The Simpsons’ annual Treehouse of Horror episodes stand apart from the rest of the season. Immune if that particular season isn’t as inspired as the year before. Lackluster Simpsons seasons have produced classic Halloween episodes. The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” mixes Freaks, Dr. Seuss and a punch-line from an earlier “Treehouse of Horror” episode.
Guillo Tine del Toro directed this year’s opening couch gag sequence and it is an instant classic. We take a Pan’s Labyrinthian trek through a Springfield filled with ghouls and goblins from horror movies, books, Simpsons past and, of course, Guillermo del Toro movies. It opens with a nibble from World War Z and plows through classic horror like a chainsaw in Texas. The gag references Dracula, Nosferatu, Frankenstein, Freddie, Hitchcock, Poe, The Illustrated Man, London After Midnight and both the Invisible and Wolf Men. Stephen King teaches Bart how to fill a blackboard; Lisa is fired by the Phantom of the Paradise, who’s auditioning Phantoms for the Opera; Alfred Hitchcock feeds Miss Crabapple to the birds; Chief Wiggum finally finds a satisfying dunk; Groundskeeper Willie rakes up Freddie and Maggie pulls off a mask to reveal she is her own evil nemesis baby at the checkout aisle in a Narnian Wonderland. The unusual credits of Bat Groening, James “The Tooth Fairy Is a Criminal” Brooks and Simonsam@twitTERROR and Marknado roll us into the first segment.
It’s one day before the Slooper-Sized Soda ban and the blood sugar is running high all over a Whoville-style Springfield this Halloween in “Oh, The Places You’ll D’oh.” Except at the Simpsons’ place. Bart, Lisa and Maggie have the mumps and Marge is out on the prowl. Thank Seuss for Homer’s The Fat In The Hat, who’s card reads “Expert and this and expert at that,” and whose name you might see on an Amber Alert. He shoots the three tots in the ass with anti-mump serum and takes off into the night for some candy and beer. The Simpsons rhyme in character and with the emotion of the moment, like when The Fat discovers he’s suffocated all the things In The Hat, never missing a beat. They trample the merchandising of The Bore-Ax and level bambroozlers at the son of a grich Mr. Burns and serve him up at the Shelter for Homeless Hoos. The Simpsons release the animals from the Zoo for the Animinally Insane but still feel empty. But like every Seussical story, it has to be edumacational, and the Simpsons teach us that kids’ll get candy whatever you say and threaten the sequel “The Fat in the Hat Pledges a Frat” as long as it’s not played by Mike Myers.
So this is what successful post-op looks like: “Dead and Shoulders” expands on a long-ago “Treehouse of Horror” punchline where Homer finds the head of Mr. Burns sewn onto his shoulders. Bart loses his head while flying a kite and to save him, it is sewn onto Lisa’s body. It sounds like fun, until it brings them closer together. The Simpsons bring up a good point, in a world of digital watches, how will people know what’s headed for you at 2 o’clock? In a head to head battle, the one with the most brains wins, until they get carried away by their own abilities and end up a cartoon cliché at Springfield’s Finest Double Cut Sawmill. They finally take the joke that they’ve now stretched out for two episodes to its final conclusion. Except one lingering running gag in …
The best is the last. Company parties always get weird when you work at a freak show. “Freaks no Geeks” is a take on the Tod Browning horror classic, Freaks. Mr. Burns is running the The Burnsum and Bailey Circus through Springfieldland in the 1930s. It is shot in faux-black and white with some reds thrown in. There is a running Simpsons gag that Burns is so old that anything, everything requires too much physical exertion for him. In this case, the simple act of wearing a top hat proves too much. The best part of any circus is the Freak Show and Mr. Burns has some doozies. Don’t feel bad, they knew what they were getting into when their parents sold them into the circus. Principal Skinner’s mom is The Lady That Wouldn’t Die. Skinner is The Spineless Man. Lenny and Carl are Pinheads. Barney is the Human Torso, who makes baking cookies look harder than lighting a cigarette. Bart is part of a Running Gag. But, and you’d better take a shot of circus whiskey for this, the most hideous creature is Moe as Moe. Marge plays Marguerite, a seemingly beautiful acrobat who hides her freak side, mismatched eye colors, sucks to be her. Homer is the strongman and the wronged freak with the big emerald is Moe. In the sideshow world of freaks, “Superfreak” by Rick James, is the traditional wedding song. When The Simpsons commit to a joke, they commit. The suspense amps up until the man who was perfectly built by 1930s standards leads the assault on Omaha Beach.
Starring on this episode were Dan High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Julie Karnivore, Necro Nance, The Longest Yeard(ley), Shanked Azaria and Harry Lego Kills Shearer with guest stars Macabre Marcia Wallace, Heinous Haden, Terror Macnihilist, Chris “Aargh the Pressure” Edgerly and “Moth Eaten” Maggie Roswell. The staff writer was Jon Children of the Kern. The songs “Fat in the Hat,” “Fat in the Hat 2” and “Thanks to Charity” were written by the horribly frightening Alf Clausen and Jeff Westbrook.
Den of Geek Rating: 4.5 Out of 5 Stars