31 October 2009
The Long Halloween: All Hallow's Eve
Welcome, my friends to a year-long celebration of the greatest holiday specials ever broadcast. This is a section inspired by these holidays and whose ongoing effort will be to procure for you, dear readers, the greatest Television Holiday Specials for your viewing pleasure. One holiday per month, one show per year. Them's the rules. We start with a holiday very dear to my heart, Halloween.
Mwah ah ha ha! There is no show, none in the world that treats its Halloween specials with more reverence than The Simpsons. The big question then becomes out of its staggering twenty Halloween episodes, which is the best? To me, there's no competition - has to be "Treehouse of Horror V" (S6;E6), made in 1994. There's no other episode that so combines writing, humour and horror in such masterful fashion.
"No TV and no beer make Homer something something..."
"Just use that Shin of yours and I'll come-a runnin'." The first third of the three-part fiesta is one of the all-time greats. "The Shinning" is probably the most well-written of the three parts of this episode, a dear homage to Stanley Kubrick and The Shining (1980). Personally I can't even watch The Shining the whole way through, it scares the dick out of me every time. The Simpsons nail it though, addressing every iconic moment without the cliche ones (ie favouring the blood elevator over the creepy twin girls). I'll also contend that the reveal of the aforementioned "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" is much scarier than the reveal in the actual movie. This is parody at its best, not only honouring the source material but going beyond the source material. Brilliant.
"Stupid Bug! You go squish now!"
David Mirkin, show runner of The Simpsons during seasons five and six continually fought for Halloween episodes that were funny while also genuinely scary. "Time and Punishment" is not that horrifying, but it represents the funniest third of "Treehouse of Horror V" and also contains the most one-liners. From Homer somehow constantly jamming his hand in the toaster to the awful irony of a seeming world without donuts, the middle partition of this episode delivers continuously and funnily. Maggie's "This is indeed a disturbing universe" is a sure highlight of the bizarre, along with the deleted scene containing a Simpsons house rendered solely out of squirrels. It's a goofy segment that boosts the other two pretty terrifying stories.
"Now to check on the free-range children"
Be mindful that I was nine years old when I first saw this episode. This is one of the few early episodes that I remember watching the original broadcast. I remember it mostly because of how extremely terrifying the "Nightmare Cafeteria" segment was to a young child. It's real fucking scary. I specifically remember being darkly disturbed by the fact that no parent helped the kids being eaten at school, the descent into madness of Lunchlady Doris as well as the futility of any of Groundskeeper Willie's efforts. I should note here Willie's triple axe back-stab in this episode as well as his role as a Halloween hero contrasted to his later role as a Halloween villain (Treehouse of Horror VI S7;E6). To me this will always represent the truly terrifying moment of this episode, the corruptibility and unbridled evil lurking within a young child's greatest institution, the elementary school. It's scary how much power a teacher can have over a child, and even scarier when this power is abused. Not to say that many teachers eat their kids, but who knows really. This still freaks me out a bit, the blood levels shown are still astounding to this day.
So there's three great segments finished out with an inside-out sing-a-long to the end credits. Truly there is no greater Halloween episode that so balances funny and terror. For your own pleasure now, I will rank the rest of the Simpsons Halloween Episodes in order, view with caution, dear readers. With Caution.