First up is my rampant, runaway, enthusiasm-fest about what this movie means to me, for which I apologize in advance, followed by Maynard's Burbs-tacular review!
So without further ado...
The 'Burbs is an absolutely hilarious comedy, chock-full of quotable lines, but it also examines human behaviour within the petri dish of sprawling, middle-class suburbia in a light-hearted, but nonetheless thought-provoking way. On the one hand, we can feel sympathy for the Klopek family, who are under relentless scrutiny from their neighbours simply for being different (initially, at least), and just want to be left in peace. It's also fascinating, however, to consider what motivates people to become obsessively preoccupied with anyone or anything that deviates from the norm.
Having grown up in the Australian 'burbs, I identify with this movie so much. The architecture may be a little different but the Universal Studios "Colonial Street" backlot in California even has Australian Eucalytus trees, which makes it all feel scarily familiar. [Historical sidebar: Australian Eucalyptus trees were introduced to California during the Gold Rush as a renewable source of timber for construction.] The entire story is restricted to this one location (in the movie, a cul-de-sac called Mayfield Place), reinforcing the parochial nature of suburbia and the way small things can become magnified and spin out of control without a broader frame of reference to give some perspective.
Between the trees, through some open doors, we could see right into a room that had decor which was more like a Hammer Horror set than a typical suburban home. It was one of the most surreal and astonishing sights I had ever witnessed. Behind the exterior of that shabby residence there hid what I can only describe as some sort of ceremonial-style chamber with chunky candles burning in floor-standing, gothic candelabras. Most memorable of all was a HUGE, wolf-like dog (you just know I want to say hellhound) sitting Sphinx-like on a red, Persian rug in the centre of the room. The dog watched us intently and menacingly, so we decided it was best to move on rather swiftly.
here and here). Even after giving them a red glow, they're still not quite right, but if you can combine the three pictures in your imagination, you'll get a bit of an idea.
The next morning we couldn't wait to regale Richard with the tale and the three of us rushed to the house, but it was back to its usual state of looking silent and locked up. Thus began the legend of The Vampire House. (Yes, I wish we had come up with a cleverer name too.) We concocted a whole entertaining mythology around that abode, involving a giant dog that guarded its undead masters while they were vulnerable during daylight hours, until they rose at sunset.
One afternoon, as we were passing The Vampire House, we began daring each other to go and knock on the door. (Yes, think Art and Ray egging each other on to go and introduce themselves to the Klopeks.) Richard took up the challenge while Sue and I hid behind some bushes trying to suppress our laughter. What we weren't expecting was for the door to open and Richard to disappear inside. Lets just say that after 20 minutes of waiting, the situation didn't seem quite so amusing anymore.
Sue, Richard and I always reminisce about The Vampire House when we get together. It was our version of the Klopek house and it made life in the humdrum 'burbs somehow more eerie, mysterious and thrilling. It's kind of intoxicating to discover something extraordinary hidden amidst the ordinary and that's why it's hard to blame Ray Peterson for eventually succumbing to Rumsfield and Art's wild conspiracy theories and crazy antics. Regardless of the Klopek's guilt or innocence, or the film's underlying message about intolerance, the Klopek house seems to serve a much needed function in Mayfield Place in that it distracts residents like Rumsfield, Art and Ray from any secret dissatisfaction they might feel about their picture-perfect suburban lives.
Ultimately, whether it's the hysterically silly humour or the more serious subtext, when it comes to The 'Burbs, it all boils down to the final line of the movie, delivered by Ricky Butler:
And now here's Maynard's review:
Meine teuflischen Nachbarn
(= My Devilish Neighbors)
Director: Joe Dante
“The ‘Burbs” is one of the absolute funniest horror-themed comedies ever made (only “Shaun”, “Fright Night” is better). I’m always shocked when I see the 6.6 rating on Imdb, or when I hear people saying that ‘it’s an alright movie’. Are you kidding me? This is Joe Dante’s masterpiece, better than “Gremlins”, better than “Piranha”, better than everything he has ever made, at least IMO.
Together with screenwriter Dana Olsen, Dante created a clichéd suburban microcosm where a few really wacky characters try to solve the mysterious secrets that surround the mysterious Klopeks, a new family in the neighborhood who’s acting and behaving in very unusual and unsettling ways.
The movie’s basic theme that revolves around the question “Who is crazier: the suburbanites or the people outside of suburbia?”, was already wonderfully portrayed in Dick Maas’ superb 80s comedy classic “Flodder”, but here, it got taken to a whole new level by Dante exaggerating it into an uber-hilarious and super-goofy laugh-fest that is packed to the brim with insanely funny gags and outrageous dialogue, but also pays massive tribute to classic horror films by including many well-known horror/thriller tropes (abandoned house, mysterious noises and lights in the night, creepy shadows, thunder and lightning, “Rear Window”-like neighborly behavior...).
I heard people comparing it to Wes Craven’s 1991 flick “The People Under The Stairs”, and yeah, in terms of neighborhood secrets and bizarre families, it almost feels like a continuation of “The ‘Burbs”, but set in a Ghetto-like environment. Would be interesting to know how “The ‘Burbs” would have looked like if Craven had directed it; probably much darker and not as entertaining.
Well, it’s easy to create such an entertaining film when you have such an awesome cast - and actually, it’s the cast that makes this movie so incredibly awesome.
“I’m going to do something productive. I’m gonna go watch television.”
His neighbor Art Weingartner - stunningly played by Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun - is the exact opposite of Ray. A loud, silly and quite greedy guy who instantly suspects the Klopeks to be satanists and/or cannibals.
“Ray, do you want them to take your family, tear their livers out and make some kind of satanic pâté?”
“Are you completely pussy-whipped? Why don’t you just take your balls out of your wifes purse? Make a stand for one time in your life!”
Also very worth mentioning: Corey Feldman as super-cool rocker kid Ricky Butler (“Yo Rumsfield!”), the wonderful Henry Gibson as the strange Dr. Werner Klopek (“I let you keep the femur, but now, now I want my skull!”), Brother Theodore as grumpy Reuben Klopek (“NO!”), and Courtney Gains as the super-weird Hans Klopek (“Sardine?”). Plus: Carrie “Leia” Fisher as Ray’s wife Carol (“Yoo Hoo!”), Wendy Schaal as Rumsfield’s wife Bonnie (“I’m trying to cut back.”), and Dante-regular Dick Miller as garbageman (“I hate cul-de-sacs.”).
Here are my absolute fave scenes:
~ The paperboy’s throwing a newspaper at Tom Hanks, which ‘forces’ him to immediately toss his coffee in the direction of the paperboy.
~ Art tells the story of ice cream man Skip who suddenly snapped (“El Snappo!”) and butchered his whole family and left their bodies in his house until they started to decompose.
“I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and bang the hell out of it with a stick. I’ve never seen that.”
~ Art and Rumsfield (with shaving foam in his face) in a garbage truck, rifling through all the garbage, while Dick Miller and Robert Picardo talking about paraphysical seminars and cul-de-sacs.
Art: “I’m telling you these people are Satanists. As I sit here, they are satanists. Look, look, the world is full of these kind of things. Look at this: black masses, mutilations. Mutilations! The incubus, the succubus - I’m telling you: Walter was a human sacrifice.” (...)
Art: “We gotta go down to the religious supply store. We gotta get ourselves a couple of gallons of holy water. My cousin Jerry is a priest. He can get us a deal!
Ray: “No, I’m not going to listen to this. I don’t wanna hear this! I’m not going to listen to this.” (...)
Art: “We gotta get ourselves a couple of those big strings of Garlic. We gotta get ourselves some fresh lamb’s blood...”
Ray: (chanting) “I’m not going to listen to this, I’m not going to hear this now.” (...)
Art: “Ray, you’re chanting. Ray. Ray, look. (points to book) Ray, unconscious chanting! You’re chanting!
Ray: (continues chanting, fingers in ears)
Art: (chanting) I wanna Kill everyone. Satan is good. Satan is our pal.
Art: Ray. Ray! You’re chanting! Hey, once they get in here... (points to Ray’s head)...it’s over, pal!
“Ray... this is Walter... AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!”
+ Rumsfield delivering a few of the movie’s absolute best lines:
“There go the goddamn brownies!”
“Here you go, sonny. A little something for the old sweet tooth.”
“Rumsfield’s the name. Don’t think I caught yours, sonny? - “Hans.” - “Hans? Oh-ho-ho! A fine Christian name. Hans Christian Andersen! Hehe!
What are you, Catholic?”
“What’d you say, we all sit down for a little of the old face-to-face.
Eh, what Reub?”
“Klopek. What is that, Slavic?” - “No!” - “Ho-ho, about a nine on the tension scale, Reub.”
“Got somebody tied up in the old cellar, have you, Reub?”
“What have you got in the cellar, Herr Klopek!?”
~ Last, but not least:
The scene where Rumsfield falls from the roof =)
Horror Movie Diary, to see his video and photos of the event.