SPOILERS, as if it needed to be said
Man, this year's Treehouse of Horror event was really under-promoted. However, when I did finally see a promo and a promotional image for it, I was a bit hyped. This was primarily for two reasons. One was that A Clockwork Orange, a favorite film of mine, was set to be parodied with Moe and the barflies in the roles of Alex DeLarge and his droogs. And the other was the parody of The Others, which would have the current Simpson Family haunted by ghosts of their former Tracey Ullman show counterparts. Both of these, along with the premise of Bart and Lisa ending up in Hell's equivalent of their school, managed to keep me focused. So, I gave "Treehouse of Horror XXV" a look, and...
It begins with a very short and very stupid "gag", that's all there is to it. Really, it's just a setup by Kang and Kodos to a bunch of celebrities being mauled and broken apart to form the episode's title, in a very poor awards show parody. This type of macabre gag was done better in "Treehouse of Horror XIII" wherein Marge formed the title of the episode out of the remains of the FOX show character icons that kept interrupting her. There, the gag worked. Here, it's just lazy. Then again, after the epic Guillermo del Toro-produced intro of last year's special, maybe they felt they shouldn't bother. But I still call this out for being the lazy crap it is, even with the clips from previous ToH specials.
School in Hell
Bart is once again in detention, this time for putting cement in the sandbox and spreading a rumor that a naked lady would be serving lunch. While passing the time, he encounters a desk with runes carved into it. With help from Lisa and an app (of course), they discover that the runes are a portal to Hell. Or more specifically, a portal into Hell's counterpart to their school. Being the little hellion he is, Bart really fits in, and Homer and Marge become proud of their son as he's truly excelling in such an environment.
Overall, this segment is actually pretty decent, especially in keeping focus with Bart as the little troublemaker her is. Naturally, he aces his courses in Hell, with some pretty decent dark humor gags here and there. For example, "long division" in Hell is Bart chopping a Hans Moleman-like resident in half after stretching him on a rack. And then there's just seeing Bart's darkly creative ideas, such as the implementation of a fan that is blown by an eternal damnee's screaming that feeds more piranhas to feed on their skin. Of course, what really sells it is the episode's dark parody of the lackluster student proving his worth. Homer and Marge receive a report card with straight A's marked in flame. Bart asks them earnestly if he can "go to Hell". And, to top it all off, there's a darkly heartwarming conclusion where Homer helps Bart ace his final test-which consists of being beaten horrifically. I have to admit, the blend of dark humor (that actually works) and familial care made this segment pretty decent.
I also liked the variety of demonic designs in the hellish otherworld. Skinner and Chalmers' evil twinners are a conjoined entity, with Chalmers' head resembling a bull (with a darkly humorous bit where Demon Chalmers commands Skinner, "SKIN...him", resulting in Bart's skin being ripped off). The facade of the school has some nice touches, with fleshy walls, a demonic mouth forming the entrance, and, of course, a constantly aflame structure. Really, it was just cool to see the demons in various shapes and forms, instead of all just looking like a bunch of clones of previous designs. Also, the cameo of the Ironic Punishment Division's Donut Torture machine from "Treehouse of Horror IV" was just nice. As was how the portal back to Earth was, of course, in Mr. Burns' office.
Also, I love how instead of the expected big, fiery portal, Bart and Lisa are dragged into Hell by a massive and freaky fiery hand. The sequence is actually pretty well-done, and even a bit scary when it just throws itself out and snatches them. With an awesome touch of humor when it pulls the fire alarm on its way out.
A Clockwork Yellow
My Nadsat's rusty, so don't expect much of it here. But Moe DeLarge and his droogs hang out in the iconic moloko bar until Dum (Homer, playing a parody of Dim) falls for an English counterpart of Marge. He gives up the droog life for her, and Moe is disposed by his fellow droogs when they see it as a sign of weakness. By throwing him out of Big Ben's tower, no less-because it's British. Eventually, Moe grows out of this existence and becomes a harmless citizen, until his apartment is invaded by a gang of similar droogs made of Nelson and his cronies. This prompts Moe to reunite his gang and cause havoc...which eventually leads to a showdown at Mr. Burns' estate.
As a fan of A Clockwork Orange, I freaking loved this segment. They perform hilarious subversions of the original film's iconic scenes. Instead of the "ol' in and out" being what you'd expect, it's them jumping in and out of the Kwik-E-Mart via the automatic doors. Homer as Dum parodies the sped-up sequence of Alex taking the girls home for the aforementioned "ol' in and out", wherein he just eats a lot as Marge's character gets more and more bored. Initially, I was a bit concerned when the parody seemed to cut short with Moe's shift to normal civilianhood (a reference to Alex's seeming change at the end of the book), until he gets beaten by Nelson and the bullies taking up the mantle. I have to admit, the desperate attempt for the grown Moe, Homer, Lenny, and Carl to reclaim their original droog life was a bit amusing, such as how the slow walk to the camera was cut short by Homer failing to keep up. And hey, it was darkly adorable and awesome to see Maggie once again take Alex's iconic garb, akin to the ending gag of "Master and Cadaver" from "Treehouse of Horror XXI", and expand it a bit, beating up her poor teddy. Plus, I can appreciate the irony in the Alex of before getting his ass kicked by an Alex of today, in a manner very similar to Alex and his droog's attack on the spinster, complete with getting smashed in the head by a statuette.
Although, admittedly, the segment mostly works if you're a fan of Kubrick's films, or are at least familiar with them. The aforementioned showdown at Mr. Burns' estate? It's the costumed orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut, a film...I'm admittedly not fond of, even after hearing Doug Walker's well-explained take on it. So, naturally, there was a bit of awesomeness in seeing what essentially amounted to one Kubrick film I liked duke it out with one Kubrick film I didn't. And from there, we get more Kubrick references, from the monolith of 2001 making a sudden (and rather tiny) appearance...as someone's misplaced iPhone, to Moe briefly coming across "Gomer Pyle" from the infamous suicide scene in Full Metal Jacket when he discovers the bathroom. Even Barry Lyndon gets a gag in with Comic Book Guy engaging in a pistol duel, and getting his leg shot off. Really, as a fan of a few of Kubrick's works, I was happy to see the worlds of his films come into play. Even if there was a gross bit of fan disservice with Mr. Burns wearing nothing but two masks, one thankfully covering himself. Still, A Clockwork Orange vs. Eyes Wide Shut. Pretty good, if I may say so myself.
As for that final gag...well, the meta bit with Kubrick himself appearing and stating that he wants the whole segment, which is a film within the story, to be rewritten was...meh. Honestly, I would have liked it if they had just ended it with Moe blissfully enjoying the fight, even as he's getting his ass kicked. Although, I will admit it was kinda funny to watch Kubrick toss a pen in the air, a la the flying bone of 2001, and have it come down on his head, with a completely blase reaction to it.
This was the segment I'm sure many were wanting to see, as much as I was. In a parody of The Others, the Simpsons discover that their house is haunted. After some strange occurrences, the Simpsons discover that the house is haunted...by themselves. Or more accurately, their incarnations from the Tracey Ullman show shorts. Things get pretty awry when TU Marge becomes smitten with the less abrasive Present Day Homer, something that Present Day Marge and TU Homer don't care much for. After some, ugh, "shenanigans", both Simpson families are now ghosts. And they decide to make the best of it, ending with a photo gag of twisted proportions.
Sad to say, this was a wasted opportunity. Granted, it started out decently, with nice little touches. For example, their second clue of the haunting is the unexplained appearance of frosty chocolate milkshakes on the kitchen table, referencing TU Homer's catchphrase of "Let's all go out for frosty chocolate milkshakes!" And then, there's how the TV has nothing but episodes of Married...with Children on it, giving an idea of how dated the whole thing is. I even laughed at the mirror gag when Homer wrote a response of "NO!!!" to the manifested "HELP ME!", only to then be criticized for being a excessive with three exclamation points. And when the families encounter, there's a little bit of humor when it's apparent just how dated the originals are, but from there, it just blows it. I mean, the two families really don't interact and/or play off each other, save for TU Marge getting the hots for Present Day Homer. That gag really led nowhere, especially since it ended just as abruptly when the families reconciled. It's sad, too. One of my favorite couch gags involved the present day Simpsons running into their TU selves, and then both parties running away screaming. I expected a scenario like that to go down. Not this...awkward sorta-love...thing...with the kids barely interacting with their counterparts, very few gags of their contrasting selves being brought up, and said awkward sorta-love thing being pointless in the end.
And, really, there's just the fact that most of the segment is pretty much a long and uncomfortable (and unfunny) murder/suicide joke. As you guys know, I am not fond of suicide being made light of, so having Marge decide to clean the oven as she killed herself on the fumes was just stupid and uncomfortable. There was a little bit of dark humor with Present Day Homer noting that he smells toast as TU Homer beats him to death with it, but that was about it. And then Willie coming out of nowhere to murder Maggie and take the kids' corpses for his "winter stew" was just WTF. And then, there's the appearance of Dr. Marvin Monroe...for the sake of lampshading how the character has a flip-floppy living status in the world of The Simpsons. You know what would have been great? If both Simpson families turned to him for therapy, and it turned into a revisit to that classic gag of the Simpsons outright fighting one another, but this time, with their past selves. But no, the segment really blows it. It was just a letdown, especially after two decent segments that preceded it. What a waste.
Also, was the gag about having other incarnations of The Simpsons really necessary? I mean, sure, it was kinda funny to see versions of them from other materials, such as that weird French animation couch gag take and their LEGO counterparts from "Brick Like Me". But, honestly, it just felt like padding so they could make a cheap joke to finish out the segment. More laziness? Damn.
And, come to think of it, it wasn't even really a parody of The Others, anyway. What a crock.
There are signs of improvement in the first two segments, but the intro was a waste of time, and the last segment was a wasted opportunity. I suppose the latter could be blamed on the shortened running time, but it really feels like they couldn't make a decent concept with it. Overall, I feel a mix of pleasure and disappointment with this year's special. I'm glad the segment parodying A Clockwork Orange was good, but it really sucks the encounter between past and present Simpsons was improperly executed. Ah well, I take them as they come. And may they be better next time.
FINAL GRADE: C