Original Air Date: Thursday, October 28, 1993
Bart's Night Gallery
We pretty much hit the ground running here as the 'Simpsons Halloween theme music chimes in, and we're taken through to a couch gag that involves the Simpson family bursting out of the living room floor as zombies.
Our host is Bart, parodying 'Night Gallery', posing as a Rod Sirling type. When he gets going on how paintings can become portals to Hell, Marge interrupts with the general disclaimer about the show being scary, and that perhaps people would prefer an NPR production of 'War of the Worlds'. Bart reluctantly accepts to tone it down a little bit, and the show begins, and each segment is accompanied by its own painting.
'The Devil and Homer Simpson'
While at work, Homer daydreams about fashion donuts, and while doing so, his coworkers eat all of the real donuts. In a sugar-craving panic, he mentions that he'd sell his soul for a donut, and ends up signing a contract with the Devil, here portrayed by Ned Flanders; the one you'd least suspect.
At first, Homer outsmarts the Devil by simply not finishing the donut, but he breaks almost instantly, opening a portal to Hell. But when Lisa suggests that he has the right to a fair trial, it soon turns into a courtroom parody of 1941's 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' (or 'All That Money Can Buy') in which a man battles the Devil himself in court after a soul exchange for a measly two cents. In the courtroom (or the Simpson's living room), the Devil summons a jury of his choosing, bringing in some of history's greatest monsters, including the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Fliers, notorious for their rough during games.
This one's full of memorable moments and dialogue, perhaps the most famous bit being the idea of Ned Flanders being Satan. Apparently some scenes were cut in order to shorten the segment, which include a bowling sequence with a demon using Homer's head. The scene eventually appeared in 'The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular' clipshow, at first thought to be made for the clipshow, but apparently an actual deleted scene. It remains one of the all-time classic Halloween segments.
'Terror at 5 1⁄2 Feet'
Inspired by the 'Twilight Zone' episode, 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet', the segment opens with Bart having a terrible nightmare in which the school bus crashes, jolting Bart awake and really putting some fear into him. He heads for breakfast, and heads out the door for the school bus with a really bad feeling.
As the bus gets going, Bart looks out the window and finds a gremlin tearing the bus apart from the outside. He pleads with people on the bus to pay attention to it, but everyone's either preoccupied with their own thing, or simply can't see it and don't believe it's real. It leads to one of my favorite Skinner lines, "I've gotten word that a child is using his imagination, and I've come to put a stop to it", which really highlights just how black and white the accompanying characters are. It all ends with a little twist that, at the time, actually disturbed me a little bit.
It is here that we're first introduced to exchange student, Üter, whose Hansel-like (as in 'Hansel and Gretel') persona was funny enough to come back once in a while in several later episodes, including Halloween episodes. I don't believe the Gremlin ever returns, but he's a very memorable creature, made to be "scary for Simpsons standards". There's something unnerving yet hilarious about him. The segment went on to be so widely liked that in a roundabout way, this was several kids' introduction to 'The Twilight Zone', as it became the first parody we cared to see the original of. That likely has to do with the school bus theme, and the relatability of it all.
'Bart Simpson's Dracula'
The third and final segment of 'Treehouse IV' is a straight up parody of 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' while tossing in a few other vampire references along the way like 'The Lost Boys' and 'Salem's Lot'. Here, Mr. Burns once again lends himself to the Halloween theme incredibly well, as he portrays "Dracula" (but is referred to as Mr. Burns. Actually, despite the title, "Dracula" is never mentioned).
The segment opens with the Simpsons watching the news, reporting on "peasants" being found dead and drained of blood. Unrelated, Mr. Burns has just bought the Springfield Blood Bank. This immediately gives us the vampire set-up, and that's soon followed by Burns inviting the Simpsons to his country home in Pennsylvania. Here, Lisa and Bart (especially Bart) discover there's something more sinister about Mr. Burns than meets the eye.
Once again Burns is the hilarious highlight of the segment, but every character has a solid moment within it; yes, even Lisa (her smearing blood on Bart to get out of the room always gets me). It's another personal favorite, and one that has me laughing all the way through with so many great visual gags and so much funny dialogue. In my humble opinion,it's one of the best segments in the show's history.
'Bart Simpson's Dracula' ends with a twist on who ends up being the head vampire, and everything is topped off with it all coming to a hault, and quickly turning into a farce on 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. The closing credits bring in an 'Addams Family'/'Munsters' sounding theme, and it rounds it all off as one of the all-time great 'Treehouse of Horror' episodes, and probably my favorite all-around.
Overall Episode Rating: 100%