Premiered October 25, 1990.
"Quoth the Raven 'Eat My Shorts!'"
Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner) opens the episode, breaks the fourth wall and warns viewers that it will contain material that might frighten younger viewers. She suggests parents send their children to bed "instead of writing us angry letters."
We cut to Homer (Dan Castellaneta) who has gone trick-or-treating and is admiring his candy. He decides to listen in on his children Bart (Nancy Cartwright) and Lisa's (Yeardley Smith) conversation in their treehouse.
He hears them telling scary stories.
Bart tells the story of the...
"Bad Dream House":
The Simpsons move into a very large house Homer purchased at a bargain.
However, before they finish unpacking, strange things occur. A disembodied voice orders the Simpsons to "GET OUT, " a vortex to another dimension appears in the kitchen...
...and blood runs down the walls of the house.
Marge wants to leave immediately, but Homer convinces her to sleep on it, since he paid so little for the house. That night, the voice tells Bart, Lisa, Homer and Maggie to kill each other!
What is the secret of the house?
Lisa isn't impressed with the story, so Bart ups the ante with a "maca-bree" story called...
"Hungry Are The Damned":
During a backyard barbecue, the Simpsons are beamed on board a flying saucer.
They're greeted by two alien Rigellians who introduce themselves as Kang (Harry Shearer) and Kodos (Castellaneta). They say they're taking the Simpsons to Rigel 4, which they describe as " world of infinite delights" which will "tantalize" their senses and challenge their intellect. They serve a banquet of delicious food to the Simpsons.
Lisa gets suspicious of Kang and Kodos' motives and investigates the ship. Her worst fears are realized when she finds a book called "How To Cook Humans!"
Back in the real world, Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe's all-time classic Halloween poem...
While Lisa reads "The Raven," the roles of its narrator and the raven are played by Homer...
J.A. Morris says:
I didn't catch this when it first aired (I caught the rerun the following year), but "The Simpsons Halloween Special" is part of my annual Halloween viewing. It set the template for future editions of "Treehouse Of Horror" episodes and The Simpsons has expanded the format to include non-Halloween episodes like "Thanksgiving Of Horror." This episode is still great three decades after its premiere.
"Bad Dream House" is a takeoff on The Amityville Horror, with nods to other horror films as well.
"Hungry Are The Damned" is a parody of the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man." In both of these stories, the Simpsons turn out to be the "monsters" (as Lisa states). "Hungry" introduces Kang and Kodos, who would make appearances in every Halloween episode.
The best comes last with the adaptation of "The Raven." It's beautifully animated and (mostly) sticks to Poe's words. Casting Homer and Bart in their respective roles was a stroke of genius.
James Earl Jones guest stars in this episode and his voice can be heard in every story. Jones narrates "The Raven," voices a mover in "Bad Dream House" and portrays "Serak, the preparer" (a Regillian cook) in "Hungry Are The Damned." Jones' presence adds a lot of gravitas to "The Simpsons Halloween Special."
As we said at the top of this page, Marge introduces this episode alone on a stage.
This is an homage to Frankenstein (1931), which featured a similar stage introduction by actor Edward Van Sloan.
When I was a kid, Frankenstein was a movie that was frequently televised around Halloween. Referencing it is a nice way of tying this episode to Halloweens Past.
"The Simpsons Halloween Special" is one of the best episodes of The Simpsons and gets my highest rating.
J.A. Morris' rating:
4 jack o'lanterns!
The first Halloween episode of The Simpsons marks the genesis of a Halloween tradition that's been going strong for 30 (!) years now.
I remember watching "The Simpsons Halloween Special" with my brothers when it first aired way back in 1990. We thoroughly enjoyed it then and continue to watch it year after year.
It's interesting to note that the Halloween episodes of The Simpsons are now referred to collectively as "Treehouse of Horror" due to the framing device of Bart and Lisa telling scary stories in their treehouse in this episode. However, the Halloween specials did not officially (i.e., in the opening credits) get called "Treehouse of Horror" until "Treehouse of Horror XIII" aired in 2002, long after the treehouse was used as a setting.
All 3 segments of this first anthology edition of the show feature clever parodies of classic horror. We even sort of get a double Edgar Allan Poe reference in this episode with "The Raven" (obviously) and also "The Fall of the House of Usher"-esque ending of "Bad Dream House."
We also get introduced to salivating aliens Kang and Kodos, who have appeared in every Halloween Simpsons episode since as well as the Halloween-ed opening credits sequence with a spooky version of the theme music.
I think my favorite segment of this episode remains "The Raven". The casting of Bart and Homer as antagonist and narrator (respectively) is inspired and I have always enjoyed the way the James Earl Jones narration interplays with the character voices. Plus, it's a loving and reasonably faithful rendition of Poe's most famous poem.
Subsequent Halloween installments of The Simpsons have become increasingly more elaborate over the years, but without this first episode, we'd not have the enduring "Treehouse of Horror" tradition 30 years later.
4 jack o'lanterns