Still Great at XXVIII

Happily, the latest edition of The Simpsons‘ annual Halloween episode, “Treehouse of Horror,” was no “Doh!”

The intro, “The Sweets Hereafter,” offered some wonderful CGI eye candy. Like a trick-or-treater’s tote bag, this quick scene brimmed with assorted delights: the visual (Maggie as a ring pop) and verbal puns (“Barterfinger,” “Kit-Kang,” “Peppermint Selma”) the show is so well-known for. I actually had to hit pause in order to take in all the clever jokes stuffing that candy bowl. Homer’s cannibalistic attack on a fellow chocolate–a world-weary Easter bunny–also hinted nicely at the carnage to come in the episode’s closing segment.

An iconic horror film received a long-overdue spoofing in the first segment, “The Exor-Sis.” There was some witty cultural satire (the Pazuzu statuette shipped as a baby gift from Amazon; Maggie’s growl of “Go Daddy!” upon being dispossessed), genuine silliness (Lenny’s lament of “Aw, she’s got red eye” after trying to capture the image of the demonized Maggie with his cell phone), as well as gleefully graphic violence (Maggie stabbing Dr. Hibbert in the throat with a baby thermometer). Perhaps the episode’s wickedest bit of humor came when the summoned exorcist insisted Maggie be unbound, reassuring the family, “If you can’t trust a Catholic priest with a child, who can you trust?”

“Coralisa” featured a terrific call back to the previous segment, as Maggie–still dealing with a “touch of Pazuzu”–spewed green goo all over the kitchen on two separate occasions. Although the content of the segment wasn’t the most riveting, it did boast some arresting, and creepy, animation (after passing through her bedroom wall to an alternate dimension, Lisa broke the fourth wall by knowingly proclaiming, “For a Halloween show middle segment, this is amazing!”). Coraline author Neil Gaiman also gave the segment a clever turn, as the droll voice of Snowball V.

“Mmm…Homer,” in which the Simpsons patriarch discovered the culinary splendor of auto-cannibalism, formed one of the grisliest bits in the history of “Treehouse” (no wonder that Lisa forewarned in a pre-segment p.s.a, “What you’re about to see is so disgusting, you’ll watch Game of Thrones to calm down”). The segment presented a smorgasbord of gore seasoned with black humor, starting with a barbecued finger as hors d’ouevre. I couldn’t control my laughter viewing the unabashed twistedness here, the sight gags (Homer’s brain being small enough to fit on a cracker like pink pate), the puns (fast food restaurants rechristened El Pollo Homo and Fatso Bell), the hilarious dialogue (when asked why he sported a pair of oven mitts on his hands, the self-maiming Homer claimed, “Well, I was watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and thought I could be more elegant”).

With its visually stunning Halloween-scene intro, its instant classic of a closing segment, and sharp humor and horror throughout, the latest entry in the “Treehouse” series proved that XXVIII is anything but enough already.

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