Extra Helping of Horror

Yes, it’s three decades late to the dinner party, but tonight’s episode of The Simpsons finally provides a Thanksgiving-themed follow-up to the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” edition. Naturally, good taste isn’t on the menu, but “Thanksgiving of Horror” still is a televisual dish to savor.

The episode riffs nicely on the “Treehouse” tradition, as Marge steps on stage for one of her preliminary p.s.a.’s. There’s also the obligatory Kang and Kodos cameo; here the aliens appear costumed in pilgrim garb that has nothing to do with holiday spirit (“Is this not how oppressive colonizers dress?” they are curious to learn).

With countless turkey decapitations throughout, and a climactic mauling of Wiggum by a bear, the opening segment “A-Gobble-Ypto” arguably features enough graphic violence to fill a baker’s-dozen-worth of “Treehouse” episodes. The segment is also absolutely hilarious, as turkey versions of The Simpsons cast speak in gobbledygook that still contains discernible echoes of the characters’ famous catch phrases and ejaculations (e.g. Turkey Homer’s “Woo-Hoo!” upon witnessing the slaughter of the Patty and Selma birds).

The Black Mirror-reflecting middle piece, “The Fourth Thursday After Tomorrow,” deals with an A.I. version of Marge that is a whiz in the kitchen. I have never been a big fan of the “Treehouse” segments that take A.I. as their subject, and this “Thanksgiving” equivalent similarly underwhelmed me. Not that it isn’t witty (e.g. Moe’s grouse that his “burps taste like lies” after finding out it was an A.I., not the flesh-and-blood Marge, that prepared the holiday banquet); there’s just not much here that really qualifies as horror.

Thankfully, there’s some sci-fi horror to relish in the closing segment, “The Last Thanksgiving.” Referencing classic films like Alien and The Blob, the segment presents a cylinder of cranberry sauce turned into a sentient, metastasizing, predatory Jelly Monster. There are terrific sight gags (many involving Milhouse’s floppy arm) stemming from the Monster’s sucking of victims’ bones right out of their bodies, not to mention some grotesquely humorous lines: “Doesn’t the thing know that the skin’s the best part?” an incredulous Bart expresses as piles of spurned epidermis are left sloughed on the floor of the spaceship.

Rather than rehash Halloween leftovers, this November-centric episode finds plenty of fresh fare to offer up (right down to the altered-names bit in the closing credits). It’s doubtful that “Thanksgiving of Horror” will become an annual tradition like its “Treehouse” precursor, but with this single serving The Simpsons has crafted a classic feast of satiric terror.

 

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