Directed by Various
Produced by Various
Written by Various
Music by Alf Clausen
Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria & Harry Sheaer

Various/92 mins/Color/Dolby 2.0 Surround
1.33:1/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD

The holiday special has become a staple of television shows and most likely dates back to the dawn of TV. (I wouldn't know, as I wasn't there.) And while THE SIMPSONS may eschew most TV traditions, the show has embraced the concept of the holiday episode and makes each Halloween very special. Beginning in its second season, THE SIMPSONS began airing Halloween episodes, the first of which was entitled "Treehouse of Horror", and the subsequent episodes kept that name (although, the on-screen title remains "The Simpsons Halloween Special"). Now, Fox has collected four of these episodes on one DVD entitled THE SIMPSONS: TREEHOUSE OF HORROR. This collection should delight those who enjoy the spoofing of modern culture and horror films -- a combination that THE SIMPSONS has come to perfect.

(A brief note for the uninitiated: The "Treehouse of Horror" shows are set apart from the main SIMPSONS universe and are treated as pure if THE SIMPSONS has a great deal of continuity to begin with. Each episode contains three stories.)

"Treehouse of Horror V" (Episode 2F03, Original airdate 10/30/94) opens with the now-classic "The Shinning", based, obviously, on "The Shining". The Simpsons arrive at Mr. Burns' (voiced by Harry Shearer) lodge to oversee the property for the winter. When Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) discovers that there is no beer in the mansion and that the cable has been cut off, he goes crazy and attempts to kill his family. Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) must use his "Shinning" to call for help. The joke concerning the blood coming from the elevator perfectly skewers Kubrick's THE SHINING and is one of the funniest lines ever from the show. In "Time and Punishment", Homer breaks the toaster, and after repairing it, discovers that he's created a time machine. Lampooning Ray Bradbury's short-story "A Sound of Thunder" (soon to be a feature film), Homer travels back to the age of dinosaurs, kills a mosquito, and changes the future in many bizarre ways. I would love to know what, "I'm the first non-Brazilian to travel back in time." means. Finally, it's SOYLENT GREEN time in "Nightmare Cafeteria". When budget cuts affect the school lunches, Principal Skinner (voiced by Harry Shearer) decides that it would be wise to cook and eat the children who are in detention. As the teachers get fat, the school body dwindles.

"Attack of the 50 foot Eyesores" kicks off "Treehouse of Horror VI" (Episode 3F04, original airdate 10/30/95). In this homage to the giant monster movies of the '50s, an electrical storm brings all of the giant ad signs in Springfield to life, including the Lard Lad Donuts boy. These monsters soon overtake the town and it's up to Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith) to save the day. Freddy Krueger gets his comeuppance in "Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" in which Groundskeeper Willie (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) haunts the dreams of Springfield's children. This segment spoofs the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films perfectly, even coying the trademark music from those films. It also contains some great, creepy imagery, especially the "Willie-Spider". Finally, The Simpsons go 3-D in "Homer3", where Homer enters an alternate dimension and becomes a computer generate image. This segment relies too heavily on the special effects, but Homer's "I'm somewhere where I don't know where I am." line is a classic.

"Treehouse of Horror VII" (Episodoe 4F02, original airdate 10/27/96) may be the most disappointing of the bunch. The writers show their knowledge of more obscure horror films by referencing THE UNSEEN and BASKET CASE 2 in "The Thing and I", in which it's revealed that Bart's evil twin brother resides in the attic, where he lives on fish-heads. In "The Gensis Tub", Lisa's science experiment, in which she's studying a tooth, spawns a tiny civilization who worship her. It's rare that THE SIMPSONS seems dated, but that's the case with "Mr. Kang Goes to Washington", in which familiar aliens Kang & Kodos (both voiced by Harry Shearer) disguise themselves as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in order to rig the Presidential election. This segment wasn't that funny back then, and it's really not funny now.

Things improve with "Treehouse of Horror XII" (Episode CABF19, original airdate 11/6/01). In "Hex and the City", Homer accidentally wrecks a fortune-teller's shop, so she places a curse on him. In order to get revenge, Homer enlists the aid of a leprechaun and the results are weird. THE DEMON SEED gets spoofed in "House of Whacks". The family gets a "house of the future" which is overseen by a computer Ivoiced by Pierce Brosnan) who develops a crush on Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner). Bart and Lisa are young wizards in "Wiz Kids", a great take-off on HARRY POTTER. The finale with Mr. Burns and Smithers has to be one of the weirdest things ever seen on TV.

The question isn't whether or not THE SIMPSONS: TREEHOUSE OF HORROR is a quality release. Except for the Kang & Kodos story, these shows are great. No, the question is, why does this DVD exist? All of these shows will be on their respective season box sets. And why the 5-year jump from "Treehouse of Horror VII" to "Treehouse of Horror XII"? If Fox was going to create a "Treehouse of Horror" compilation, they would have been better off choosing the best segment from each show. Either way, the retail price for this release is only $15 and that's a bargain for 90 minutes of THE SIMPSONS.

THE SIMPSONS: TREEHOUSE OF HORROR features all of the shows in their original full-frame aspect ratio. All of the shows look good and display great colors. However, "Treehouse of Horror V" does show some dirt on the image at times. The images are stable throughout and there is little artifacting. The shows sport Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks, which provide clear dialogue and music, and some discreet surround sound effects at times, mostly musical cues and loud sound effects. The only extra on the DVD is a 3-minute montage focusing on the many appearances of Kang & Kodos over the years. The cover art features a brown on black picture which is far too dark to make out the details.





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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©

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