1. “Clown Without Pity” (“Treehouse of Horror III”)
While “Clown Without Pity” is largely based on The Twilight Zone episode “Living Doll,” which Matheson did not write, it also owes a huge debt to Matheson’s short story “Prey,” which was adapted into the “Amelia” section of the three-part made-for-TV movie Trilogy of Terror. The Krusty doll’s razor-sharp teeth, the bathtub scene, and Homer trying to dispose of the doll in a suitcase are all lifted from the story and Matheson’s film adaptation.
2. “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombies” (“Treehouse of Horror III”)
In that same episode, The Simpsons did a zombie parody with several nods to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. But the overall story of a global plague turning humans into monsters has its roots in Matheson’s I Am Legend, which Romero cited as a major inspiration. Some say Romero’s film is also visually inspired by The Last Man on Earth, an adaptation of Matheson’s groundbreaking novel.
3. “Terror at 5 1/2 Feet” (“Treehouse of Horror IV”)
The entire segment, from the title to the plot, is based on Matheson’s classic Twilight Zone episode (and short story of the same name) “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” While the design of the gremlin has changed — it was a little silly on The Twilight Zone, if we’re being honest — the overall plot is the same. Like Bob Wilson on the airplane, Bart sees a destructive gremlin on the side of the bus and can’t get anyone to believe him.
4. “Homer3” (“Treehouse of Horror VI”)
You might have been too distracted by the computer animation to realize that Homer’s journey to another dimension is modeled after the Twilight Zone episode “Little Girl Lost,” adapted by Matheson from one of his short stories. The little girl in this case is Homer, but the disappearance through the wall of a room, the scientist’s explanation, and the rescue attempt are all direct references to the Twilight Zone episode.
5. “The Homega Man” (“Treehouse of Horror VIII”)
Here’s another episode where the title makes the parody clear: the ’70s film The Omega Man was the second adaptation of Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. The Simpsons version owes more to the Charlton Heston movie than to the original source material, what with the vampires changed to albino mutants. But again, the story of being the last man on earth and fending off monsters is Matheson’s.
6. “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot”
Surprisingly enough, this non-Halloween Simpsons episode is a fairly direct adaptation of the Matheson story “Steel,” which was also the basis for a Twilight Zone episode and the film Real Steel. In the episode, Homer pretends to be a robot to fight against other robots — and just as in Matheson’s original story, he’s no match for the high-tech killing machines.
BONUS: Family Guy’s “The Splendid Source”
Insert joke about Family Guy ripping off The Simpsons here. But yes, FOX’s other long-running animated sitcom did a Matheson adaptation with the episode “The Splendid Source,” based on his short story of the same name. The plot is actually identical, with the characters searching for the origin of the world’s dirty jokes.
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