This year’s opening takes the form of a short, spooky Simpsons story by guest animator John Kricfalusi, most well-known as the creator of Ren & Stimpy. I’m a sucker for these guest animator sequences (I’m obsessed with the Don Hertzfeldt couch gag from Season 26), and John K.’s totally-bonkers style is perfect for a Treehouse of Horror episode.
Wanted: Dead, Then Alive
After twenty-four years of trying, Sideshow Bob finally murders Bart. But when life without his nemesis proves unsatisfying, Bob seeks to bring Bart back to life…so that he can kill him again and again.
It’s shocking to me that in the twenty-five previous Treehouse episodes, the show’s most violent and (sometimes) scary character hasn’t made any major appearance. If the plan was to save Sideshow Bob for a particularly great story, consider it a success: this is probably the best Halloween segment in years.
The writing for Sideshow Bob is on-point throughout. Some of his appearances in the past decade have been pretty underwhelming (remember his wife and daughter in Italy? Meh), but he’s much closer to classic Bob here. Seeing him in some new settings–like as an English professor teaching The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to bored millennials–is a lot of fun.
I’ve complained on this blog about newer Treehouse segments being too gory and gross, but in this case, the over-the-top nature helps to sell the ridiculous story. Even knowing that it was coming (“Sideshow Bob kills Bart this year” was heavily publicized), seeing Bart suddenly shot through the heart with a speargun had me busting out laughing in shock. Bob carries the story well on his own, with other characters showing up in small appearances to great effect.
Wanted: Dead, Then Alive might be the longest Treehouse segment ever, running nearly nine minutes. My only complaint (other than a couple of weak moments, including yet another lazy music montage) is that I’d love to have seen this idea explored as a full episode.
“[Bob]’s cool. Let’s move on to the next suspect.” – Homer
In a small Japanese village, some vaguely-Japanese version of Grandpa Simpson floats donuts out to sea as tribute to a slumbering monster in the deep. When Grandpa dies and the donuts stop coming, Homerzilla rises and wreaks havoc…
…then the camera zooms out to reveal this story as a movie being watched by modern-day Hollywood execs, who decide to remake the film…
…which then unleashes a real Homerzilla.
Upon seeing the title card for this segment, I feared an already-too-late specific parody of the 2014 Godzilla film. I was happy to see the show riffing more on the original…until the mid-segment twist. I appreciate that the writers tried for something ambitious here, but it was too much, too many twists, and too disjointed a narrative. Had they stuck to one angle for this story, it might’ve turned out a lot more memorable and less of a mess.
Also, everyone has a weird Japanese accent. That…that wasn’t a great choice.
Memorable Gag: Moe continuing to deny Homerzilla’s existence, even after being burned alive by his fire-breath.
Telepaths of Glory
After falling into a cavern and touching radioactive green ooze, Milhouse and Lisa gain telekinetic powers. Milhouse, as expected, goes mad with power and must be stopped. Wait, they’re doing a Chronicle parody? I’m happy, but confused.
As a result of the first segment running so long, this one only goes for about five minutes–you can notice the truncation, but the end result isn’t too bad. I may be biased as a huge fan of Chronicle, but the opening with the kids gaining their powers is solid, as is Milhouse’s brief reign of power. Having Bart touch the radioactive waste but receive no powers due to his lack of brain-strength was an inspired idea. It’s too bad this segment runs so short (and that the ending is, as a result, so rushed)–more time to tell this story definitely would have helped.
Memorable Gag: Dolph, being thrown into a volcano after giving Milhouse a wedgie: “This isn’t a proportional punishment!!!”
“Don’t complain, or they’ll put us in 4:3!”
“Just because it looks like Season 4 doesn’t make it Season 4!”
Even if it’s mostly on the strength of Wanted: Dead, Then Alive, I had a ton of fun with this year’s Halloween special. I wouldn’t mind adding Treehouse of Horror XXVI to my yearly non-blog-related rotation, and if you’ve fallen out of the show over the years or just haven’t caught this episode, I implore you to check it out.
Also, that’s it! I’ve watched and reviewed all 26 Treehouse of Horror episodes over the past 30 days of October. I hope anyone who has actually kept up with this blog has enjoyed it, even if the dark ages of Treehouses became a bit of a slog to write about (I’m sure it showed in the quality of posts). I’ll try to put up a review of this season’s non-Treehouse episode, “Halloween of Horror”, tomorrow.
Have a perfectly cromulent Halloween, everybody!