13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments from The Simpsons

13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments from The Simpsons

We all had our introduction to horror somehow, maybe it was through episodes of Scooby-Doo or Goosebumps books or binge watching Are You Afraid of the Dark?. For a lot of us that introduction was through The Simpsons. Before we started exploring slashers and teen horrors it was playful fare like the Treehouse of Horror segments from The Simpsons, with its homages to incredible horror films that preceded it, that intrigued us about the genre. 

Starting in season two, this annual tradition of getting three spooky, weird and wonderful segments from this otherwise family friendly show was something to look forward to. With over 30 years under its belt it’s no surprise that there have been some brilliant episodes of Treehouse of Horror. Even The Simpsons enjoy indulging in a little blood, gore and horror in October.  

13. Send in the Clones

Episode: Treehouse of Horror XIII (2002)

Who wouldn’t love having a clone. Someone to go to work for you and do the chores for you without anyone needing to be any the wiser. Sounds perfect. Unless your Homer Simpson and you end up with clones that are just as dumb as you. It’s silly, but fun, and the mix of Homer clones is brilliant, from nerdy Homer to Peter Griffin Homer.  It’s all fun and games until one of them murders Ned Flanders, although I’m sure Homer doesn’t mind. This is probably one of the few later installments that still held some of the Treehouse of Horror magic.

12. Bart’s Nightmare

Episode: Treehouse of Horror II (1991)

Our first, but definitely not the last Twilight Zone entry is based on the episode It’s A Good Life, which in turn was based on a short story by Jerome Bixby. Bart’s ‘nightmare’ in this segment is that he has the power to control everything. This means that everyone must follow his rules and do as he says, lest they be turned into a human Jack in the Box. The fact that the true nightmare here for Bart is that he bonds with his father is hilarious. Plus, seeing strung out Krusty and the terrified citizens of Springfield all fake smile through Bart’s antics is definitely creepy.

11. Terror at 5½ Feet

Episode: Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

Bart Simpson is a tough nut to crack, he laughs at danger and revels in destruction, which is why this segment is so scary. After having a nightmare about being killed in a school bus crash Bart is a little apprehensive about his morning journey. In a brilliant homage to The Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet Bart soon begins seeing ‘gremlins’ tampering with the bus to fatal degrees. This play on Bart’s paranoia with a Final Destination Style prelude is pretty damn distressing. Also, the gremlin creature itself is creepy, especially in the final shot as it presents Ned’s severed head.

10. Nightmare Cafeteria 

Episode: Treehouse of Horror V (1994)

Don’t eat Soylent Green, it’s people! This isn’t spooky ghosts, demonic deals or intergalactic invaders, this is much more horrid and much more real. When the amount of kids in detention goes up but the amount of meat in the cafeteria goes down Skinner comes up with a perfect solution…eat the students. This paved the way for bloodier and more gross segments to come after it. Plus, poor Willie gets another axe to the back which has become a fun little recurring motif now. Such a strange little ending to this one after they survive being eaten by flesh hungry school staff and instead get turned inside out by a foggy mist and do a blood splattering musical number.

9. Lisa’s Nightmare

Episode: Treehouse of Horror II (1991)

We’ve all been told to be careful what you wish for, since it’s origin in Aesop’s Fables it’s been a well used warning. This warning is not adhered to when the Homer Simpson purchases a cursed monkey paw that grants its owner four wishes, all with grave consequences. There’s a strange element of postmodern self awareness in Bart’s wish for the Simpsons to be rich and famous, showing the future for the characters in pop culture. The fact that this paw is such a terrible burden for the Simpson family and yet works perfectly fine for Ned Flanders gives an extra splash of humour to the proceedings.

8. Hungry are the Damned

Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, and Yeardley Smith in The Simpsons (1989)

Episode: Treehouse of Horror I (1990)

The Twilight Zone is rich source material for a lot of the earlier segments of Treehouse of Horror, the brilliant of the original stories enhances the enjoyment of these homages by The Simpsons. In the first ever installment of Treehouse of Horror we are introduced to Kang and Kodos when they abduct The Simpson family from their back garden. This brilliant play on To Serve Man has us feeling bad for our misjudged extraterrestrials. Kang and Kodos are now yearly regulars who pop up for at least one segment of every Treehouse of Horror episode.

7. Citizen Kang
13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments from The Simpsons

Episode: Treehouse of Horror VII (1996)

Kang and Kodus are back again! This time abducting just Homer and demanding to be taken to his leader. Unfortunately for the green invaders its election time so it could be Clinton or Dole leading America. To ensure that one of them is the next leader they assume the identity of the two presidential candidates under the safe assumption that the people will “…have to vote for one of us”. This is a great parody of the American presidential elections, made even scarier as the years have gone by. 

6. Clown Without Pity

Julie Kavner and Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989)

Episode: Treehouse of Horror III (1992)

In another Twilight Zone pastiche, Homer makes a last minute purchase for Bart’s Birthday from the aptly named House of Evil. Just like in Gremlins this gift comes with a warning which proves to be necessary when the purchased Krusty doll turns murderous. There’s some definite elements of Chucky from the Child’s Play franchise at work here as the Krusty doll sets about trying to kill Homer. The simple fix of flipping his switch from ‘evil’ to ‘good’ is genius and watching Krusty, beaten down after a day of hard labour, return home to his girlfrfiend Malibu Stacey at the end of the segment is equal parts stupid and perfect.

5. The Devil & Homer Simpson

Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989) 13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments

Episode: Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

This parody of Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story, The Devil and Daniel Webster, sees Homer pitted against the devil. Homer makes the mistake of stating he would sell his soul for a donut, invoking the devil himself, Ned Flanders. Making the devout Christian Ned the devil is brilliant and watching Homer take his glutenous torture with ease is hillarious. Homer is released when it is revealed he already lovingly sold his soul to Marge when they married. In one final fit of rage Devil Flanders gets the ultimate revenge, turning Homer’s head into a giant donut. I mean, it’d be hard to resist taking a little bit of yourself.

4. Time and Punishment

The Simpsons (1989)

Episode: Treehouse of Horror V (1994)

Time travel is always fun to explore, and with Homer Simpson in charge of preserving the rules of the modern world it’s going to end disastrously. In this segment we get to see a dystopian universe run by Ned Flanders with free lobotomies for all, the attack of the giant Simpson children, a world without donuts and the axing of Groundskeeper Willy…again. The butterfly effect is played out hilariously in this segment and watching Homer spiral from “…don’t step on anything,” to “Stupid bug! You go squish now!” is perfect.

3. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace

13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments from The Simpsons

Episode: Treehouse of Horror VI (1995)

A Nightmare on Elm Street has been one of my favourite horror films since I started watching the genre. In fact, it was one of my introductory films to the world of horror, so thank you Mr Craven for the invitation. This Treehouse of Horror parody of this renowned slasher film manages to keep the same atmosphere and style as it’s source material. From watching in horror as Groundskeeper Willy burns to death, to laughing at his Kruger style one liners, including the disturbing but very on brand zinger. “You’ve mastered a dead tongue, but can you handle a live one?”. This is a pitch perfect homage to a legendary film.

2. The Raven

Nancy Cartwright and Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989)

Episode: Treehouse of Horror I (1990)

Who can resist the beautiful combination of Edgar Allen Poe’s words and James Earl Jones’ voice? Not me! It may not be the traditional comedic parody we see in other segments but there’s something fascinating about this take on the beautiful gothic poem. The fact it was probably the first introduction I had to the works of Edgar Allen Poe is why it holds such a soft spot for me. There’s definitely some horror in the image of a Bart-headed raven terrorising the grieving Homer and it does a surprisingly good job of upholding the source materials sentiment.

1. The Shinning

Dan Castellaneta in The Simpsons (1989) 13 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments from The Simpsons

Episode: Treehouse of Horror V (1994)

Of course the top of this list is The Shinning, it’s definitely one of the best movie parodies that The Simpsons have ever pulled off. Of course the original film is a masterpiece which gives The Simpsons great source material to play with. Homer has always seemed like the type to snap easily, so believing him as Jack Torrance type with a weak disposition and an uncontrollable urge to murder his family. Unfortunately Groundskeeper Willy can’t save the Simpson family, only one thing can do that. The ‘warm glowing warming glow’ of the television.  


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