Despite the look of its title, Treehouse of Horror XXX — airing Sunday, Oct. 20 at 8ET/PT — is not a special adult episode of The Simpsons (or rather, it’s not more adult than the 29 other Halloween specials that came before it). It is, however, episode 666 for the show overall, which is a staggering coincidence given that the adult animation groundbreaker is on Season 31. Not even a Ouji board could have seen this coming in advance.
In any event, it’s another fun, surprising and occasionally gross entry in The Simpsons’ extensive horror cannon. With most Treehouse of Horror episodes split into three segments, the show has parodied nearly every scary movie franchise — along with horror-adjacent properties like Harry Potter and Twilight — so it’s always fun to see what IP the show will slice up next.
After opening with a great homage to The Omen, the episode sets it sights on Stranger Things, Netflix’s ‘80s-set horror/ sci-fi hit. Parodies are generally better the less you know going in, but we will say that Milhouse is the perfect stand-in for Barb, in part because Barb was basically a female Milhouse.
The next segment riffs on the 1978 Warren Beatty movie Heaven Can Wait, which is honestly a pretty deep cut to be referencing at this stage in the game. Nevertheless, it might be the funniest of the episode’s three segments, perhaps because audience isn’t as familiar with the film’s odd premise.
The final segment is a play on Guillermo del Toro’s Best-Picture-winning The Shape of Water. Selma fills the role of the lonely woman who falls for a mysterious green creature and, because this is a Treehouse of Horror episode, that creature is Kang the alien. Their courtship may not be as cathartic as the love story in The Shape of Water, but episodes where Selma falls for a new suitor have been among the best in The Simpsons’ cannon (here’s to you Troy McClure, who you may remember from classic episodes like “A Fish Called Selma” and “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular”).
The latest entry in the Treehouse of Horror series should scare up plenty of laughs for both longtime Simpsons fans as well as those more interested in the titles the show is parodying. Just keep in mind that, even if it’s not XXX, this episode is for adults.
Watch The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXX Sunday, Oct. 22 at 8ET/PT on FOX (in select markets).