So, you’ve seen all of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, including the newest one on FOX that was… okay, and you still want to see The Simpsons, but with episodes that are horror themed. We have ten episodes from The Simpsons that have nothing to do with Halloween but are very much steeped in horror, or mystery and will whet your appetite for the genre. Even when the Simpsons aren’t delivering their yearly “Treehouse of Horror” episode, they’re still churning out atmospheric episodes filled with elements from the genre that are often excellent and entertaining. Here are ten stands outs.
After Sideshow Bob marries aunt Selma, Bart is convinced he’s up to no good. Has Bob turned over a new leaf? Often an underrated second appearance from Bart’s arch nemesis Sideshow Bob, as played by Kelsey Grammar, the Simpsons are shocked to discover that Selma has been dating Bob and is intent on marrying him. It’s pretty clear from the outset that Bob is repulsed by Selma, and that becomes a really funny running gag throughout the entire episode where Selma has an insatiable appetite for sex.
And Bob has to oblige because, his motive for marrying her seems suspicious. As is the case with most of the episodes, Bart is the one to figure out that Bob has a devious plan. Sadly it takes him a long time as he has to literally spell it out for the family before they arrive to the rescue of aunt Selma. “Black Widower” takes a back seat to Sideshow Bob’s more memorable appearances, but it’s still a fun mystery episode.
The Springfield Files
One of the best television series crossovers ever conceived, FOX takes two of its biggest television series of the nineties and completely meshes its tones and characters to create a hilarious and often brilliant brew that tastes so delicious going down. “The X-Files” was an adult science fiction horror series about two FBI agents who investigate paranormal incidents around the world, while “The Simpsons” is an animated comedy about a family in a small town dealing with every day life and eccentric characters. You’d think FOX couldn’t be able to properly combine the duo, but they accomplish the task with flying colors.
“The X-Files” and stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have a really excellent sense of humor about themselves, and when they come to Springfield to investigate a rash of alien sightings in the woods, they just get more than they bargained for. What makes the appearance of Mulder and Scully so excellent is that they never break character or attempt to act wacky. They’re just two X-Files characters stuck in 2D animation with yellow skin. To boot there are cameos from Chewbacca, Leonard Nimoy, Marvin the Martian, to name a few, and one of the funniest closing scenes of any Simpsons episode ever.
Itchy & Scratchy Land
“We’re now approaching our final destination, Itchy and Scratchy Land: the amusement park of the future where nothing can possi-blye go wrong. Er, possi-bly go wrong. Heh, that’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong.” Yet another wonderful tribute to cinema, “Itchy & Scratchy Land” is a wonderful amalgamation of “Jurassic Park” and “Westworld” where Bart and Lisa do everything in their power to convince Marge and Homer to take them to Itchy & Scratchy Land, in spite of Marge’s insistence they go to a bird sanctuary shaped like a diner. Caving to the kids demands, the family takes a trip to the best Itchy and Scratchy related amusement park ever made where the family wreak havoc on literally everyone they come across.
Watching Bart kick an Itchy performer in the crotch still brings me to tears, and the odd joke about there being no customizable Bart license plates while Bort license plates are selling like hot cakes is typical Simpsons genius. Since the robots that perform for the park are going haywire, they’re doomed to become murderous and violent, and when the park employees escape by helicopter, they leave the Simpsons to die. The final half of the episode is filled with hilarious one-liners and a great sense of urgency as the Simpsons clan have to battle hordes of violent robots, all with an action hero catchphrase!
Boy Scoutz ‘n The Hood
This episode is not necessarily horror oriented but there are so many tense elements that make it worth the watch. After a sugar binge, Bart awakens from a hangover to discover he’s apart of the Junior Campers Springfield chapter. Surprisingly he finds that he loves being one and is looking forward to the upcoming river rafting trip, in spite of Homer’s objections. As Homer decides to show up Flanders and take charge of the raft led by Flanders, the foursome of Homer, Bart, Flanders, and Tod end up lost at sea, starving to death.
Meanwhile the late Ernest Borgnine also ends up lost with the rest of the troop, and they slide through a tunnel filled with unusual horrifying oddities, and are also forced to fight a rabid bear. Though the episode is primarily just the same great “The Simpsons” humor as always, it ends on a wonderful Easter Egge with Ernest Borgnine and a bunch of junior campers stuck in a familiar Camp by a Crystal Lake.
Krusty Gets Busted
“Why did the clown cross the road? To rob a Kwik-E-Mart. A new story behind that enigmatic half-joke after this commercial message.” Director Brad Bird of “The Incredibles” fame went on to direct this iconic episode of “The Simpsons” that would become the basis for Bart Simpson’s worst enemy of the series. When Homer seeks to escape a visit from his sister in laws, he flees to the Kwik E Mart to buy ice cream and interrupts an armed robbery where Krusty the Clown is holding up Apu. Krusty is later arrested and, in spite of his pleas of innocence, is jailed.
Bart is convinced Krusty was framed, but how and by whom? When Krusty’s sidekick, Sideshow Bob takes over the show to allow himself a forum of children’s entertainment opposite that of Krusty, Bart will simply not adjust, and solves the case of Krusty’s inexplicable crime spree. Filled with some great moments, including the unveiling of Bob’s crime and Selma and Patty’s nonchalant exploration of Mexico through picture slides, “Krusty Gets Busted” is a classic “The Simpsons” mystery that would become the norm later on.
The Boy Who Knew Too Much
There are a lot of interesting horrific elements added to this episode beyond the central mystery. When Bart cuts school he’s tracked by Principal Skinner, who stalks him like a horror character. In a riff on “Jason Lives,” Bart cuts a bridge along a lake, and Skinner slowly descends in to the water like Jason Voorhees, determined to catch Bart in the act. And in the opening, Bart dreams of an ideal log rafting trip with Huck Finn and Abraham Lincoln for some reason. When approached with the real deal, he comes across two psychotic hobos trying to lure him on to their boat, much to Bart’s horror.
When Bart manages to skip school, he escapes Principal Skinner’s attempts to foil his day of freedom by intruding on a local gathering thrown by Mayor Quimby. Celebrating his obnoxious nephew, Bart manages to witness Quimby’s nephew harassing a French waiter for mispronouncing Chowder. Bart is then a witness to what seems to be Quimby’s nephew beating the waiter near death. In spite of pleading not guilty, he’s convicted of assault and Bart must decide if he should prove his innocence and risk being punished for playing hooky, or keep shut and watch an innocent man go to jail. The ending reveal is typical Simpsons lunacy, and there are some wonderful moments of court room drama, including Homer and Skinner implanting their thoughts in to Bart’s mind.
Bart of Darkness
“I wish there was another explanation for this but there isn’t. I’m a murder, I’m a murderer!”
“Then that’s not the real Ned Flanders.”
“I’m a Mur-diddley-urdler!”
“If that’s not Ned Flanders, he’s done his homework.”
During one very hot summer in Springfield, Bart and Lisa badger Homer and Marge in to buying the family a pool for them to cool off with. After a few unsuccessful attempts to build a pool (“Tis a fine barn, but sure tis no pool, English.”), the Simpsons now have a pool and attract the attention of the neighborhood kids who come over to free load. After an attempt to show off, Bart falls off his tree house and breaks his leg keeping him an alienated recluse in his room as Lisa bathes in the attention of her new friends.
With cabin fever setting in, Bart is convinced Ned Flanders has murdered his wife Maude. During his treks of voyeurism in to the town with his telescope, he discovers clues that Ned has killed his wife, including the fact that his wife is missing and the fact that Ned has admitted to being a murderer. A brilliant and clever satire of “Rear Window,” the episode makes a hilarious excuse for all of its clues to the crime, and even features a cameo from a hysterical Jimmy Stewart calling for help from his assistant Grace.
Who Shot Mr. Burns?
Season Six, Season Seven
There were really two ways they could go with this two part series hallmark. They could either go with the obvious suspect of Mr. Burns’ shooter and have it be Waylan Smithers. Or they could go with anyone else and risk disappointing viewers. They chose the latter. Even for “The Simpsons,” the explanation and reasoning for baby Maggie being Mr. Burns’ shooter was pretty lame. Granted, the two parter episode is hilarious and fun with some nice takes on surrealism and murder mysteries, as well as a great appearance by Tito Puente who has a musical number entitled “Señor Burns.”
It’s undoubtedly one of the best original songs from the series. You just have to respect cast member Hank Azaria, who not only plays a very convincing latino, but sings the entire song like someone out of Gran Combo. Kudos. The episode went on to live in infamy and was mocked repeatedly in later episodes of the show. It was an interesting experiment, at least.
In yet another episode of the series where one of the Simpsons family decide to venture in to a new profession inexplicably, Marge becomes a realtor after meeting Lionel Hutz during a police auction. This is the last appearance of Phil Hartman before his tragic murder, as Hutz who helps Marge become a slimy and scheming realty agent. Marge, as always, has a crisis of conscience and discovers that not everything is cut and dry when it comes to being successful in this world she’s in. In this case, becoming a successful real estate agent means lying to potential customers to sell a house.
When Marge opts to sell a local mansion that is said to have been the scene of a series of horrible murders, she lures in buyer Ned Flanders. Forced to live with her guilt, she watches as Ned and his sons prepare the house with hilarious results. Ned shrieks like a woman at the sight of purple drapes, The trio of Flanders lie along the floor covered in red paint scaring Marge in to thinking they’ve been murdered, and Tod proclaims “Red Room. Red Room. Over there.” This is one of the few times Marge didn’t make it in her profession and the resulting ghoulish house threatening to endanger the Flanders is one hysterical series of misleading gags and one-liners.
Bart and Sideshow Bob have clashed many times with varying degrees of lunacy, but perhaps their best confrontation of all time is in “Cape Feare.” After this Sideshow Bob appearance the writers pretty much strained to keep bringing the villain back, and before it the writers could never really pose him as a tangible threat. “Cape Feare” is a brilliant satire of Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear” that takes every opportunity to mock the film, while also allowing the Simpsons to intervene with its clever one-liners, and excellent gags. Bob has managed to talk his way out of prison and is now intent on murdering Bart Simpson once and for all.
After stalking Bart and his family throughout the episode, including disrupting a movie going experience a la “Cape Fear,” the family goes under witness protection. With horrible results. Homer simply does not understand that he’s Mr. Thompson, The Simpsons revel in owning a boat house oblivious to their neighbors fleeing, and wouldn’t you know it? Sideshow Bob has followed them to their new town of peaceful Terror Lake. As is the norm with Bart’s confrontations with Bob, Bart uses his own ego against him, and insists on indulging him in the full score from the HMS Pinefore as the house boat drifts back in to Springfield in to the open arms of the Springfield police. Who show up in their bath robes and pajamas.