The Simpsons is an instituation, but it has an institution within its institution as well. I speak, of course, of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. Ever since the second season, they have done a Halloween episode called “Treehouse of Horror” each and every year. It’s an episode dedicated to non-canonical stories. They do three short little stories that have a horror or, increasingly, a sci-fi or fantasy vibe to them. It’s a way for them to riff a bit, get a little (or a lot) bloody, and let their proverbial hair down. This year was a notable one for the “Treehouse of Horror.” Not only was this the 30th, yes the 30th, “Treehouse of Horror” ever, it was the 666th episode of The Simpsons. That’s a fitting number for a horror-indebted episode.
In truth, the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes have been lackluster for a while. Even before the show took a bit of a dip, I was down on a lot of the “Treehouse” stories. Part of it is that I’m not really a horror fan. I haven’t seen a lot of the stuff they are parodying, and also I don’t like the added gore. Yeah, it’s animated, but it’s not my thing.
“Treehouse of Horror XXX” effectively had four stories to it, as the opening segment was pretty long, and it was a riff on The Omen. It was alright, maybe squeezing in one or two good jokes. Then, they did a Stranger Things parody that was something I could actually appreciate. However, it also felt dashed together. It just seemed like they wanted to reference a popular show, and they didn’t even do a great job of nailing it. The final segment, a The Shape of Water parody, felt the same. Selma and Kang fall in love. Stuff happened. Homer has one line reading that made me really laugh. It all felt so light, though. To make a reference Homer might appreciate, it felt like a donut hole and not like a donut.
On the other hand, I liked the second segment. It was a parody of Heaven Can Wait, which is an odd choice. One, it’s a movie from the ‘70s. Two, it’s not horror related at all. It’s supernatural, though. Home dies, but Heaven has been turned into a tech campus style place. Homer wasn’t supposed to actually die, so he is given an app so he can swipe right on people who are about to die, so he can step into their bodies so he can live his life and be with Marge and eat a tub of lasagna. People like Superintendent Chalmers. This one actually felt like it had some substance to it. It felt the most clever, and also the funniest.
For a pseudo-landmark episode, “Treehouse of Horror XXX” was nothing special. It was better than some other “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, but certainly not one of the, say, top 10. Probably not even the top 15. It was perfectly fine. It felt paper thin, though. There are a few good jokes in the episode, and it’s kind of fun to see the characters of Springfield in a Stranger Things-type universe. We should probably cherish these episodes, though. There are probably only a couple more “Treehouse of Horror” episodes left, unless The Simpsons truly does outlive us all.