The Simpsons: “Treehouse of Horror XXXI” Review

Once again following an age old tradition, The Simpsons aired their latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode in November (thank you football), but as Halloween only ended within the last 24  hours, it still feels fitting.

That said, these horror themed Halloween specials sadly remain a shell of their former selves.  There really hasn’t been a strong one in close to 20 years (with the occasional exception like “A Clockwork Yellow”).  So how badly awkward can a series like this get?  Let’s dig in and find out.

It opens with a comforting glimpse of 2021…

“Toy Gory”
Presented in a surrealist 3D animation style similar (which honestly looked better in Homer3 over 20 years ago), this story follows Bart’s toys as they come to life and are horrified by the way he treats them.  Similar to Sid in Toy Story, Bart tortures them, prompting them to take revenge in a legitimately disturbing manner.

Despite the story’s incredibly awkward animation and dialogue (which is hard to tell whether it was intentional or not), its ending shows that there’s at least a semblance of effort and creativity still being put into this series.

“Into the Homer-Verse”
This second story does a great job of demonstrating the specific issue that’s plagued “Treehouse of Horror” episodes of late.  There was a time that each one tried to be a fun and unique scary story.

They were usually, but not always, parodies of some preexisting horror media, but there was always a creativity to it, and it always aimed for horror/thriller territory.  Here we just see a carbon copy of the source material (Into the Spiderverse) but there’s no witty commentary or creativity.

It’s just a gimmicky imitation, similar to the wave of abhorrent spoof movies that plagued the 2000s.  Ultimately, there’s no real narrative or attempt at the type of humor that made them once special.

“Be Nine Rewind”
In a parody of time loop movies such as Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, and Happy Death Day, this story sees Lisa repeating her 9th birthday over and over.

Much like the previous “Homer-verse”, this story just feels like a random imitation that doesn’t know how to parody it.  Then it just sort of ends randomly without any real payoff or purpose, which sort of feels like a metaphor for the entire series now.

It’s sad really, I remember growing up on this show and it really helped shape my sense of humor.  And it’s honestly a mystery as to how it’s still on the air all these years later, as hardly anyone I know still regularly watches it.

Like so many, I tuned out over 15 years ago, only ever returning for the “Treehouse of Horror” tradition every year.  And there hasn’t been a truly satisfying one in a long time…

The end credits even play over a montage of images from earlier “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, as if the series is admitting they were better back then.

What did you think of “Treehouse of Horror XXXI”?  Which one is your all-time favorite?  Let us know in the comments!

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