The ‘Burbs

Back before Forrest Gump, before Cast Away, Tom Hanks was funny. I’m talking about the Tom Hanks of the ‘80’s. The cross dressing Tom Hanks from “Bosom Buddies”, the Donkey Show Tom Hanks from “Bachelor Party”, and the trapped in a carpet in a hole in the floor Tom Hanks from “The Money Pit.” In 1989 he’s the paranoid suburbanite Tom Hanks in the dark comedy classic “The ‘Burbs” directed by the mighty Joe “Gremlins” Dante.

Ray Peterson (Hanks) just wants to spend his week off from work drinking a few hundred beers and smoking the occasional cigar. His wife Carol (Princess Leia) wants him to spend his vacation at a lake cabin with his family. Ray makes the smart choice and decides to hang around the house during his time off.

The Petersons live in a cul-de-sac with some unusual neighbors. There’s Rumsfeld (Bruce Dern) the military fanatic, Art (Rick Ducommun) the village idiot, Ricky (Corey Feldman) the stoner kid, and the Petersons’ next-door neighbors, the Klopeks, who may just be killing people. When Walter, an old man from the neighborhood, disappears Art gets Ray and Rumsfield all fired up thinking the Klopeks murdered him. The three decide to investigate their neighbor’s activities. Are strange things afoot or are they just paranoid?

Rick Ducommun is hilarious as conspiracy theorist Art Weingartner. He’s like Dale Gribble on crack as he fills Ray’s head full of theories of satanic ritual killings, Pagan ceremonies, and mutilations…..MUTILATIONS! He even causes Ray to have nightmares about being barbecued by the Klopeks while Art chants “Satan is good, Satan is our pal.” Ray is in more denial than Clay Aiken at a topless bar about his neighbors killing people until the wives convince our conspiracy theorists to join them in paying the Klopeks a neighborly house call. Something they should have done two months ago when the Klopeks moved in.

The Klopeks consist of Hans (Courtney Gains), Uncle Rueben (Brother Theodore), and Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson). Hans is a shy, pale teenager who doesn’t look like he’s been out in the daylight for years. Uncle Rueb is tense and gruff and seems annoyed by Tom Hanks and his snooping. Dr. Werner charms the wives while giving out a creepy Dr. Frankenstein type vibe. Carol Peterson makes polite conversation with the Klopeks, until Rumsfeld demands to know what’s hidden in the basement. Ray jumps up to take a piss and a huge Great Dane runs out of the basement and outside to attack Art who is snooping around trying to get a look in the basement windows. Ray thanks the Klopeks for a pleasant visit and they all meet back at Ray’s house.

Ray tells his wife he agrees that there’s nothing wrong with their neighbors and they should be left alone. Then Ray reveals to Art and Rumsfield that he found old man Walter’s toupee hidden in the Klopek’s house. That, and a possible human femur his dog dug up in the Klopek’s yard convince Ray that his neighbors may be up to no good. The next day the Klopeks all leave together to discuss Dr. Klopek being transferred. Then Ray’s wife leaves for the weekend and it’s time for the trio to go over the fence and not come back until they find a dead body.

First order of business is to deactivate the tripwires around the Klopek’s fence, then to dig in the backyard for bodies and check inside the house. Art almost electrocutes himself, but manages to disable the tripwires. Rumsfield watches on his roof with a semi-automatic rifle while Ray and Art dig up the backyard.

Stoner Feldman invites a bunch of his stoner friends over to watch the action unfold. Feldman plays a complete dip shit in this movie (big stretch), but is actually pretty funny and he does sport some sweet old school Vision Street Wear attire and a huge mullet. Throughout the whole movie Feldman obsesses over his neighbors’ activities, at one time stating that “This is better than anything on TV, this is my neighborhood.” He taunts Rumsfield causing him to fall off the roof and shoot out a car window to which the stoners all applaud.

Ray and Art don’t find anything in the backyard and decide to break into the Klopek’s house and dig in the basement. They find some loose dirt under the floor, and sure that they’ve found where Walter is buried, they dig away. Just when they hit something, flash to outside where Walter is arriving home from the hospital. See, Walter was having chest pains and was taken to the hospital unbeknownst to his nosy neighbors. Not hearing Rumsfield’s warnings on the walkie-talkie, Ray hits the gas line with his shovel and the Klopek’s house explodes.

The Klopeks arrive home with the cops in tow and see their house burning to the ground. Ray and Art are ok, but now face criminal charges for vandalism, destruction of property, you name it. Ray is put in an ambulance to be taken to the hospital, when Dr. Werner Klopek appears. Ray begins to apologize to Dr. Klopek for blowing up his house when the Doctor asks, “Do you take me for a fool? You were in the basement and you must have looked in the furnace. You must have seen my skulls.” Yep, turns out the Klopeks ARE killing people and burning up the bodies in their furnace. Dr. Klopek tries to attack Ray with a syringe and the gurney they’re on rolls out the back of the ambulance and down the street. The gurney crashes and Ray puts a citizen’s arrest down on Dr. Klopek’s ass for attempted murder. Feldman smokes a bong and finds a bunch of skulls in the trunk of the Klopek’s car. The cops see this and arrest the Klopeks.

The closing shot is a great pan out as we see Art explaining to news reporters on the scene that suburbanites are fighting back. They’re not going to put up with serial killers in their neighborhoods anymore. Then, squinty-eyed Feldman says into the camera “I love this street.” The camera zooms out to a planet Earth, THE END.

The ‘Burbs is probably the most underrated dark comedy of all time. Sure, it is funny as shit and light hearted in parts, but in the end it’s about a family of serial killers who move from place to place, kill homeowners and live in their house for a few months so Werner Klopek can perform experimental surgery on his victims. Give it a look, maybe there’s a Klopek family on your block.

**This review is of the laserdisc edition of “The ‘Burbs.” Know how you always hear that vinyl has better sound quality and picks up signals that are lost on CD’s and mp3’s? Laserdiscs are the vinyl of movie media.

**”The ‘Burbs Trivia: At one point Ricky (Corey Feldman) asks Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) if he’s ever seen the movie “The Sentinel.” No, not the Michael Douglas political action shitfest from a couple years ago, but the classic horror movie from 1977 starring Chris “Fright Night” Sarandon, Chris “More Cowbell” Walken, and Beverly “I was actually in some pretty good movies outside the Vacation franchise” D’Angelo.

Don’t look behind you……



~ by exploitnation on May 29, 2008.

3 Responses to “The ‘Burbs”

  1. this movie used to make my dick shrivel more than the time my grandfather asked offered to show me how to masturbate.

    as a youth, it creeped the shit out of me. the long, slow drive to the trashcan. the storms and shit. the revelation of the bones.

    the entire movie just had such a fucking strange vibe to it. however, even as a kid though, i always found it hard to believe Hanks had a son in this movie. I always thought of him as so young. When i was a kid, i used to get confused because i would think Fisher was his mom and the kid was his brother.

    Also, i own “The Sentinal” and that is such a wicked film. It has (in my opinion) one of the scariest horror moments ever recorded. And i’m not talking about the D’Angelo masturbation scene. I’m talking about the dark room shot of the father walking by.


  2. Oh man, I love this movie! When Tom Hanks was still funny he was pretty fucking funny. I saw this one when it was released. I was 10 years old and I´d never seen anything like it. I knew that it was supposed to be a comedy but it definitely freaked me out. This is, indeed, a very underrated movie and it is surprisingly dark. Like you mentioned it has a vary strange vibe to it and when I watched it recently I was struck by how much the movie reminded me of Tim Burton´s work. I think it´s safe to say that he´s been influenced by this film.
    The “Satan is good, Satan is our pal” is one of the funniest lines ever. I still crack up when I hear that one.
    I love Joe Dante. He´s one of my favorite directors and it feels good that he´s preparing his return to feature filmmaking with “Bat Out Of Hell”. His last movie was “Small Soldiers”, for chrissakes! I don´t know about you but I don´t wanna live in a world where Joe Dante doesn´t direct films.
    Oh, and “The Sentinel” is a kick-ass movie!

  3. By the way, Joe Dante´s commentary tracks are pretty entertaining stuff. They´re worth a listen…

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