The Simpsons is legendary for its "couch gags," which open every episode with a new joke as the Simpson family sits down in front of the television. But the show has really outdone itself for this Sunday's Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror XXIV." In tribute to the holiday, The Simpsons invited director Guillermo del Toro to direct the opening sequence —and the three-minute video he turned in is a long, loving tribute to a century of horror classics.
The extended introduction is so laden with references that even the most dedicated horror fan would probably have to watch it a dozen times to catch them all. As each member of the Simpson family takes his or her circuitous route back to their couch on Evergreen Terrace, supporting characters like Ralph Wiggum, Edna Krabappel, and Milhouse Van Houten end up on the chopping block. Along the way, keep an eye out for nods to everything from The Birds to The Shining to del Toro's own films like Hellboy, Blade II, and Pan's Labyrinth.
The "Treehouse of Horror" episodes have been a staple of The Simpsons since its second season aired in 1990. The annual Halloween special breaks the show's usual format by dividing each episode into three smaller stories that don't take place in The Simpsons' regular continuity — a decision that gives the writers free rein to invent outlandish scenarios and kill off whichever characters they want. With 23 episodes behind them, it's clear that the show's writers are running low on horror movies to parody — this year's entry opens with a riff on Dr. Seuss — but at least its introduction offers a perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit.