How 'The 'Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" Tradition Has Changed, Especially This Halloween

Halloween is approaching once again, which means many things for the general populace. Winter jackets start to become necessary, you're subjected to all pumpkin everything, and most importantly, there is a new "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons! Every year, the show drops all ties to "reality" and "canonical writing," instead using the characters to tell wacky, horror-themed stories that often end up being as genuinely unsettling as they are hilarious. The Simpsons has tackled everything from The Shining to I Know What You Did Last Summer, and many other horror classics in previous installments. However, this year, The Simpsons switched up its formula in a big way by having not one, but two Halloween episodes.

What's even more interesting is that the first of these two Season 27 Halloween episodes was not a "Treehouse of Horror" episode. Instead "Halloween of Horror," which aired on Oct. 18, was a real Simpsons story that just happened to take place on Halloween, while "Treehouse of Horror XXVI" will premiere on Sunday, Oct. 25. This is the biggest divergence from the winning formula that The Simpsons has been using for the past 26 installments of "Treehouse of Horror." What other changes have The Simpsons writers made to this fall tradition over time? Here's how the beloved series of episodes has shifted.

No More Storytime

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Nowadays, "Treehouse of Horror" episodes waste no time by getting right into the terrifying tales that the Simpsons characters have woven, but in the early episodes each episode started and began with the family sitting around and telling stories. In fact, the "Treehouse" of the title comes from the very first episode, in which Bart and Lisa sat in the treehouse told each other scary stories about haunted houses, aliens, and "The Raven."

They've Parodied Everything

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The very first episode of "Treehouse of Horror" was very broad, covering the basic tropes of respected horror genres. However, as time has gone on, the focus of the episodes has gotten more specific. They've parodied directors (Alfred Hitchcock), historical events (Salem Witch Trials), classic films (The Blob), poetry (Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven"), musicals (Sweeney Todd), and just about everything else scary that has ever happened. While they've parodied everything from the most popular stories to the cultiest of cult classics, now that the "Treehouse of Horror" series specializes in homages, it always tries to flip your expectations of what is scary.

They Got Real

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The Simpsons' most recent Halloween episode, "Halloween of Horror," which could be considered a spinoff episode, flipped the script on the entire run of "Treehouse of Horror." The beginning of the episode makes a joke about "telling stories" next week, before going on to deliver a regular episode that just happens to be set on Halloween. Despite having to remain realistic, The Simpsons managed to create an episode that was just as scary as some of the more terrifying "Treehouse of Horror" segments. When Homer and Lisa are being stalked by a collection of vindictive Halloween store workers, the show manages to frighten the audience no by creating some wickedly sinister-looking animated concoction, but by putting the beloved Lisa in actual danger, and showing her and Homer feeling genuinely frightened. The only thing to really fear is fear itself, and The Simpsons writers know how to use that to maximum effect.

"Treehouse of Horror XXVII" is approaching, and it'll be such a delight to see what modern and classic horror tropes the writers decide to tackle, and if The Simpsons shakes things up this year — especially now that it has another Halloween episode to top.

Images: FOX; Giphy (4)