Best Halloween Movies #29: The ‘Burbs

“Remember what you were saying about people in the ‘burbs, Art, people like Skip, people who mow their lawn for the 800th time, and then SNAP? WELL, THAT’S US. IT’S NOT THEM, THAT’S US. WE’RE the ones who are vaulting over the fences, and peeking in through people’s windows. We’re the ones who are THROWING GARBAGE IN THE STREET, AND LIGHTING FIRES. WE’RE THE ONES WHO ARE ACTING SUSPICIOUS AND PARANOID, ART. WE’RE THE LUNATICS. US. IT’S NOT THEM. It’s us.

You may have forgotten this little gem. A 1989 comedy/horror starring Tom Hanks. It’s a movie that poses the timeless question: Which is worse living next to a serial killer or living in suburbia? The film basically points out that the answer is more or less a draw.

Hanks plays Ray Peterson who lives next to a trio of new neighbors, the Klopeks. In only a month after moving in the Klopeks’ house look like every stereotypical horror movie house. The grass is dead, the building is dusty and falling apart, the address is 669 (until Hanks knocks on the door, and the 9 turns upside down), lighting regularly strikes the house, weird sounds emanate from it and if you take one step onto the lawn hurricane force winds start up and blow piles of debris around you that weren’t even there a second ago. Just about every cliché you can think of. The Klopeks themselves can only be seen at night digging in the back yard, in silhouette from windows, and occasionally driving the garbage down to the curb then beating the shit out it with a stick. Oh and they killed the house’s previous residents and kept their bones as trophies (and may have even been eating them).

Of course, compared to his other neighbors, a fat lay-about who complains about everything, a mentally unhinged gun nut who claims to have been a soldier, the gun nut’s ditsy trophy wife, a vicious old man who enjoys torturing his neighbors in small little ways, and a hyper-annoying teenager whom is often left alone by his parents (probably because they can’t stand him). It’s a bit of a wash as to which is worse.  Most of the humor of the film comes from repetition of things all too common to suburban life, painting a house, going to meet the new neighbors, taking care of one’s lawn, dealing with the neighbors you know too much about.  Almost makes you wish someone would just kill you and put you out of the misery of suburbia.

I don’t think they intended this to be a grand social statement, but the writer and the director clearly wanted to show that suburbia with its dreary mindless routines is almost as bad as the creepy serial killer next door. And still the fear of life that pervades the monotony of suburbia does somehow come off a little worse than the fear of death exemplified by horror films.
Certainly not the greatest film but an enjoyable waste of an hour and a half.

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3 Comments

Filed under Halloween, Movies

3 responses to “Best Halloween Movies #29: The ‘Burbs

  1. Dirty Sex & Politics

    Any time you use movies to make any social or political point you are completely speaking my language. I think I speak in movies lines 43% of the time anyway!

  2. I kind of want to watch this movie now…

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