Episode - 7F04
First Aired - 10/25/1990
The beginning of an annual The Simpsons
tradition! It begins with Marge giving a warning to viewers in a parody of Frankenstein
(1931). Then the episode proper opens with Homer out trick-or-treating on Halloween night, disguised as a ghost, when he notices that Bart, Lisa and Maggie are up in the treehouse, with Bart and Lisa attempting to scare each other with their own horror stories, and he decides to listen in. Noteworthy as the only
"Treehouse of Horror" episode that actually has a treehouse setting
Bad Dream House
Bart, unimpressed with Lisa's first story, tells this parody of The Amityville Horror
. The Simpsons move to an inexpensive house, unaware that it carries an evil curse. They notice that in the house, items being moved are being thrown at the Simpsons on their own, and the kitchen contains a vortex into another dimension. The house's inhabitant, a malevolent spirit, then demands that the family leaves. The family discusses the idea of leaving, but Homer insists that they stay in the house. The house then possesses the souls of all the Simpsons and causes them to attempt to kill each other. Frustrated, Marge then declares the family is leaving the house. As they are about to leave, Lisa discovers that the basement contains tombstones of many Native Americans (and Mahatma Gandhi), indicating that it was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. The house then starts threatening them, saying it will kill them all in horrific ways if they don't leave. Marge then yells at the house, demanding to him, "We're all going to have to live together, so you'd better get used to it." The house, realizing that she is right, asks the family to go outside for a moment, so he can think about it. After contemplating living together with the Simpsons for a few seconds, the house opts to self-destruct instead.
Hungry Are the Damned
After Bart's tale of macabre is finished, Lisa argues that it wasn't that scary, and Bart considers it a "warmup" for his next story, a parody of the Twilight Zone
episode "To Serve Man". As the family is having a barbecue, the Simpsons are then abducted by a U.F.O.
and sent into space. They are then introduced by an alien named Kang, who then introduces his UFO partner Kodos in their first appearances
, and will be taking the Simpsons to their home planet of Rigel-4
for a celebration. The family questions this, but are enticed into having a dinner cooked by the third alien, Serak the Preparer (who has never appeared in any subsequent "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, unlike Kang and Kodos). As they have their own dinner and they give the Simpsons another dinner, the aliens then inform the Simpsons that they will be at a feast when they reach Rigel-4, appearing as the 'guests of honor'. Serak then says that when the spaceship arrives, there will be enough time to "chew the fat". Lisa then becomes suspicious, convinced that the aliens are fattening the Simpsons so the aliens can eat them. She discovers a book titled How to Cook Humans
in the spaceship's kitchen. The family then believes Lisa as she holds up the book, only for Kang to blow some "space dust" off the cover, revealing the title to be How to Cook For Humans
. Lisa then blows some more dust off, revealing the title to be ''How to Cook Forty Humans''
, then Kang blows even more dust off, revealing it as How to Cook for Forty Humans
. Kang then reveals he, Kodos and a crying Serak were only trying to provide the Simpsons a big banquet, and were promising them with paradise that is now impossible due to their distrustful nature. The spaceship then leaves. Lisa concludes that their family were the real monsters on the spaceship
the aliens. The rest of the family asks her to shut up.Exactly What It Says on the Tin
, in the form of Lisa's Dramatic Reading
of the classic Edgar Allan Poe
story with James Earl Jones
as the narrator, Bart as the titluar Raven, Homer as the protagonist, Marge as The Lost Lenore
, and Lisa and Maggie as two seraphim. The episode then closes with Bart being left entirely unimpressed by the story, and Lisa commenting that since the poem she just read was written in 1845, people were probably easier to scare back then. As Bart, Lisa and Maggie go to bed, a terrified Homer notices them returning into the house, and he then returns inside himself. Still being scared when going to bed, he begs Marge not to turn off the light, but she reminds him what he heard were just childrens' stories. The episode ends with Bart appearing as the Raven
staring outside the window, while a scared Homer mumbles that he hates
Treehouse of Horror
has the following tropes:
- Adult Fear: The Raven. The kids aren't scared, but the idea of a beloved wife who may have Came Back Wrong? Terrifying to Homer.
- Animated Adaptation: Exactly what "The Raven" segment was.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Marge is amazed that the aliens speak English, but it turns out they actually speak "Rigelian", which, by "an astonishing coincidence" is exactly similar to their language.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Serak the Preparer has never returned as, unlike Kang and Kodos, "he costs money."
- The Conscience: Exploited by the cursed house.
Ominous voice: They are all against you, Bart... You must kill them all... They all must die!
Bart: Are you my conscience?
Ominous voice: I- Yes! I am!
- Divergent Character Evolution: Kang and Kodos were peaceful aliens. But in later appearances, they become invaders.
- Dramatic Reading: James Earl Jones' narration from "The Raven".
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The cast and crew don't use the "scary names", and the Gracie Films Vanity Plate doesn't have organ music and a scream replacing its usual sound effects; both of these traditions began the following year. Additionally, all three segments have different directors; every other Treehouse just has one.
- All three segments are told from inside Bart's treehouse, thus illustrating the episode's title. Later "Treehouse of Horror" episodes don't use this location as a Framing Device anymore.
- Kang and Kodos are actually peaceful beings who don't want to conquer Earth. Maybe they changed their mind after Lisa thought they wanted to eat them and, as a result, became revengeful ever after.
- Compared to later Treehouse of Horror editions the horror elements in this first episode are pretty tame and not that graphically violent. The comedy still holds up perfectly, though.
- Framing Device: All three segments are told in Bart's treehouse, thus explaining the Pun-Based Title "Treehouse Of Horror".
- Haunted House: "Bad Dream House."
- Hey, It's That Voice!: James Earl Jones voices the mover in "Bad Dream House", the third alien, Serak the Preparer, in "Hungry Are the Damned", and the narrator in "The Raven".
- Indian Burial Ground: The house in "Bad Dream House" was built on one. Though Homer claims to have never been told that, it turns out the former owner "mentioned it five or six times."
- The Lost Lenore: Marge's role in "The Raven".
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The family blames Lisa for missing a chance for happiness on another planet by believing the aliens were evil. And she agrees, to a point.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Dismissed by Bart during "The Raven."
Bart: You know what would've been scarier than nothing?
Lisa: (annoyed) What?
- Red Herring: "Hungry are the Damned" is loaded with them, to the point of making no sense at all on rewatches.
- Running Gag:
- Shout-Out: Many.
- The grave stones have shout-outs to Paul McCartney (referencing the "Paul is dead" urban legends), Garfield, The Grateful Dead, Casper the Friendly Boy, Elvis Presley and disco.
- The haunted house where The Simpsons has references to Film/Psycho (the shape of the house), The Amityville Horror (blood oozing down the walls) and Poltergeist (a portal to another dimension and the house being built on an Indian burial ground) and The Fall Of The House Of Usher (the way the house dies).
- Homer planning to kill Marge with an axe references The Shining, which is also a horror film about a haunted house.
- Maggie spins her head like the girl in The Exorcist.
- Among the names in the Indian burial ground we can read Hiawatha, Cochise, Pocahontas, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Tonto, Crazy Horse, Not-So-Crazy Horse, Sacajawea and MahatmaGandhi. Also note that both Hiawatha and Tonto are fictional Native Americans.
- The names of Kang, Kodos and Serak are all shout outs to names of Star Trek characters.
- The plot of the aliens cooking for the humans is a reference to The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man".
- Kang shows their advanced alien technology, which turns out to be nothing more than a Pong game. Even the Simpsons are not amazed by this primitive game.
- "The Raven" is a word-for-word retelling (or almost word-for-word, as a few stanzas were cut for time) of the original Edgar Allan Poe poem, to the point where Poe was even given a (posthumous) writing credit for this segment alongside producer Sam Simon.
- Many other Poe stories are referenced in "The Raven". The stories which Bart (as the Raven) pulls off from the bookshelf are The Pit And The Pendulum, The Tell Tale Heart, and The Purloined Letter.
- Bart references the first Friday the 13th (1980) film at the end of the episode as being "...pretty tame by today's standards."
- Special Guest: James Earl Jones as the mover, Serak the Preparer, and the narrator of "The Raven".
- Sure, Let's Go with That: When Bart asked the Ominous voice (the haunted house) if it was his conscience, it hesitated before answering: "Yes".
- Values Dissonance: In-Universe- when Bart scoffs at The Raven poem's supposed scariness, Lisa then suggests that maybe people were easier to scare at the time it was written (like with the first Friday the 13th movie, which, according to Bart, is: "pretty tame by today's standards.")