I kind of miss the wrap-arounds, mainly because as a “consequence” of these yearly specials, we never really get to see the Simpsons celebrating Halloween in-universe. But for a few years, we got a brief glimmer of it, as wonderfully shown here. The kids’ costumes are perfect: Marge slapped a scary witch mask on Maggie, Bart the hooded executioner, and Lisa honors Native American heritage with her totem pole. We see them enter the room at their level, and when Lisa comes through and gets stuck, we zoom out to show her costume unable to clear the doorway. Excellent framing. Also, look at that pile of wonderful treats. And what the holy hell is Homer shoving into his mouth? Looks like a mashed up mound of pumpkin goop.
All three segments are directed by Jim Reardon. As a whole, this show isn’t quite as atmospherically spooky as the last one, but that has a lot to do with the stories being told. Last time we have overtly creepy locales like a haunted house and a flying saucer, here the stories are a bit more grounded. The Monkey’s Paw segment is more a creepy cautionary tale about tampering with life’s natural order. And about the power of a board with a nail in it. Anyway, I love the Midnight Express bit as the Simpsons attempt to leave Morocco. What a great shot, with a wonderfully dumbstruck drawing of Homer.
Kang and Kodos cement their status as annual regulars in this episode, but what I always remembered is how they look slightly off in this show. Their skin is more an olive green here, and they appear a bit lumpier. Also, love Kang’s bright pink king sash. It matches quite well with their bright pink ship interior.
Telling three entire stories in a little over twenty minutes ain’t easy. This segment has to establish this entire new universe where everyone cowers in fear of the almighty Bart. We see Bart taking the school bus wheel from Otto, and, of course, driving like a maniac. Cut to this shot as we go into our school section. You don’t need to see the bus crash or any ridiculous sequence like that. This is all you need; you see the fallout of the bus incident as we have our school establishing shot leading to the next scene. How economical.
Absolutely phenomenal posing and animation of sleep-deprived Krusty. I believe Brad Bird did the key drawings on these, he sure did love him some Krusty. To me, this is akin to the amazing heart attack from “Krusty Gets Busted.” You just don’t see this level of freedom in the animation on the show anymore.
The final segment is probably the most atmospheric of the three, taking a lot of cues from Frankenstein, with the spookyness of the graveyard and Burns’ lab with all its glowing gizmos and gadgets. It’s also the first Halloween short that genuinely disturbed me. Smithers slicing open Homer’s skull, Burns tugging at his brain until that wince-inducing snap breaks it loose… so unsettling, but still wonderful. Only this show could go from that to Burns putting the brain atop his head with glee and still be funny (“Look at me! I’m Davy Crockett!”)
I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s subtle, but we see the robot design at the beginning and you can tell it very much looks like Homer. What a great design, with the wires on the side of his head like Homer’s hair and the metallic muzzle. It foreshadows that even in a robot body, Homer will still be Homer, gobbling down donuts and sleeping away at work.