Perhaps serendipitously, Treehouse of Horror XXX is also the 666th overall episode of The Simpsons. The writers of the show’s annual Halloween episode appear well aware of this fact, as evident from an Omen–referencing intro (with some head-spinning nods to The Exorcist thrown in as well). This excellent opening almost feels as if it’s stocked with 666 gags, which are delivered at a furious pace (when first watching the preview of this section that was released online a few days ago, I missed the devilishly clever title of the book Marge holds: What to Expect When You’re Expecting the Antichrist). The section also features a terrific transition to the episode’s title card, after Ned, Marge, and Homer are impaled by church spires.
“Danger Things,” the first of the episode’s trademark three story segments, spoofs everyone’s favorite heavy-on-the-80’s-nostalgia sci-fi/horror Netflix series. And since Stranger Things is committed to alluding to Stephen King, it’s only appropriate that this Treehouse piece works in a images and dialogue from The Shining. The runaway popularity of the Netflix series makes it a perfect choice for parodying, but I was slightly disappointed that The Simpsons didn’t do more here with the source material (my favorite bit: flying monsters delivering Amazon packages in the “Over-Under”).
Judging by its title and main filmic reference (Heaven Can Wait), I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the second segment, “Heaven Swipes Right.” But I actually found myself pleasantly surprised, as the segment features plenty of macabre imagery (e.g. pictures of Homer’s bloated body, which has been rolled into a lake by paramedics who couldn’t manage to lift his corpulent corpse) and wicked humor (the reincarnated Homer’s deadly-sinful lifestyle quickly reduces a series of borrowed bodies to ruined temples).
The closing segment, “When Hairy Met Slimy,” bookends with the intro as the highlights of this holiday special. A spot-on spoof of The Shape of Water, the segment casts Kang and Selma as the romantic leads (when the former introduces himself as “Kang the Conqueror,” the latter pricelessly retorts, “I am Selma the Available”). It was nice to see that the well still hasn’t run dry when it comes to invoking Kang (and Kodos) into the Treehouse episodes. The writers also prove adept as ever at slipping in some witty innuendo (the lines about “Deep Space Nine” and “Jabba the Butt” hint at another “XXX” element to the episode’s proceedings).
For an unbelievable three decades now, Treehouse of Horror has formed a staple of the Halloween season. Judging from the 30th installment, the mark the episode makes on October TV viewing is as dark and glorious as ever.