Case Number 03599: Small Claims Court

THE SIMPSONS' TREEHOUSE OF HORROR

Fox // 1994 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 20th, 2003

The Charge

"Whoa! This is an intense acid flashback!"

The Case

Next to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror is the most anticipated treat of the Halloween season. But beware boys and ghouls. Fox has pulled somewhat of a trick on us, an unsuspecting buying public.

From the opening credits of October 25, 1990's episode "The Treehouse of Horror," it was clear the world had found a new Halloween icon. "Bad Dream House," "Hungry are the Damned," and "The Raven" are three brilliantly crafted tales capturing the best elements of The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, injecting them into the Simpsons' universe. Providing the ultimate freedom to the series creative team, all bets were off and anything was fair game. The end result is an animated masterpiece that will live on for generations.

As the years went by, the staff would attempt to raise the bar set by their predecessors -- and amazingly, they did. Year after year, the writers would draw upon centuries of historical and pop culture references to craft some truly unforgettable Simpsons moments, including the annual return of Springfield's favorite alien beings, Kang and Kodos. Despite the occasional dud, the Treehouse tradition remains strong as must see holiday viewing.

That's the treat. Now here's the trick. Borrowing a page from the Warner Brothers marketing handbook, Fox has seen fit to include only four of the series' 13 Treehouse episodes -- and not even the best ones at that.

"Treehouse of Horror V" (original airdate: 10/30/94)
* "The Shinning" -- The Simpsons gracefully step into this adaptation of the Stephen King horror classic. Cameos by The Mummy, Dracula, Wolfman, Pinhead, Freddy, and Jason. GRADE: A-
* "Time and Punishment" -- Homer accidentally creates a reality altering toaster. Cameos by Mr. Peabody & his boy Sherman, Kang & Kodos. GRADE: A+
* "Nightmare Cafeteria" -- Ever wonder what's in the school mystery lunchmeat? GRADE: B-

"Treehouse of Horror VI" (original airdate: 10/29/95)
* "Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores" -- LardLad leads a revolt of killer advertising icons and its up to Lisa to stop them. Cameos by Paul Anka, Kang & Kodos. GRADE: B
* "Nightmare on Evergreen Street" -- Groundskeeper Willie becomes Springfield's version of Freddy Krueger and it's Maggie who must bring him down. GRADE: B+
* "Homer3" -- Bart must rescue Homer after he's sucked into a three dimensional universe. GRADE: A-

"Treehouse of Horror VII" (original airdate: 10/27/96)
* "The Thing and I" -- Homer and Marge have been keeping a deep dark family secret locked away in the attic...Bart's evil twin brother. GRADE: B
* "The Genesis Tub" -- Lisa has unintentionally created a microscopic world and Bart is out to destroy it. GRADE: A
* "Citizen Kang" -- Kang and Kodos kidnap President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole, stealing their identities with plans to take over the world. GRADE: C-

"Treehouse of Horror XII" (original airdate: 11/06/01)
* "Hex and the City" -- Homer is cursed by a vengeful gypsy and must capture a leprechaun to break the spell. Cameos by the "Life from Hell" bunny, Trix Rabbit, Tinkerbell, Katie Couric, Yoda, Kang & Kodos. GRADE: C
* "House of Whacks" -- Pierce Brosnan guest stars as the voice of a Hal-9000 like Home of Tomorrow, who falls in love with Marge and will stop at nothing to have her all to himself. GRADE: B-
* "Wiz Kids" -- Lisa, Bart, and friends are students at Springwart's School of Magicry, under the suspicious eyes of Lord Mortimert and Slithers. GRADE: C-

If the idea was to release a collection, why not include Treehouse V-XIII? Or go one better and create a collection of all 13 episodes? As a fan of the series and the Treehouse artistry, I would have preferred seeing a more well thought out product, if not a complete collection. Perhaps once the series ends, Fox will reconsider.

Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, the transfer is remarkably good. Having been subjected to syndicated reruns for quite some time, the source material has been returned to its original glory, free from grisly grit and grain, with shockingly vibrant colors, eerily deep dark blacks, and little evidence of dastardly digital enhancement or terrifying tampering. The full range of the enhanced Dolby 2.0 stereo track is used only sparingly, as evidenced in "Time and Punishment" and "Homer3." However, it does serve well to spotlight the spectacular scoring of composer Alf Clausen, whose work on the series now rivals the legendary Carl Stalling, the lord of Looney Tunes.

One final disappointment here is the afterthought inclusion of any substantive bonus features. Why Fox even included a three minute montage of Kang and Kodos clips defies explanation. If you are going to do that, why not compile a clip fest of every Halloween and horror reference ever made during the series previous 14 seasons? Fox could have also easily included the original "Treehouse of Horror" along with its respective commentary released with Season Two -- or go the extra mile and produce a quick retrospective on the genesis and evolution of this annual event. Again, we can only hope these things will be considered at some point down the road.

Any diehard Simpsons fan is likely to have the entire "Treehouse" collection recorded on VHS. There is absolutely nothing here that would warrant spending $14.95. My recommendation is to hold onto that videotape until the entire collection is available. For everyone else, if you and your family were looking to supplement your Halloween viewing material, a rental would be quite appropriate. Just don't buy it.

The Simpsons and their creative team are found not guilty and free to create as many "Treehouse" episodes as they so desire. However, Fox marketing is hereby sentenced to spend the next 25 Halloweens watching Halloween is Grinch Night until they fully understand their poor decision making.

Review content copyright © 2003 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Kang & Kodos Clip Montage (3:00)

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0096697/combined

* Official Site
http://www.thesimpsons.com/

* The Simpsons Archive
http://www.snpp.com/