The Twilight Zone in the Treehouse of Horror
There is one Simpsons episode out of every season that is the most popular and pulls everyone in every single year. It has gotten more and more cinematic with guest artists such as Dir. Guillermo Del Toro and most recently, Ren and Stimpy animator John Kricfalusi who take over the couch gags to make it their own. What are these wonderful episodes you ask? They are none other than The Simpsons‘ annual Treehouse of Horror episodes. These episodes have been one of the absolute best parts of The Simpsons because of how different they are. Each one of the Treehouse of Horror episodes has a particular theme for the segments and some of the best gags that one could ask for. After watching them for so many years, some parodies have left me more excited than other. Most of these have to do with the parodies of Twilight Zone episodes.
I must admit. I am a huge Twilight Zone geek. I’ve watched the episodes from back to wrong and can almost tell you about every episode from just a single word. When I first started watching The Simpsons, particularly for their Treehouse of Horror episodes. It amazed me that they took the episodes I love, remade them in perfect Simpsons form, and nailed them! So… I bring to you, the Treehouse of Horror episodes that straight parody The Twilight Zone.
This Treehouse of Horror parody was a bit harder to notice until you get to the last bits of the episode. “To Serve Man” is one of those episodes of the Twilight Zone with a brilliant surprise twist (I’m actually writing a full paper on it). The aliens in “To Serve Man” want to bring peace and prosperity to Earth in every way they can. They promise a new world and end up making it happen. No more problems for humankind. It’s a paradise for them and it’s a dream come true, up until the last parts of the episode when things don’t go exactly as planned. In the Treehouse of Horror episode, they bring The Simpsons on their ship and treat them like the royalty they deserve, but Lisa suspects something sinister afoot. The Treehouse of Horror takes the episode from the Twilight Zone and gives it a double twist that you wouldn’t expect.
They got this down almost to the exact episode itself. The Twilight Zone episode, “It’s A Good Life,” starts off with an introduction of the monster in the story who is a six year old boy named Anthony (Jerome Bixby). It gives you the immediate details of what this little boy has done to the town and probably how closed off his family is from the world. The Simpsons episode, “The Bart Zone,” starts off with an introduction almost identical to Rod Serling’s voice and introduces the “monster” and what he has done to the town. It also has the same premise as the Twilight Zone episode. You must think happy thoughts or the “monster” will do something horrible to you. Of course, that “monster” turns out to be Bart and if you oppose him in anyway… he will make you pay.
In “Clown Without Pity,” Homer buys Bart a talking Krustry the Klown doll from a shopkeeper that says it has a curse on it. Of course, Homer buys it and brings it home to Bart. The first words out of the dolls mouth are, “My name is Krusty the Klown and I love you very much.” Sound familiar? It should. It was originally from the Twilight Zone episode, “Living Doll,” where Erich Streator (Telly Savalas of Kojak) has to fight for dominance and control his paranoia over a doll named Talky Tina who starts wish VERY ill will on him. The Krustry doll, like Talky Tina, starts to take on human attributes and starts to hate their owners fathers to the point of wanting to kill them. If you throw a doll in the trash and it somehow finds a way to call you and say, “I’m Talky Tina and I’m going to kill you.” Run.
If you’ve never seen this famous episode of The Twilight Zone with William Shatner, you need to immediately grab your remote, go to Netflix, click on Twilight Zone and go to Season 5, Episode 3. There is no reason you should miss out on this brilliant episode whatsoever. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” chronicles a one man’s decent into madness and his plea for sanity. Bob (Willam Shatner) is finally out of the hospital and traveling with his wife. During his air travels, he thinks he sees a gremlin on the side of the plane, trying to destroy it so they all crash. Bob desperately pleads with his wife and the crew to listen to him, but falls on deaf ears. “Terror at 5 1/2 feet” is Bart’s decent into the same dilemma that Bob has. He is trying to plead for someone to believe him that theres a gremlin on the side of the school bus. It’s one of the best side by sides and the gremlins are as equally as devious as they are destructive.
“The Masks” is an episode of Twilight Zone that is a hidden gem. You don’t know how good it is until you finally reach the end. It makes you think about the way you treat people and the ugliness inside of you, but I am getting way too ahead of myself. “The Masks” features a dying man named Jason Foster (Robert Keith), who brings his daughter Emily (Virgina Gregg) and family to come over to his house on Mardi Gras for a final get together. He has a plan though. Jason has masks specifically designed for each and every one of them that bring out their “good” attributes and personalities. The Simpsons give this twist, but also adds another cultural element to the episode as well. The citizens of Springfield end up getting a real witch mad over a costume contest and she turns them into what they truly are. The other cultural element is that the Twilight Zone parody is also paired with the Disney movie, Halloween II: Kalabar’s Revenge. (If you aren’t watching Halloween at least once for Halloween. What are you doing?)
A fun thing about this episode is that Homer refers directly to the Twilight Zone, saying, “This is like that twilighty show about the zone.” In “Homer3″, in order not to spend the holidays with his least favorite sisters-in-laws Patty and Selma, Homer hides behind the bookshelves getting trapped in a 3D dimension. He has to find a way to get back home through the help of some unhelpful sources. “Little Girl Lost” works the same way. A little girl travels into another dimension in her own house and her parents have to find a way to get her back home. This little girl at least had some helpful guidance along her journey, including the pet dog, but Homer’s journey into another dimension ends with a hilarious otherworldly twist.
The episode, “The Little People,” is in the top ten of Twilight Zone episodes I personally love. It tales the tale of two astronauts who land on a remote planet in order to fix their ship. They come to find out there is life on this planet and is already inhabited by a tiny cluster of small people, that are microscopic. This episode plays on the “god-complex” where a man thinks he is mightier than he is and sees himself as god, but in turn, is just a tyrant. “The Genesis Tub” of The Simpsons plays off this episode with brilliance. It gives you a rapidly growing environment that is helped by their “god” Lisa and then you have Bart as the tyrant who is trying to destroy them all.
What would you do if you had a stopwatch that stopped time? If you’re anything Patrick McNulty (Richard Erdman) or Bart and Milhouse, you’d stopped time in order to wreak havoc in your world. “Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off” is probably what would happen if our Twilight Zone character Patrick McNulty was around Bart and Milhouse’s age with the power of a stopwatch. In “A Kind of Stopwatch” McNulty is very…opinionated. He’s a bit of a motormouth and just got fired from his job. A homeless man gives him the stopwatch as a random gesture, but McNulty discovers the power of it and acts in his own favor. Bart and Mulhouse in their respective episode does the same, but they run around Springfield with the stopwatch pulling pranks on the townspeople. They both have a similar satisfying ending when all three of our characters get what they deserve once their greed get the best of them.