It’s no secret that the writers of “The Simpsons” hold a great love for Stanley Kubrick. Bart Dressed as a Droog for “Treehouse of Horror III,” and “Treehouse of Horror V” delivered the brilliant “The Shinning.” For the 25th “Treehouse of Horror” yearly special, the gang behind the series pays a full unabashed tribute to Kubrick in what is easily the best “Treehouse” special in years. Though supplying only three segments this year, the writers opts for quality over quantity and the show really hits its stride for the Halloween Season well.
“School is Hell” is a fun opener in which Bart and Lisa accidentally find an Aramaic inscription while dusting during detention. Using her Apple App, Lisa translates the inscription and Bart reads it aloud without regard to caution. This causes them to be scooped up by hell fires and thrown in to an Elementary school in the underworld. Oddly enough, this is a dimension opposite to Springfield Elementary in every way. Bart becomes an A student when he impresses his class with his various ideas for torture, while Lisa becomes popular with a clique of female demons. The segment is a wonderful opener featuring a lot great puns and unusual jokes regarding religion (“Haw-haw! Your heresies were venialized by the Council of Palermo!”), plus, there’s a great call back to “Treehouse of Horror IV” with someone in the background being tortured with the donut conveyor belt Homer suffered.
“A Clockwork Yellow” is another excellent Kubrick love letter, with the story of Moe who was once the leader of the Droogs, a gang that held Carl, Lenny, and Homer. After many years of crime and havoc, Homer meets a “blue haired bird” named Marge in a record shop and the two get married leaving their life of crime behind. This segment contains so many great references to “A Clockwork Orange” including a pretty funny twist on the threesome montage set to a high speed. Not to mention there’s the great finale where Kubrick’s various world come smashing together as the old time Droogs crash a mansion that happens to be holding a sex party. I loved how when the partiers charged the Droogs, Burns reminded the background sex blockers to snap in to action.
The Kubrick references don’t stop there, as there are more overt winks, and background gags like Homer in the record shop walking by records “Dr. Strangelaugh,” “Paths Of Gravy,” “D’oh-lita,” and “Full Milhouse Jacket.” “The Others” is purely meta-fan service that has given the special the biggest press as the Simpsons begin getting haunted by mysterious presences in their house. Much to their horror, they discover they’re being haunted by the Tracey Ullman incarnations of their characters. When they refuse to leave, a war ensues between both versions of the family, especially with Marge angrily competing with classic Marge for the affection of modern Homer. The segment is dark and pretty disturbing when it wants to be, but it’s also mainly about paying tribute to the fans. There’s a wonderful final gag about different variations of the Simpsons, and Dr. Marvin Monroe, deemed dead many years ago, returns as a ghost to try and sort out the battle between both clans.
For the centerpiece it’s perfectly fine but there seems like so much more could have been done, like perhaps grabbing Tracey Ullman for a cameo, but in its small window it acknowledges that the show has changed drastically, and that their corporate entity ensure more variations down the line. The real Easter egg is the family picture with both clans which is quite excellent for fans that remember the original short. Homer even says “Watch your mouth, you little smart ass.” I love it, and I wish “The Simpsons” could gain this kind of momentum all season. The glory days of the “Simpsons” dynasty might be over, but at least “Treehouse of Horror” is still a fun tradition that delivers.