Animation Alley: Treehouse of Horror V

tohv-01(this episode was directed by Jim Reardon)
I love the very few times the show utilizes live action, here where Marge discovers tonight’s episode was banned by Congress, and instead the classic film 200 Miles to Oregon. Funny how this movie is fake, while Paint Your Wagon turns out to be real. Anyway, no wraparounds anymore, we go to our title sequence, which has been getting more and more gruesome over time. You don’t see many cartoons where a boy chops the head off his school principal, who authorizes it with a gleeful thumbs up.

tohv-02The first segment is, of course, a parody of The Shining, and many moments and shots from the film are recreated here, all looking fantastic, be it from the establishing shots of the mansion and hedge maze, the blood escaping the elevator, or the awesome wraparound of the room scrawled with Homer’s maddening message. What makes it all work is the aim of the humor: the joke isn’t that they’re doing The Shining, it’s just the story they’ve decided to tell, and the jokes come from their twisting of the source material, combined with the personality of our characters within it.

tohv-03If you didn’t already have enough Shining references, here’s yet another, with Maggie spelling ‘Redrum’ with blocks. Not exactly a freeze frame moment since it’s pretty clear in the shot, but still a nice touch.

tohv-04David Silverman comes back with a vengeance, outdoing himself from the dogs playing poker bit from last year’s special. Homer going mad here is one of my favorite animation moments in the entire series; between the amazing drawings and Castellaneta’s hilarious performance, it’s a wonderful marvel to behold. If this were attempted by an artist now, it would all be thrown away for being too off-model. This would never make it to air.

tohv-05I love that for no discernible reason, we have cameos by franchise monsters like Freddy Kreuger, Pinhead and Jason Vorhees as Moe’s fellow ghouls who want to see Homer waste his family. I guess Homer’s sloth-like nature and love for food could only be dissuaded with the help of all the famous movie monsters at once.

tohv-06I love the look of Willie’s room, this nice calming green after all the shots before it of the gloomy blue mansion. The beguiling Scottish lass with bagpipes above the headboard is a great touch.

tohv-07I’ve always loved this shot, a low angle up at Homer, looking truly possessed, lumbering through the snow to murder his entire family. The Halloween shows’ greatest triumph is being able to make us feel real tension amidst the stupidest of situations. Mere scenes ago we had Homer optioning to stuff his face rather than follow the orders of the Mummy and Dracula, but now, thanks to the great drawings, music, performances, everything coming together to make us really believe that our favorite dumb lovable oaf is capable of doing something so horrible. Weaving from dumb jokes to believable tension… it ain’t easy, but the show in its heyday did it in spades every year.

tohv-09The first reality Homer returns to being ruled by Flanders has so many great moments. You have the floor morphing to a monitoring screen, a la Terminator 2, and the hooks forcing all the citizens to smile, such a wonderfully grotesque image. And I’ll mention again, despite the silliness of a Flanders-run universe, the show still makes us feel uncomfortable. The totalitarian nature of this world, as well as the far-gone looks of Marge and the kids post-lobotomy (Kavner’s dead reading of “It’s bliiiiisss” is so disconcerting), you really do feel uneasy.

tohv-11One of my favorite moments in the whole series (I’m sure I say that a lot… but this time I mean it) is when Homer finally snaps and wreaks as much havoc upon the prehistoric land as he wants. After smashing a few things with his club, he squashes a lizard two times, kicks up some dirt for whatever reason, then flat out cold cocks a giant dragonfly and starts bashing it with his club. There’s just something about this scene… the rhythm of the animation, it all seems to happen so quick, Homer’s squishing foot feeling somewhat delicate for some reason, the follow-through of Homer going from kicking dirt to his left, then turning and just decking that insect to his right, and the loud sound effect accompanying… it’s moments like these where screencaps just do no justice whatsoever.

tohv-13Great bit of a stircrazy Martin, just violently pulsating in his cramped little cage. You can’t help but feel bad for him.

tohv-14This may be the creepiest segment to me, for this ending alone, of the faculty just having completely lost it, becoming insatiable cannibals. It starts with Lunchlady Doris, unable to speak a word but letting out a guttural growl, seemingly having gone mad from killing so many children. Skinner is absolutely intimidating in the bit where he considers where he will begin devouring his arch nemesis. Which then leads to…

tohv-15…the giant blender. I mean, just look at that fucking thing. The vat to the side of it just splattered in blood, the innards of all of their former classmates. You don’t need anything more than that, that image is horrifying enough. Then afterwards, we get Milhouse falling to his death; his terrified expression, and then the brief churning noise after we cut back to Bart and Lisa… so, so upsetting,

tohv-16And if all that wasn’t traumatizing enough, we have our finale, where the family gets their skin turned inside out in a truly violent fashion. What else is there to do than to end with a big musical number! And just when you let your guard down, we have Santa’s Little Helper gnawing at Bart’s innards and dragging him off screen, leaving a wet pool of blood trailing behind him. Happy Halloween, everybody! Pleasant dreams!

6 Responses to “Animation Alley: Treehouse of Horror V”

  1. 1 FireFlower
    24 October 2013 at 9:30 am

    I love Homer’s “Stupid bug! You go squish now!” quote. I often use it myself.

  2. 2 Frank
    24 October 2013 at 12:03 pm

    “The beguiling Scottish lass with bagpipes above the headboard is a great touch”

    Maybe you knew this, or meant it, but it’s an hommage to the artwork that’s in the original movie.

  3. 3 Stan
    24 October 2013 at 1:58 pm

    This is indeed the most disturbing THoH of them all, and by that I mean the most disturbing WITHOUT being garbage at the same time. The level of gore accompanying is somewhere near most recent Family Guy episodes (at least the ones I know about), yet they manage not to fuck it up with stupid pop culture references and toilet jokes.

  4. 24 October 2013 at 6:01 pm

    The sound effect they use when Milhouse falls to his death in the blender, always communicated to me that his tongue was the first part of him to hit the blade. Gotta love that gruesome sound design!

  5. 25 October 2013 at 8:51 am

    Paint Your Wagon also had to do with part of the plot to another episode, I might add!

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