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For almost 25 years now, October has meant the arrival of another Halloween episode of "The Simpsons" that puts America's favorite yellow family in the center of classic horror stories. And for this year's "Treehouse of Horror XXIV," the show's iconic opening has gotten bigger and more film-nerdy than ever, thanks to a "couch gag" from director (and die-hard "Simpsons" nut) Guillermo del Toro.
The episode airs this Sunday, but the opening scene has already gone viral. The nearly three-minute-long sequence is packed with references to scary movies throughout film history. Originally approached by Fox to record a voice role or design a couch gag for the latest "Treehouse of Horror," del Toro opted to embrace the "Go Big or Go Extinct" philosophy of his most recent film, "Pacific Rim," and do a complete horror-movie rehaul of the entire opening credits sequence.
Watch the Opening of 'Treehouse of Horror XXIV':
"'The Simpsons' titles are so iconic and yet they've never been riffed in this vein," said del Toro in an interview with Entertainment Weekly's Inside TV. "I really wanted to land the connections between the [show's] set pieces and the titles and some of the most iconic horror movies, and intersperse them with some of my stuff in there for pure joy."
While imagery from del Toro's own films such as "Pacific Rim," "Mimic" and "Cronos" might seem a bit incongruous alongside nods to classic horror films such as "The Birds" and "Frankenstein," the mix does make for a unique visual experience that is unmistakably the work of the celebrated geek auteur. Below you'll find a detailed guide of who's who and what's what in the title sequence.
0:07 - Zombies attack the nuclear power plant! The military strikes back, like in "Day of the Dead" (1985) and "World War Z" (2013), aiming, of course, for the brains.
0:14 - Look fast for a Jaeger vs. Kaiju fight from del Toro's "Pacific Rim" (2013) in the background after the skeleton of the giant three-eyed crow hits the ground.
0:21 - The Lard Lad of Donut Land comes to life as a reference to a story from the "Treehouse of Horror VI" episode, but this time Chief Wiggum — as the one-eyed, one-horned, cloven-hooved Cyclops from "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963) — dunks and eats him.
0:30 - Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance, and Ms. Krabappel plays the Tippi Hendren part in an homage to "The Birds" (1963).
0:36 - Bart channels Jack Torrance from "The Shining" (1980) ... as does the guy who wrote the book (and previous "Simpsons" guest star), Stephen King.
0:45 - Groundskeeper Willie is decked out as the title character from del Toro's "Hellboy" (2004), and he fights one of that film's villains, Kroenen.
0:54 - Homer turns into a Reaper, a split-jawed mutant vampire, from del Toro's "Blade II" (2002). Luckily, Carl quick-changes into Blade himself, complete with Wesley Snipes' mustache and flat-top, and gives chase.
1:03 - Look fast for Matt Groening's original designs for "The Simpsons" from "The Tracey Ullman Show" buried underground, as well as the skeleton of Godzilla.
1:09 - Mr. Burns is reimagined as the Pale Man from del Toro's Oscar-winning "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006), which ends up being unfortunate for the pixie Smithers.
1:19 - Major geek points here as Maggie rides on the grocery checkout belt with scarabs from del Toro's first independent feature, "Cronos" (1993).
1:21 - Minor geek points here as things get buggy with references to del Toro's second film, "Mimic" (1997), with Marge as a giant cockroach.
1:27 - Lisa gets musical with several different film incarnations of "The Phantom of the Opera," including Brian De Palma's glam-rock "Phantom of the Paradise" (1974).
1:36 - The giant vines might be a reference to del Toro's "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" (2008), but soon they're revealed to be the tentacles of mighty Cthulhu. Del Toro is a huge fan of author H.P. Lovecraft and was planning to do a big-screen adaptation of "In the Mountains of Madness" before the studio backed out.
1:42 - A drive-by of notable horror authors, including Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury (with his creation "The Illustrated Man") and Richard Matheson (with a vampire from "The Omega Man," the 1971 adaptation of his novella, "I Am Legend").
1:47 - The Universal monsters (Dracula, the Creature from "Frankenstein," the Wolf Man, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and the alien from "It Came From Outer Space") chase after the lynch mob from "Frankenstein" (1931).
1:59 - Maggie terrorizes Milhouse behind the wheel of the evil 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III from "The Car" (1977), which del Toro called, "one of my favorite guilty pleasure B-movies."
2:05 - Time to play "Where's Waldo: The Sci-Fi/Horror Edition." As the camera pans by, look fast for:
- Count Orlok from "Nosferatu" (1922)
- the skeletons from "Jason and the Argonauts" (1963)
- the robot from "Lost in Space" (1965)
- the xenomorph from "Alien" (1979)
- Gort the robot from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)
- the aliens from "Invasion of the Saucer Men" (1957)
- the alien from "The Thing From Another World" (1951)
- poor Andre Delambre from the original "The Fly" (1958)
- Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 from "Robot Monster" (1953)
- Lon Chaney in "London After Midnight" (1927)
- some of Tod Browning's "Freaks" (1932)
2:16 - Homer is suddenly a pale-skinned ghost with a smoking head from del Toro's "The Devil's Backbone" (2001).
2:21 - Lisa falls down the rabbit hole of "Alice in Wonderland" ...
2:24 - ... and lands next to the Hypnotoad from "Futurama" ...
2:25 - ... and the family recreates the final scene of "Pan's Labyrinth."
"Treehouse of Horror XXIV" airs on Sunday at 8PM on FOX.