How Creepshow Resurrected The Simpsons’ Secret Stephen King Parody


Shudder’s Creepshow adapted Stephen King’s disturbing “Survivor Type” — believe it or not, the tale has already been adapted before by The Simpsons.

Shudder’s Creepshow Halloween special saw the series mounting an animated adaptation of Stephen King’s grisly desert island set horror story, “Survivor Type” — believe it or not, that same tale has already been adapted into animation by The Simpsons’ annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials. Iconic horror scribe Stephen King admitted that “Survivor Type” was a little too much – even by the horror legend’s gory standards – but that hasn’t deterred the creators of both Shudder’s Creepshow and The Simpsons from taking on the dark tale in an animated format.

Stephen King’s work was already famously spoofed by The Simpsons in the classic “Treehouse of Horror” segment “The Shinning”, a shot-for-shot recreation of Kubrick’s famous 1980 movie. “The Shinning” bounced between loving homage and savage parody just as much as The Simpsons’ Scorsese spoof, “Cape Feare”. That said, even dedicated fans of King’s may be surprised to discover that The Simpsons did another lesser-known parody of the iconic horror writer’s output. The Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” series has fallen out of favor with critics in recent years, but occasionally a stray segment from the Halloween specials will win some critical acclaim, which is exactly what happened with XXVIII’s third segment, the unexpectedly gruesome, “Mmm… Homer”.

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Related: Every Time The Simpsons Brought Characters Back From The Dead

Many viewers may not know that this gruesome, critically-acclaimed skit is based on one of King’s grislier stories. The short, which sees Homer attempt to eat himself when left alone at home with no other food options available is an unofficial parody of “Survivor Type”, a story from the iconic horror author’s 1984 short story collection, Skeleton Crew. The gruesome tale sees a doctor stranded on a desert island; he’s forced to eat his own body bit-by-painful-bit for sustenance when he runs out of seagulls. “Survivor Type” saw new life again with another, more faithful animated adaptation – an official, non-comedic one, this time – in Shudder’s Creepshow special. This isn’t peculiar, as Creepshow fully embraces its horror sensibilities, but what made The Simpsons decide to adapt a story that is so gross, even King himself found its content hard to stomach?

The Story of “Survivor Type”

Creepshow Animated Special Poster Cropped

Released in 1985, Skeleton Crew remains one of Stephen King’s most critically lauded collections of short stories. Where the earlier Night Shift was a shorter collection filled with stories that were later adapted into movies such as Children of the Corn and 1995’s Tobe Hooper flop, The Mangler, Skeleton Crew was a larger collection. Skeleton Crew featured stories that were mostly adapted into standalone installments of ’80s reboot – and frequent “Treehouse of Horror” inspiration – The New Twilight Zone and the King-produced Tales From the Darkside. The collection included the novella The Mist, which was famously adapted into director Frank Darabont’s devastating 2007 horror movie of the same name. Recent interest in King’s work has led It director Andy Muschietti to announce an adaptation of Skeleton Crew’s creepy sci-fi story, “The Jaunt”, as well.

A story which was too gory for an ’80s TV adaptation and too brief to sustain a movie adaptation, “Survivor Type” tells the gruesome tale of an addicted doctor whose drug problem has, through some unfortunate luck, left him stranded alone on a desert island after a plane crash. Like the later cannibal horror movie, We Are What We Are, it’s a harrowing, darkly comic, and occasionally terrifying story that features some graphic acts of self-cannibalism by its conclusion, prompting the famously unshakeable horror author to admit the story goes too far. It’s for this reason, as well as the obvious difficulty of convincingly filming the gruesome content, that “Survivor Type” has never been made into a movie outside of a few Dollar Baby short story adaptations by King fans.

The Simpsons’ Unofficial “Survivor Type” Tribute

In 2017, The Simpsons released “Treehouse of Horror XXVIII”, the 28th installment of the anarchic cartoon comedy’s annual Halloween specials. Like all “Treehouse of Horrors”, which frequently kill off the eponymous Simpsons, the special was a non-canon outing that parodied Coraline, The Exorcist, and bizarrely, “Survivor Type”. This being The Simpsons, their version of events is a bit different from King’s original story. For one thing, it’s Homer doing the self-cannibalizing. For another, he does have other food available to him — he’d just prefer to eat himself rather than vegetables or lunch with Flanders. Finally, the segment is set in the family’s Springfield home rather than on a desert island. Despite all these goofy comedic additions, “Mmm… Homer” remains a surprisingly gory and not-that-inaccurate adaptation of the story. It even won some considerable critical acclaim upon release for proving that The Simpsons can still surprise fans and push boundaries — all it needs is some gruesome inspiration.

Related: Why The Simpsons’ Halloween Specials Are Called “Treehouse of Horrors”

Stephen King’s Creepshow Contributions

Creepshow Animated Halloween Special Shudder Stephen King Joe Hill

The animated adaptation of “Survivor Type” included in Creepshow‘s Halloween special will likely skew a lot closer to the original text than “Mmm… Homer”. It’s the latest contribution King has made to the Creepshow franchise, with his son and occasional co-author Joe Hill, of NOS4A2 fame, providing the special’s second story. The Shudder series is a pet project of the horror author, as King co-created the original Creepshow movies in the ’80s in a collaboration with George A Romero. King and Romero went on to collaborate numerous times throughout the 1980s. Stephen King wore a lot of hats during the creation of Creepshow, even lending his acting talent in the original movie’s short, “The Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill”, where he played the title role. King also wrote all five segments of the anthology horror. Similarly, King provided the stories for the movie’s underrated first sequel, Creepshow 2, with standout segment, “The Raft”, being adapted directly from a Skeleton Crew story of the same name.

Like Romero, he had no involvement with the critically reviled Creepshow 3 which surfaced in 2006, but King did return to the franchise to provide Shudder’s Creepshow series with its first story, “Grey Matter”. A huge fan of the EC Comics from the ’50s, King’s writing ensured that the Creepshow series held on to the campy, darkly comic tone that the movies – and now TV series – are now famous for. Though strange that such a dark story influenced The Simpsons as well, this style of storytelling went on to inspire everything from Tales From the Crypt to the recent glut of popular anthology horror movies and television series. When it comes to horror, Stephen King is king for a reason, and will continue to inspire – perhaps even unexpected sources – for years to come.

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Updated: November 4, 2020 — 11:30 pm

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