The Simpsons‘s “Treehouse of Horror” episodes stopped actually trying to be scary long ago. These days, the show’s annual Halloween installment is more of a vehicle for all-purpose movie parodies and icky visuals. (Though nothing can compare to the truly disgusting coda of “Nightmare Cafeteria” from “Treehouse of Horror V”; here’s a sped-up version.) That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Late-period Simpsons has a tendency to go broad and ridiculous, and that tone goes down a lot easier when presented in Treehouse’s anthology setting. Plus, hey — as long as you’re laughing, it doesn’t really matter if you’re not also creeped out.
This year’s special presented four quasi-spooky stories, each of which had its moments. But which was the funniest/most memorable/best of all? Here are the candidates:
The cold open
“Treehouse of Horror XXIII” began in an ancient Mayan civilization that looked a lot like Springfield. Here, the Crazy Cat Lady has become the Crazy Iguana Lady, Moe is a priest who’s still interested in women — “what priest isn’t?” — and Homer is being fed cricket fajita after cricket fajita, getting fattened up before he’s sacrificed to the gods. Mayan Marge manages to get Moe beheaded instead of Homie; as a consequence, the world will in fact be destroyed in 2012. (“And it will be Obama’s fault!” adds Mayan Mayor Quimby.)
Best line: Moe, as his head is being kicked around by a bunch of kids: “Man, soccer’s even boring for the ball!”
“The Greatest Story Ever Holed”
Lisa convinces the city to invest in the Springfield Subatomic Supercollider, which — unlike the actual Large Hadron Collider — creates a cute little black hole that sucks in Ralph Wiggum, elongates Homer’s fingers to transform him into “nature’s perfect choking machine,” and eventually transports all of Springfield to a distant planet where banana peels are a delicacy and the Zune is worshiped as a technological godsend. Naturally, the town’s fate is ultimately Milhouse’s fault.
Best line: The ever-politically correct Homer, on the absorbent circle: “A black hole! I’m sorry, can we call it that?”
In this Paranormal Activity riff, Homer begins filming every room in his house — initially using a camera he stole from Flanders, of course — to discover the truth about a ghost that terrorizes the Simpsons as they sleep. The intruder turns out to be a demon who made a deal with Marge 30 years ago — and the only way to get rid of it is, er, via a demon-demon-Homer threesome. Raise your hand if this seemed more like Family Guy territory than a Simpsons joke.
Best line: The demon, after the family notes that he looks and sounds just like Moe: “Come on, he’s much more hideous and evil than me.” Everyone agrees.
“Bart and Homer’s Excellent Adventure”
Don’t let the title fool you — this is a Back to the Future parody with a twist. After stealing Professor Frink’s time machine and traveling back to 1974, Bart meets the teenaged versions of his parents and realizes that his life might be better if the two of them never married. So he drives Marge and Homer apart and heads back to 2012, where he discovers that Marge has married her old prom date Artie Ziff instead — making Bart a wealthy kid with a stylish Jewfro and Nelson as a butler. Marge and Homer — make that Homers — eventually reunite, as we know they must. In the meantime, though, it’s nice to see the show call back to its storied past. Remember how great “The Way We Was” was?
Best line: Not exactly a line, but this is what high school Homer writes on the board when trying to get Marge to go out with him: “Your choices: A) Go to the prom with me, B) Cry so hard.” Oh, and the revelation that a character who looks like Caveman Homer is actually Renaissance Homer.
Which segment was your favorite — and how did you like this year’s “Treehouse” anthology overall?