Still Fine at XXIX

 

After twenty-nine years, the “Treehouse of Horror” shows no signs of falling into disrepair.

Kudos to The Simpsons for the show’s Cthulhu-themed episode opener; given the tendency for “Treehouse” to draw most of its raw material from film and TV, it was refreshing to see the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft invoked. The spoof of Lovecraft’s mutant characters goes swimmingly, including one fishy denizen of Fogburytown (a Simpsons stand-in for Innsmouth) sporting a “Wetsox” jersey. This intro (whose Homer vs. Cthulhu oyster-eating contest is especially precious, considering that Lovecraft’s nightmare creations can be traced back to the author’s aversion to seafood) also features my favorite line: told that he is about to sacrificed to an evil god from the ocean’s depths, Homer replies, “Spongebob?”

The first of the episode’s trio of segments, “Intrusion of the Pod-y Snatchers,” is probably the least effective. The satire (“Mapple”/”Steve Mobs”/[I-]pod[-obsessed] people) tends to be a bit facile. Nevertheless, the segment offers some wonderfully witty moments, such as when Lisa questions why aliens never use contractions when addressing earthlings, or when the plant version of pothead Otto is configured as a marijuana leaf.

Pre-judging by its title, “Multiplisaty” was the segment I feared I would least enjoy. I envisioned some lame lampoon of a Michael Keaton movie, but imagine my surprise when I realized Split was the true source here of Lisa’s Beast-ly insanity (the original Saw is also subjected to some clever irreverence). The segment presents some funny kills of Milhouse and Nelson (Groundskeeper Willie also receives his requisite axing) amidst its tongue-in-cheek commentary on the maddening behavior of males.

The final segment, “Geriatric Park,” proves the most adult-oriented; it’s imbued with gore and closes on a note of virtuoso innuendo (pterodactyl Agnes’s quip, “Virgin Air I’m not!”). Extended as it might be, the riff on Jurrasic Park/-World never grows tiresome. For me, the gag where the dentures fall out of drooling dinosaur Abe’s mouth makes “Geriatric Park” worth the price of admission.

I’m forty-six now, and it’s occurred to me that The Simpsons‘ Halloween episode has been an annual staple of my adult life. Nearly three decades later, the macabre comedy of “Treehouse of Horror” still has the ability to reduce me to a gleefully-giggling child.

 

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