Simpsonspective: Treehouse of Horror VIII

Richard Petro

twitter @ThePetroProject

October 08, 2018
Simpsonspective

Original Airdate: October 26, 1997
Writers: Mike Scully, David X. Cohen, Ned Goldreyer
Director: Mark Kirkland

    

The HΩmega Man
     Mayor Quimby dooms Springfield with an offensive joke directed at France, which leads to them launching a bomb at the town. Homer survives due to being in a bomb shelter at the time and he quickly realizes he's the last person alive. Using the time to celebrate, he is eventually confronted by a few Springfielders who have become mutant cannibals. They attack Homer as he fights them off and drives off in a hearse, coming to a stop at his house. He finds his family alive, and the two groups end up talking about how they can get along together great before the family blast the mutants away with shotguns. The family had survived due to the lead paint that layers the house, and they all go out to steal some ferraris.

Fly vs. Fly
     Homer purchases a matter transporter from a yard sale Professor Frink is having for the heavy price of 35 cents. Being very protective of it he doesn't allow Bart near it. At night, once everyone is sleeping, Bart experiments with the machine by putting in the cat and dog, which results in a hybrid creature. When a fly lands on him, Bart imagines himself as a superhero. He walks into the transporter with the fly but comes out as a fly with his own head while his body now has the fly's head on it. The family accept the Fly-Bart for the time being and Bart-Fy, after a few quick adventures, decides to go to Lisa for help once the Fly-Bart refuses to listen to his orders of returning to the transporter. After a chase and attack once Fly-Bart attacks Lisa, it swallows Bart-Fly and Lisa knocks the creature into the machine, reversing its effects. Homer realizes what he must do... teach Bart a lesson by chasing him with an axe.

Easy-Bake Coven
     In the mid 1600s, Springfield sees itself home to multiple witch burnings. During a church meet where the residents are wondering who to burn next, Marge stands up against the act, which in turn ends up getting her branded a witch. Given a "fair" trial, she is pushed off a cliff but returns on a broom, an actual witch, and she escapes after unleashing some havoc. Marge goes back to her witch home, reuniting with Patty and Selma where they overlook the town and see Ned and Maude talking about witches eating children, which gives them the idea to do so. On their journey, as they're about to take Rod and Todd, they are offered cookies, leading to them requesting treats instead and the beginnning of Halloween and trick or treating.

     After a fantastic run of episodes where the segments are, from top-to-bottom, incredibly enjoyable in their own ways, Treehouse of Horror VIII… yeah, it continues the tradition.
     My memories of the Treehouse of Horror series oddly lean more towards the earlier episodes when it comes to thinking of them as a whole, with everything after being mostly relegated to thinking of them in separate segments. I’m not sure why, as I’m sure I’ve seen the first ten ToH’s approximately the same amount of times. Anyways, with my mind being in that state going in, I was happily surprised to see that these three segments were from the same episode. Yeah, spoiler alert, this is another great addition to the series.

     Now, this might come as a shock to some of you, but Homer Simpson isn’t what I would call a character built on restraint. I know, I know, controversial statement, but this makes him a perfect focal point of The HΩmega Man, especially if you think about the things that he does are things he would probably end up doing anyway. It’s hilarious to see Homer “run wild”, as his way of enjoying himself feel like the daydream of a teenaged boy; watch free movies in a theater and shove free popcorn in your face? Definitely; Dance naked in a church to James Brown’s War? Double check! Homer’s gleefulness is always fun to watch, and his reaction to realizing he’s the only person left alive is wonderful, including how long it took for him to realize this and his reminiscing about his family (*air swish*).
     There are a number of great jokes here that are usual vividly remembered by people; Comic Book Guy having ‘wasted his life’; the aforementioned nude church dance; the also aforementioned family reminiscing; and the mutants. As great as all of those are, there are a number of smaller moments that I adore. The back and forth between Homer and Lisa near the beginning, concerning Homer’s bomb shelter, is really cute and sweet. I really like Homer running down and killing the poor band that he encounters running from the mutants, mostly because Murderous Homer in the Treehouse specials is always one of my favourite things. Dan Castellaneta’s read of “ah, a coffin!” is one of my favourite line reads from these specials, and Homer’s more startled reaction to the coffin than mutants never fails to make me laugh.      There’s also a forgotten joke here that I’m sure is a result of syndication cuts, as Kang and Kodos make their annual cameo in a hilarious moment that gives insight into how they themselves may be treated amongst their own species.
     The specials always have to follow a quick pace, with the time limit they are forced to work with, so I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is to write one of these and cut it down. It’s a testament to how good the writers here were with how each joke seems to hit perfectly (just like in many other segments). It also, honestly, makes it kind of hard to write about these sometimes because, as you can tell from the above paragraph, a lot of times you are forced to simply list a bunch of things you love, but it’s all so great. I didn’t even mention how great the design of the mutant’s car is (and how neat it was to unlock it in the Simpsons Hit & Run game!).

     Normally it would be hard to follow-up a quick paced story like that, but Fly vs. Fly is brilliant as well. An homage/parody of the original The Fly starring Vincent Price, it’s another example of how, sometimes, Simpsons characters seem pre-set to beautifully fall in line with the types of characters needed (ala Groundskeeper Willie as Freddy Krueger). Here, Bart is the perfect foil for being the one to be DNA-mixed with a fly, as his personality lends itself to thinking that it would indeed be a smart idea to walk into the mystery science machine that he saw create a mess of a creature just moments prior when using it on Snowball II and Santa’s Little Helper.
     There’s a lot of great instances of comedy here, but also a brilliant moment of genuinely creepy atmosphere/reveal, as the moment of Fly-Bart being on Lisa’s ceiling in the dark, listening in to her conversation with Bart-fly is kind of horrifying. It’s the one instance of the creatures being presented as a terrifying hell-beast/threat. That’s not taking anything away from the episode, as the mixed up experiment is used to explore more gags than anything else. The best thing about going back and revisiting any of these Simpsons episodes is finding great moments or lines you forget about. Here, the reaction of Marge to the seeing the Fly-Bart had me rewinding it and tearing up from laughing. The animation on her thwacking the thing on the head repeatedly is magnificent, a low level energy attempt at defense against the mysterious, monstrous intruder (coincidentally working hand-in-hand as an opposite energy version of Burns beating Homer in the giant sac from Treehouse of Horror II).
     There are quite a few moments here that are hilarious simply because of the animation; Bart duping a spider and its angry legs shaking is a nice touch; the way Fly-Bart savagely eats syrup off its plate is perfectly timed and manic; the timing on Lisa’s ‘microwave attack’; and the classic moment of Homer’s haggling self-debate over whether the $2.00 is worth paying for such a product. Also, as hilarious as it is to see Homer attempt to use the portal machine to cut down on pee time, it’s also horrifying to think of him accidentally punching Lisa in the face through it, considering he was just about to use it. Let this be a lesson, if you go to pee using a portal machine, make sure a family member isn’t sitting on the toilet…
     I sound like a massively broken record, and I’m sorry but it’s the only way, but there’s so much to love here. While I can continue to sit here and, once again, list things verbatim, I’ll just leave with this statement of fact; Fly vs. Fly has, quite possibly, the best ending to any Treehouse of Horror segment ever made. I know it’s coming but I’m never fully prepared for it.


     The final story is, unfortunately, kind of lost in the shuffle when discussing Treehouse of Horror segments. Is it incredible or ranking amongst the best? Not necessarily, but I barely ever hear anyone talking about it, which is a shame because I really enjoy it. It doesn’t have a mile-a-minute joke rate, nor the supremely memorable moments of other segments, but it is a nice, cute little story that works perfectly for the season. That may be an odd way to describe it, but it’s why it works. There are instances of horror (Marge’s bat-attack on the town and the joker about eating children) but it more-so relies on telling a tight tale that, again, fits the characters presented.
     Springfield already has a very mob mentality; I mean, they spring to riots very, very easily. This makes it perfect to drop the entire town into Salem territory. The designs here are great and, though it isn’t that big of a change from her original look, I adore Marge’s witch look. The animation on her hair exploding into bats is wonderfully realized, as are the curse designs that she lays down on certain townsfolk.
     That doesn’t mean the entirety of my enjoyment comes from the look of the segment, as there are a lot of good lines here too. The casual mentioning of having murdered someone on Sunday is darkly hilarious, as are the inane reasons the people jump on why any of the women would be witches. The pushing aside of Ned as he attempts to use a cross to fight them back is hilarious, too, and a joke I often forget about.
     Easy Bake Coven is one of those stories that really makes you appreciate the Treehouse of Horror specials. While many take pre-existing pieces and do wonderful and hilarious parodies, I’m always a fan of the ones where the writers are able to get imaginative and transport the characters and plots to places we otherwise wouldn’t see. Tackling the witch trials is a nice touch, along with giving Marge the focal point after what feels like forever. It’s nice to see her character be so different but similar. Sure, she’s a child-eating witch, but she’s still a pretty nice individual!

     Once I saw what group of shorts made up this Treehouse of Horror, I knew I was in for a good time. Though there’s a lot to say about the first two that would end up devolving into yet another listing of great/funny moments, the easiest thing to say is that they’re well realized parodies that use their source material incredibly well. While Easy Bake Coven may not be the joke machine the other two segments before it are, it’s still definitely worth the watch. I think it unfairly gets forgotten in the long run and, though it isn’t as hilariously joke-oriented as many classics, definitely has enough to offer to make it worthy of being in this set of stories. It’s a nice story that ends the special on the type of story that leaves people smiling; not because it’s horrific or terrifying, but because it’s so rooted in the season.
     If all of my babbling and falling into listing how great things are didn’t give it away, I do think Treehouse of Horror VIII ranks high as one of the best all-around specials produced. If you’ve only seen certain segments by themselves, I definitely recommend adding it to you viewing list and re-watching it as a whole.