Review: ‘The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horrors XXI’

Monday, October 25 by

“The Simpsons” Halloween episodes, or “Treehouse of Horrors” are an annual tradition. Three spoofs of popular horror stories let the writers and artists cram thrice as many jokes into a single episode. They often air after Halloween, so even though Halloween is actually on a Sunday this year, this is airing November 7.

More after the jump…

Showrunner Al Jean will always tell you exactly what any episode of “The Simpsons” is about, so they’re not worried about spoilers. With “The Simpsons,” it’s more about how they execute the premise. I already knew each of the segments that were coming and I was still impressed.

The introduction is all meta about the different ways we watch television today. Actually, all of the segments have some meta aspect to them. It’s already kind of meta that the characters do stories that have no impact on the rest of the series. In the middle one, Homer makes a reference to the segment format and it closes with another meta twist. So this is a good Halloween for meta humor fans. Also the opening titles give you a bonus spoof of a non horror show in a horror context.

In “War and Pieces,” Bart and Millhouse get trapped in a world of board games. The very device that gets them there is sort of Jumanji, but like their classic episode where all the billboard characters come to life, it’s just about having fun with board game characters. If they can make Battleship funny, then maybe there’s hope for the real Hollywood movie version.

“War and Pieces” incorporates a lot of the supporting characters and gives them a chance to react to a fantastic situation in their own unique ways. Moe is part of a set of dice and he’s angry about it, and Wiggum’s ignorance does him in on the chessboard. They get a Titanic reference in there too, and the segment has nothing to do with Titanic. Everything is fair game.

“Master and Cadaver” seems like it’s going to be a Dead Calm spoof, in which case, way to go "Simpsons" for going obscure. It’s not really that specific though, just a thriller at sea. There’s a major guest voice in this one and I don’t think they really used him to the fullest possible advantage. It is a larger part than guest stars usually get though, so there’s that.

Finally, “Tweenlight” is, as it sounds, Twilight. Down to specific camera angles and scene setups, they do a brilliant spoof of the Catherine Hardwicke film. Only the tree jumping looks more realistic in "The Simpsons." I’m still Team Millhouse though. It’s also notable because the guest voice here is the star of another major literary adaptation phenomenon, but not connected to Stephenie Meyer.

“Tweenlight” then moves to the dinner table and it just goes pure “Simpsons.” Homer’s observation on monster racism is profound, and the family issues speak volumes more in five minutes than the extended Cullen clan has in three movies (and I assume books) so far.

The best jokes in all the segments are actually not the spoofs. They’re the cartoon physical comedy, the references to mundane frustrations like having to be the thimble when playing Monopoly. It’s also super gory. Hank Azaria still has the best scary name, although pay attention to a two part joke in the opening credits.

I think “The Simpsons” are still on the creative upswing sinc The Simpsons Movie and this “Treehouse of Horrors” would hold up with classics like “The Shinning” and “The Homega Man.”

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