Treehouse of Trivia ’22

This Halloween season, The Simpsons offered two holiday episodes, Treehouse of Horror Presents: Not IT and Treehouse of Horror XXXIII. So this year’s Treehouse of Trivia quiz is going to have to be doubly challenging. Not for the faint of heart or unobservant of eye!

[Answers appear in the Comments section of this post.]

 

1. In “Not IT,” what is the town slogan scripted on the “Welcome to Kingfield” sign?

 

2. According to Carl in “Not IT,” what purpose did the clubhouse serve before the Losers took it over?

 

3. Which of the following was not pictured in “Krusto D. Clown’s Group of Oddities” in “Not IT”?

a) Lobster Boy

b) Fat Man

c) Dogface Kid

d) Mole Man

e) Bearded Lady

 

4. In “Not IT,” the bakery Krusto haunts is called “Needful Sweets.” True or False?

 

5. On the walls of D’ohs Tavern in “Not IT,” two different pennants can be seen. One has “Regrets” blazoned on it. What word does the other sport?

 

6. Which of the following Stephen King titles does not appear in Kang and Kodos’s bookcase at the end of “Not IT”?

a) Dr. Sleep

b) Dreamcatcher

c) The Dead Zone

d) Dolores Claiborne

e) Pet Sematary

f) Skeleton Crew

g) The Dark Tower

h) Needful Things

i) The Tommyknockers

7. Complete the title of the book that appears alongside The Pookadook in Maggie’s bookcase: Don’t Let the ____ ______ _______.

 

8. In “The Pookadook” segment, why do Homer, Bart, and Lisa come home early from their overnight stay at the aquarium?

 

9. According to Steve Johnson in “Death Tome,” what was the most popular name in his nursery cave?

 

10. Lisa’s “justice spree” eliminates at least ten employees of Mr. Burns’s company Globo-Warm. List four different means of death.

 

11. The “Simpsonsworld” segment contains to references to Edgar Allan Poe. What are they?

 

12. When the Simpson robots eat at Bob’s Burger’s, what is the advertised Burger of the Day?

 

13. In the episode epilogue, how do Kang and Kodos come across the Treehouse of Horror XXXIII meta-tome?

 

Altogether Ooky October: The Addams Family and Halloween

Yes, I was really disappointed to learn that Tim Burton’s new Netflix series Wednesday wouldn’t be premiering until after Halloween season (three more grueling weeks to wait!). But that just sent me back to view earlier incarnations of the Addams Family, and it turns out that the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky household has a rich history of Halloween association.

The Halloween connection traces back to the inception of the Addams Family. Charles Addams’s vintage New Yorker cartoons more commonly skewer the Yuletide holiday, but there is one signature piece in which the Addamses descend en masse on the wilds of Central Park in late October (with Uncle Fester even toting a jack-o’-lantern under his arm).

 

As a 1960’s sitcom, The Addams Family featured two separate Halloween episodes. In episode 1.7, “Halloween with the Addams Family,” a pair of robbers on the run (Don Rickles and Skip Homeier) attempt to hide out at the Addams home and get caught up in the family’s crazy celebration of its “favorite holiday” (the festivities include “bobbing for the crab”). And long before The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Addamses gather for a recitation of a special holiday-splicing poem: “It was Halloween evening, and through the abode / Not a creature was stirring, not even a toad. / Jack-o’-lanterns are hung on the gallows with care / To guide sister witch as she flies through the air…”

 

“Halloween–Addams Style” (2.7) means bite-size salamander sandwiches prepared via guillotine, and porcupine taffy crafted by Grandmama. After an insensitive neighbor spoils the trick-or-treating Wednesday’s holiday joy by claiming that witches don’t exist, a séance is conducted to contact the Addams ancestor Aunt Singe (who was burnt at the stake in Salem). Comedic confusion ensues when a witch-costumed neighbor out on a Halloween scavenger hunt shows up at the Addams mansion.

 

The sitcom’s original cast returned in living color for the 1977 TV movie Halloween with the New Addams Family (a film that features extensive scenes of an Addams-hosted costume party at which various bits of hilarity occur). Halloween is clearly Christmas for the Addams Family, as is evident from the legend of Cousin Shy, a jolly spirit who “carves a smile on a specially hidden pumpkin, and leaves beautiful gifts at the feet of the Halloween scarecrow.” As if all this wasn’t festive enough, the closing scene presents the Addamses in candlelit procession, singing a macabre carol: “Scarecrows and blackbirds are always together. Spiders spin cobwebs in overcast weather. Cauldrons are brewing and banshees are doing a weird and ghastly routine, to wish you a merry, creepy Halloween.”

 

The 1991 cinematic adaptation The Addams Family concludes–you guessed it–on Halloween night. Gomez carves a cyclopean jack-o’-lantern; Pugsley dresses as his Uncle Fester, and Wednesday (in her everyday clothes) as a “homicidal maniac.” Then the Addamses head outside for a rousing game of Wake the Dead, which involves digging up departed relatives from the family graveyard.

 

For Halloween 1992, The Addams Family animated series served up “Puttergeist.” While the title references a certain Steven Spielberg horrorfest, the episode itself riffs on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Granny regales the family with a Halloween tale: four decades ago, a golfer hit the links on Halloween night, only to lose his head to a lightning strike. Thereafter he haunts the town as a specter with a giant golf ball for a head–quite a swerving from the pumpkin originally employed by Washington Irving.

 

In 1998 came the Canadian reboot The New Addams Family, whose series premiere “Halloween with the Addams Family” is a redux of the same-titled episode from the 60’s sitcom. Old gags are updated: Fester goes bobbing for hand grenades; Gomez wipes the smile off a jack-o’-lantern, carving a scarier expression with his fencing sword. Pugsley and Wednesday (dressed as Siskel and Ebert) wreak havoc on the neighborhood when they go trick-or-treating (one candy-stingy couple who foolishly demand a trick before handing out treats end up in a homemade electric chair rigged to their doorbell).

 

This survey of Halloween legacy should also make mention of the influence of the Addams Family on Ray Bradbury’s Elliott Family (a positively monstrous clan who, in the author’s classic story “Homecoming,” gather in an Illinois manse for a Halloween night reunion). In his afterword to his 2001 Elliott Family chronicle From the Dust Returned, Bradbury details his relationship with Charles Addams. Their plans for a book collaboration never came to fruition, but Addams did create an elaborate illustration of “Homecoming” when the story was first published in Mademoiselle.

 

For an outré crew like the Addams Family, every day is Halloween. But this First Family of Gothic comedy has also treated fans to plenty of October-31st-specific content over the years. I am eager to see if the forthcoming Wednesday follows this fine tradition.

 

 

 

Cutting-Edge Horror

David G. Hartwell’s classic anthology The Dark Descent is a massive textual chest brimming with terrifying treasures, but none more captivating than Michael Shea‘s 1980 novella “The Autopsy.” Shea’s unique blend of medical inquiry, body horror, and cosmic horror forms one of the most truly unnerving tales I’ve ever read. From my very first encounter with the narrative, I thought it would make for an incredible short film. Decades later, that adaptation (by director David Prior, from a teleplay by David S. Goyer) has finally occurred, with “The Autopsy” serving as the third episode of the new Netflix series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

The hour-long episode proves quite faithful in its translation of Shea’s into the televisual, capturing all of the creeping dread and visceral gruesomeness of the original narrative. Actually seeing the various autopsies performed might be even more affecting than reading about them (I’ll admit that at times the depth of medical information in Shea’s text has overwhelmed me). The postmortems–mostly conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Carl Winters (F. Murray Abraham)–depicted onscreen here (via stunning fx) make The Autopsy of Jane Doe seem like a fun game of Operation. Fans of Lovecraftian horror will not want to miss this sublimely chilling effort.

 

The Terror from Beyond Springfield

This October, The Simpsons offers a double venture outside canon, with a pair of Halloween episodes. First up was last night ‘s terrific extended parody, “Treehouse of Horror Presents: Not It.”

Set in a Maine alternative to Springfield called Kingfield (“A Great Place to Bury Your Kids,” according to the town’s welcome sign), “Not It” has some fun and games with Stephen King’s epic horror novel It and the recent two-part film adaptation thereof. Various signature moments from the book and movies are Simpsons-ized: the iconic sewer-scene opening (toothy child-predator Krusto–a frightfully recast Krusty–takes young Barney Gumble’s sailboat and then the wind permanently out of the boy); the rock fight (in which “Super-Intense-Kid Chalmers” plays one of the bullies); the bathroom terrorizing (Loser Club member Marge has hers flooded by Krusto–not with blood, but seltzer). King fans will absolutely revel in these skewed, and often skewering, references.

Besides the gleeful grotesquerie (e.g. one of Krusto’s  victims has his intestines tied into balloon animals) expected of a “Treehouse” installment, the episode is stuffed with puns both verbal (grown-up Homer owns a tavern named “D’ohs”) and visual (the Maine town sports a “Lobster Lad” and the “Kingfield Chowder Plant”), with hilarious one-liners (“Bleach your mustache,” young Marge’s sister advises. “You look like El DeBarge.”) and witty self-satire (canonical Krusty’s career as a hack comedian is cleverly woven into the killer Krusto’s modus operandi). The extraterrestrial origin of King’s supermonster also facilitates a wonderful variation on the Kang and Kodos cameo that typically concludes a “Treehouse” episode.

Without a doubt, “Not It” is my favorite bit of viewing so far this Halloween season. The traditional “Treehouse of Horror” episode next Sunday is going to be hard pressed to surpass such horror-parodying excellence.

 

Horseman Courses

The recent passing of nonagenarian Angela Lansbury left me in a nostalgic mood, and sent me back to a childhood favorite–the hit mystery series Murder, She Wrote. And what better episode to start a re-watch with than the series’ most Halloween-centric installment: season 3’s “Night of the Headless Horseman.” As signaled by the title, the episode riffs on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A love triangle is drawn at a Vermont private school, as the nerdy schoolteacher Dorian Beecher and the bullying riding instructor Nate Findley compete for the affections of Sarah Dupont, the headmaster’s daughter. Walking toward a covered bridge at night, Dorian is twice menaced by the eponymous goblin (whom Dorian believes to be Nate in disguise), once having a jack-o’-lantern hurled at him. On the morning after the second run-in, the body of the dispatched Nate is found (in surely the series’ most grisly turn) with his decapitated head missing from the crime scene. As always, Jessica Fletcher solves the murder and exonerates her friend Dorian in this witty, Irving-evoking episode.

While getting ready to write this post, I came across a strangely related item in my Facebook feed. It was an ad for the Headless Horseman Equestrian Event on October 30th in Montague, New Jersey. According to the Halloween attraction’s Eventbrite page, this is an “Interactive Archery/Swordplay and Horseback Riding Event,” in which participants (“Costumes Encouraged!”) can “Fight the Horseman!” Sounds like there won’t be any cravenly flights by Ichabod Crane-types in this neck of the woods…

 

Horripilation Compilation

Unabashed admission: I’m a complete geek for books, TV programs, or streaming series that gather, rank, and analyze the best that the horror genre has to offer. Projects such as The Book of Lists: HorrorHorror: 100 Best BooksHorror: Another 100 Best BooksBravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and Eli Roth’s History of Horror. So it’s no shocker that I have been eagerly anticipating the new Shudder series, The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time, whose first episode debuted this week.

101 Scariest clearly emulates the format of Bravo’s 100 Scariest, combining commentary with classic horror film clips. But 101 also one-ups its predecessor in a few regards. The role of talking head is embodied by various writers, actors, directors, and film scholars, whereas the Bravo countdown mixed in a lot of pop cultural personalities and joke-cracking comedians (figures with questionable connection to the genre) into its cast of commentators. 101 also seems committed to offering more serious analysis of the films under discussion, addressing not just the nature of the scare but also considering the construction of the particular movie scene containing it.

It will be interesting to see how 101‘s completed list ultimately compares to that compiled by the 2004 Bravo show (and its follow-ups, 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments [2006] and 13 Scarier Movie Moments [2009]). Perhaps I will pursue such comparison in a future post.

An eight-episode series, The 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time streams a new installment every Wednesday on Shudder up until Halloween.

Official Trailer:

The Sopranos of Sleepy Hollow

From dark dream sequences to Christopher’s comatose glimpse of hell and Paulie’s eerie vision of the Virgin Mary on the Bada Bing stage, The Sopranos repeatedly invoked the uncanny and the supernatural. So it’s no surprise that show also featured two prominent references to one of the greatest spook tales of all time, Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The first occurs in “Cold Cuts” (Season 5, Episode 10). On the drive upstate to Uncle Pat’s farm in Kinderhook (to exhume some murder victims from their graves), Tony Blundetto randomly admits to Christopher that “some very sorry people” (presumably kids who suffered for insulting him) used to call him Ichabod Crane. The line then gets a callback in a later scene in the episode. Tony Soprano joins his cousin Tony in ribbing Christopher and mocking his beak nose as they all eat dinner together, until the aggravated Christopher finally snaps at the relentlessly joking Blundetto, “You know I could have called you Ichabod Crane, but I didn’t!” A petulant retort, for sure, but also a pretty funny one, because if ever there was someone who could be cast as Ichabod, it’s Steve Buscemi’s Blundetto.

The second reference is in “Luxury Lounge” (Season 6, Episode 7). Phil Leotardo passes along to Tony Soprano Johnny Sack’s appreciation for his taking out Rusty Millio, but Tony acts coy and claims to have had nothing to do with the hit. Phil laughs off Tony’s cautiousness, and says, “Anyway, Rusty’s gone, and we’ll chalk it up to the Headless Horseman.” A strange name drop, although it does make geographic sense that a New York crime boss would reference Sleepy Hollow’s favorite specter. Phil’s line also has some sinister resonance, considering that Rusty was dispatched by a shot to the head (an assault of brain-scrambling impact, akin to a Horseman gourd toss).

More than just another mob story, The Sopranos was a pop cultural phenomenon. How apropos, then, that the series referenced a pair of legendary Irving characters that have been imprinted on American consciousness for over two centuries now.

 

Ribboning 2021

Another year draws to a close, which means countless year-in-review pieces are popping up all over the Macabre Republic (for me, a recall of all the great work I’ve encountered this year, as well as a reminder that I still have a lot more seek out). Here are the links for some online listings of the horror genre’s best offerings in fiction, film, and television:

CrimeReads: “The Best Horror Fiction of 2021”

Library Journal: “Best Horror of 2021”

LitReactor: “The Ten Scariest Horror Books of 2021–Ranked!”

Goodreads: “Best Horror”

Screen Rant: “The Best Horror Movies of 2021”

Film School Rejects: “The 15 Best Horror Movies of 2021”

The Lineup: “The 13 Best Horror Films of 2021”

IGN: “The 13 Best Horror Movies of 2021”

SYFY Wire: “Here Are the 16 Best Genre Shows of 2021”

Bloody Disgusting: The 10 Best Horror Television Shows of 2021; The 10 Best Horror Movie and Television Monsters of 2021; “Top 10 Horror Movies of 2021”“The Top 10 Scariest Scenes in 2021 Horror Movies”; “The Top 10 Hidden Horror Gems You Might’ve Missed in 2021”; “The 15 Best Horror Movie Performances of 2021”; “The 10 Best Horror Books of 2021”

WatchMojo: “Top 10 Best Horror Movies of 2021”

 

History Lessons: “Mad Scientists” (Episode 3.6)

“Mad Scientists,” the Season 3 finale of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, stitches together Promethean overreachers and preeminent speakers…

 

Leonard Maltin: Mary Shelley created an archetype in Doctor Frankenstein. He’s been copied. He’s been cloned. He’s been spoofed. But he exists in our consciousness in a way that very few characters 100 years, 150 years old, still do.

 

Quentin Tarantino: That’s where the mad scientist really kind of comes into his own. Because the whole concept of Peter Cushing as Doctor Frankenstein, and the whole concept of those [Hammer] films, is it’s the doctor that’s the monster.

 

Axelle Carolyn: There’s always that frontier that science is not supposed to cross, and we’re forever pushing it back. And now we’re talking about cloning people, you know, the ethics behind all the scientific decisions that we’re making today are actually echoed in all those movies back in the 30’s.

 

Andrew Kevin Walker: Altered States is a movie that’s both completely lowbrow genre, and at the same time, the highest kind of highbrow art. Altered States is so existentially and scientifically rigorous, but it still has a thing popping open and a guy jumping out as a Neanderthal man.

 

David J. Skal: The beast people rising up [in Island of Lost Souls] is almost like a Bolshevik Revolution. America wasn’t hashing this out on an intellectual level, but it certainly was on a pop cultural level.

 

Jessica Rothe: [Ex Machina] was such an interesting exploration into our dependency on technology, and AI, and the development of it, and what makes a person a person. But like in some ways, Alicia Vikander’s character was more humane and more of a human than our protagonist. […] What is so amazing about that character is you’re rooting for her the whole time. You think that she is the victim in this situation, but the tables turn quite quickly.

 

Rebekah McKendry: There’s no judging in [The Rocky Horror Picture Show] whatsoever. It just is. And the gender fluidity of Brad and Janet and that sexuality across the board is just separated, and gender boundaries get completely broken down in it. That is something we weren’t seeing in a lot of cinema at the time, so it felt dangerous, it felt transgressive, it felt like we were seeing something completely different.

 

Heidi Honeycutt: Look, you’re not gonna watch the new Invisible Man and feel the terror the same way that a woman who has been in an abusive, controlling relationship would feel. But I’ll say this. Everybody has trauma, and everybody experiences the bad stuff. And if you haven’t, don’t worry, you will. And that’s part of why people make horror films. It’s a cathartic way to express those terrors and those horrors in a safe way.

 

History Lessons: “Holiday Horror” (Episode 3.5)

Let’s celebrate the wise and witty words spoken on the pre-Halloween episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror

 

Eli Roth: Holidays are usually the time we get together with our families–for better or for worse. But even if you get along with your relatives, holidays can be stressful. Passive-aggressive behavior, forced cheerfulness, heavy drinking: they’re typical parts of the holiday experience. All that tension needs to be released. Enter the holiday horror film, bringing our wildest homicidal horror fantasies to life.

 

Ryan Turek: What made the first film scary, what made Michael Myers scary–you didn’t know who he was. All you knew is he killed his sister; you didn’t know why. You know, let’s go back [in 2018’s Halloween] to that pure dread that came with Halloween [1978], and let’s go back to that singular strong final girl that took him on, and let’s see what she’s like forty years later, and she’s, you know, she’s–she’s kinda messed up.

 

Nathaniel Thompson: And [Black Christmas] is one of the first great examples of the subjective camera in a slasher movie. But it’s something that critics jumped on later on; in Friday the 13th they really attacked it, because they’re saying “Oh, it’s putting you in the killer’s point of view, it’s attacking women, and it’s misogynist.” No, at least in the beginning, that’s not the point. The point is, you never see the face–that’s what’s so scary. You have no idea what this guy looks like; all you see is his eye.

 

Heidi Honeycutt: Because her boyfriend was not the killer, and the cops are wrong, and they didn’t get him, and now she’s probably going to die because of their incompetence. And [Black Christmas] is written that way deliberately to infuriate us. We’re supposed to see how society leaves this woman vulnerable.

 

Quentin Tarantino: People who don’t understand the concept of slasher movies, to them it’s all violent porno as far as they’re concerned, because they just don’t get it. And most of the films that they made a big deal about, I wish they were closer to what they think they were. I wish they were that strong. [But] Silent Night, Deadly Night is fucked up for a horror film fan.

 

Michael Dougherty[Krampus] is a very personal statement for myself, just how hard it is to maintain optimism and a belief in the goodness of human beings when you’re confronted with the opposite every time you wake up in the morning and turn on the news.

 

Christopher Landon: These woman [in Mother’s Day] actively said, “We’re gonna go back, and we’re gonna hunt these people down, and we’re gonna kill them and get revenge for what they did to our friend.” That was badass. There was a certain feminist element to it that I really appreciate, that was unusual for a film of that time.

 

Jessica Rothe: I love the message that [Happy Death Day] has when it comes to grief and loss, and how you have to, kind of, confront it and really go through it, and spend some real time with that loss and not run away from it, because I think Tree’s been running for a really, really long time.

 

Joe Hill: Good horror is all about uncomfortable juxtapositions. It’s about taking something like Christmas, something we love and find comforting, and then ruining it for everyone forever. It is in the nature of horror fiction, horror cinema, to be a little bit like punk rock. If you fail to piss anyone off, you’re probably doing it wrong!