophy Talk canceled FX Mary poppins YouTube Red Exclusive Video Brie Larson politics TCA Awards trophy rt archives dexter Broadway foreign fast and furious sequels cops VICE The Arrangement comedies OneApp Best Picture movie Pacific Islander PaleyFest doctor who Hallmark Fargo DirecTV social media YouTube Premium Star Wars Celebration worst based on movie theme song Best and Worst Turner suspense target art house BBC One 90s serial killer Food Network young adult festival adenture halloween Universal Pictures 2015 99% Mystery Photos docudrama Logo king arthur comic book movies period drama Writers Guild of America dogs batman psycho series thriller facebook National Geographic comics television Britbox Geeked Week comic book movie Paramount Network Marathons Countdown harry potter 94th Oscars video FX on Hulu unscripted Indigenous indiana jones VOD Netflix CNN Paramount Plus Spring TV summer TV preview spinoff Election Best Actor Turner Classic Movies scene in color series Lifetime Christmas movies broadcast streamig technology new york Podcast Western Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Action obituary leaderboard Sundance Now supernatural reboot news festivals E! Marvel Television basketball BAFTA blockbuster Crunchyroll new star wars movies APB genre gangster Travel Channel Starz Shondaland The Walking Dead Infographic blaxploitation Warner Bros. black spanish heist movie Amazon Studios Disney Plus 93rd Oscars RT21 scene in color aapi hidden camera werewolf YouTube live event Paramount Peacock franchise king kong Sci-Fi french green book 2016 critic resources Year in Review superhero Family Sundance TV mob 2020 PlayStation historical drama 1990s Certified Fresh Opinion First Reviews A24 HBO Go Creative Arts Emmys TBS Disney streaming service ESPN