Halloween Countdown -- Treehouse of Horror

As a lot of you know, I like to do something special around Halloween, since it is my all-time favorite holiday. I thought about doing a scary animated-movie review, but it's not that easy to find Halloween-themed animated movies that are all that scary. There are indeed a few scary animated films out there, but they're not really Halloween-related. In fact, most Halloween specials are not scary in the least! So after thinking long and hard, I came up with the perfect way to celebrate this most treasured of holidays... with a countdown of The Simpson's Treehouse of Horrorsegments!

Starting in 1990 for the second season,
Treehouse of Horror quickly became a time-honored tradition for The Simpsons. Airing during the Halloween season, each episode features three non-canon stories, most of which parody a classic scary movie or TV show. And since the latest one just came out this past Sunday (not too bad, the Alfred Hitchcock-themed segment was a nice touch but the Sweeney Todd parody felt awfully forced, I give it an 7.0), I thought it would be fitting to do a list of my personal picks for the Top 5 Best Treehouse of Horror Segments.

**Keep in mind that this is all opinion, and the list is sadly limited to what I can either see on DVD or watch online.

#5 -- Treehouse of Horror XVII - The Day The Earth Looked Stupid

Taking place back in 1938, this story shows how Springfield reacts during Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, and believe that their planet is doomed. After making complete idiots out of themselves, Lisa reveals that the broadcast wasn't real, and everyone goes back to their day-to-day routine... until Kang and Kodos show up, and the town refuses to believe that THIS is a real invasion! Not only is this a hilarious segment (complete with a jab at the War in Iraq) and a proper shout-out to one of the greatest moments in broadcast history, but I had to put this one on the countdown as my friends and I had just completed our own version of the War of the Worlds broadcast in college, so you can imagine just how stoked I was that Matt Groening had chosen a homage to the same story.

#4 -- Treehouse of Horror V - The Shinning

The Simpsons find themselves as caretakers for Mr. Burns' winter lodge; hoping to keep them focused on their work, Burns and Smithers decide to cut the cable TV and remove all of the beer from the house. And once deprived of his two favorite things in the world, Homer starts to go nuts and plans to murder his family. Best moment of the night probably goes to the scene where Homer starts chopping through the door, ala Jack Nicholson's famous "Here's Johnny!" scene.

"I'm Mike Wallace, I'm Morley Safer and I'm Ed Bradley. All this and Andy Rooney tonight on 60 minutes.!"

#3 -- Treehouse of Horror IV - The Devil and Homer Simpson

I give this segment credit with being the first Treehouse of Horror story that actually scared me as a kid. Homer meets the Devil, who takes the form of Ned Flanders ("It's always the one you least expect."), and sells his soul for a donut. Marge asks the Devil for a fair trial, but Homer is forced to spend the day in Hell. Maybe it was the scene of Homer being thrown down into the pits of Hell, or where Ned actually changes into a more demonic form, but this really did freak me out when I was younger. And considering the fact that
Treehouse of Horror now parodies much-less frightening films and TV shows, it's probably safe to assume that this is probably as scary as The Simpsons are going to get.

#2 -- Treehouse of Horror XIX - It's The Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse

When it comes to holiday TV shows, it doesn't get much more classic than the Charlie Brown specials. These are possibly some of the most influential cartoons of all time, and pretty much everyone has made fun of them at one point or another. Last year, Matt Groening gave us a great parody, which stars Milhouse as Linus, Lisa as Sally, and Bart as Charlie Brown. The twist comes that in this short, the Grand Pumpkin (as he called) does in fact come to life... and starts a rampage against humanity for crimes against his fellow pumpkins.

And #1 -- Treehouse of Horror I - The Raven

Seems only fitting that the first Treehouse of Horror would have the best segment. James Earl Jones provides narration as the Simpson family finds themsleves re-enacting Edgar Allen Poe's classic poem. Looking back on it, I have to give a lot of points to voice actor Dan Castellaneta for finding a way to stay in character as Homer and still read the lines of the poem without sounding too forced. He actually manages to make it sound like the verse is something that Homer would say naturally, and considering the limited vocabulary of everyone's favorite TV Dad, that's saying something.

"Quoth the Raven..."
"Eat my shorts!"