A Comprehensive Guide to All the Horror References in Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Simpsons’ Opening
By now, you may have already seen Guillermo del Toro‘s epic, guest-directed opening for the next Halloween-themed episode of ‘The Simpsons.’ But have you really seen it? The three-minute opening is as dense with jokes, sight gags and movie references as anything we’ve ever seen, so multiple viewings isn’t an option — it’s a necessity.
Some of the characters and visuals del Toro pulls out are obvious. Some are references to films that only a tiny fraction of the ‘Simpsons’ audience would have heard of. However, they all feel like they come from the heart of a true horror geek and genre aficionado. del Toro getting three minutes to cram as many things that he loves into the world of ‘The Simpsons’ is one of the coolest and craziest things to happen to the show in a decade.
We went through the footage and pulled out some of the best, craziest and deepest references. But we know the truth: we’re still missing a bunch of ‘em. Check out what we found and help us fill in the gaps in the comments below!
We'll start with the obvious, but it's only going to get more obscure from here...
Jaeger vs. Kaiju in Springfield
Hidden in the back of the opening view of Springfield, we see a Jaeger and a Kaiju from del Toro's 'Pacific Rim' doing battle.
Chief Wiggum as Ray Harryhausen's Cyclops
After a zombie-centric opening barrage, we are are treated to our first truly geeky reference: Chief Wiggum re-imagined as the cyclops from stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen's iconic 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.'
Alfred Hitchcock and 'The Birds'
Mrs. Krabappel sits on a park bench next to "master of terror" Alfred Hitchock, surrounded by the winged menaces from the great filmmaker's 'The Birds.'
Bart Does 'The Shining'
For the blackboard gag, Bart scrawls Jack Nicholson's famous "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" from Stanley Kubrick's iconic adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Shining.'
And wouldn't you know it? Here's Stephen King himself!
Groundskeeper Willie as 'Hellboy'
del Toro isn't shy about slipping in references to his own work among everything else, so we get to see Groundskeeper Willie as the red-skinned demonic superhero Hellboy, who does battle with the mummified Nazi assassin Kroenen (as seen in 'Hellboy,' of course).
Homer as a Reaper
After the plutonium rod lands on his hazmat suit, Homer turns into one of the reapers from 'Blade II' and...
Carl as 'Blade'
After exposure to radiation transforms Homer into one of of the "reaper" vampires from 'Blade II,' it falls to the normally mild-mannered Carl to put on Wesley's Snipes' vampire-killing costume and get to work.
As the camera passes through the ground, we see Godzilla's skeleton...
Mr. Burns as The Pale Man From 'Pan's Labyrinth'
In one of the most clever gags, Mr. Burns is cast as the terrifying Pale Man from del Toro's 'Pan's Labyrinth' and the ever-doteful Smithers is the fairy in charge of keeping his eyes clean.
His service is not rewarded.
Maggis and the Device From 'Cronos'
In another reference to his own films, del Toro slips the mysterious vampiric device from 'Cronos' into the grocery store checkout alongside Maggie.
The Phantoms of the Opera
Instead of an elementary school band, Lisa performs alongside four versions of the Phantom from four different versions of 'The Phantom of the Opera.' The only notable version missing is Robert Englund's skin-wearing version (Fox probably drew the line somewhere).
...and the 'Phantom of the Paradise'
In one of the opening's deepest film geek cuts, the various Phantoms are being conducted by the title character from Brian De Palma's hilarious and bizarre cult classic, 'The Phantom of the Paradise.'
The Great Old One, Cthulhu
Although the great space god known as Cthulhu has never really gotten his due on screen (he would have if del Toro's 'At the Mountains of Madness' got made), he remains one of the horror genre's towering icons. Here, Bart Simpson skateboards across his tentacles.
Late, Great Genre Authors, Part One
In one of the more subtle and touching tributes, Bart skateboards past a line-up of some of the greatest horror, sci-fi and fantasy writers of all time (and their creations).
First, there's legendary "weird fiction" writer H.P. Lovecraft, sharing a cup of tea with Cthulhu. Right past him is Edgar Allan Poe (no introduction required), who has a moment with a three-eyed raven.
Late, Great Genre Authors Part Two
Further down the line is the massively influential sci-fi scribe Ray Bradbury, who applies additional ink to the title character from his story anthology 'The Illustrated Man.' Finally, there's author and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who stands next to one of the mutants from 'The Omega Man,' which was based on his novel 'I Am Legend.'
The Universal Monsters
del Toro is an admitted Universal monsters fanboy, so their inclusion is no surprise. However, he cleverly inverts the usual formula: Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and the rest wield torches and pitchforks as they chase the citizens of Springfield out of town.
Also tucked into this crowd is the mutant from 'This Island Earth,' for some reason.
Maggie Simpson in 'The Car'
In perhaps the most obscure reference of the entire opening, Maggie Simpson finds herself behind the wheel of the evil automobile from the beloved B-movie camp classic, 'The Car.'
It feels like everything del Toro couldn't fit into the rest of the opening got squeezed into this fast and impossible dense panning shot. In the frame below, you can see Rod Serling, Harryhausen skeletons, the B-9 robot from 'Lost in Space,' the Hitchcock silhouette, a 'Alien' xenomorph, Lon Chaney in 'London After Midnight,' the elemental creature from 'Hellboy II: The Golden Army' and more.
Everything Else! Part 2!
In the frame below, you can see the creature from 'Robot Monster,' Gort and his UFO from the original 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' Schlitzie and Johnny Eck from 'Freaks,' the aliens from 'Invasion of the Saucermen,' the title monster from 'The Thing From Another World,' The Fly and the legendary 'Nosferatu.'
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Is that the creature from '20 Million Miles to Earth'?
'The Devil's Backbone' and 'Mimic'
In the iconic couch shot, Homer is re-imagined as the ghost from del Toro's 'The Devil's Backbone' and Marge as one of the "Judas Breed" cockroaches from 'Mimic.'
Lisa in Wonderland
In one of the more obvious references, Lisa stands in for Alice as she falls down the rabbit hole.
What is initially a cute 'Futurama' callback actually reveals itself to be something a little deeper with a single cut. That's not just the always-welcome Hypnotoad, that's supposed to be the large, grotesque toad from 'Pan's Labyrinth.' We know this because...
Lisa in 'Pan's Labyrinth'
...well, here we are at the climax of 'Pan's Labyrinth.' The transition from 'Alice in Wonderland' to this fantasy/horror classic should please anyone who cherishes thematic connections.
And Finally, Bart as Pan
There's something hugely appropriate about casting Bart as a satyr, huh?