Retro Reviews: The Burbs (1989)

This comic/thriller treat entertains from beginning to end. Populated by many actors you know and love, it feels like light comedy but has just the right touch of a fun ‘horror’ theme. Ideal for summertime watching, “The Burbs (1989) is great tongue-in-cheek viewing that pokes a little fun at all the diverse characters one may find in the suburbs. Not all are your everyday family next door.

Retro Reviews: The Burbs (1989)

The Burbs (1989)

Lead characters are played by Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher, (Ray and Carol Peterson), the oh-so “regular” suburban couple- complete with son, who just want a normal suburban life. They are supposed to be those everyday folks in this menagerie of misfits. However, to keep it interesting, they have some very diverse and not so ordinary ‘odd’ neighbours that just could reveal a glimpse at the tip of the iceberg of wild and woolly humans one just might find in the suburban landscape. Life goes on in a relatively mundane manner for everyone until one day some very ‘questionable’ neighbours move in next door to Ray. This is when the fun starts.

Soon, into the comic mix of already odd characters come the frightening newcomers become the obvious objects of fearful speculation or at least folks with serious social problems. These new neighbours are Ray and Carol Peterson’s new ‘family’ next door (and I use that term very loosely). Soon everyone gets very suspicious of these bizarre-looking, strange-acting newcomers. They even make the Addams’ Family look tame. Ray Peterson begins to speculate just what weird and ghastly activities the folks in question could be up to. But when one of their regular neighbours goes missing, off-hand speculation turns very sinister indeed.

Henry Gibson, who plays Dr. Werner Klopek and the rest of his motley crew- Courtney Gains and Brother Theodore- play the odd folk who just moved in. Ray Peterson starts off annoyed and then suspicious, while Carol, his wife, glosses it all over and thinks Ray is imagining everything. Inevitably all his other weird and wonderful neighbours (including Bruce Dern and Cory Feldman) decide to find out what’s going on for themselves. The results are comic slapstick peppered with some chilling occurrences and som real horror-style adventures.

Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) directed this eighties gem with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. as he pokes definite fun at suburbanites. And except for the obvious eighties style, the film could debut today and still provide the same great level of entertainment providing the characters with all their eccentricities and the performances remained at their original high par.

Interesting tidbit is that the person who wrote the screenplay, Dana Olsen, has a cameo in the movie and based all the scary screenplay fun on his own experiences with strange neighbours as he grew up in the ‘burbs’.

The Burbs (1989) was entirely filmed on the set of Universal Studios, which director Dante said presented its own set of problems. But even though they felt inclined to broaden the setting outside that small area, Dante didn’t want it to “violate the spirit of the place”. The result is, in my opinion, an intimate atmosphere that continues to develop as the viewer gradually feels privy to this little window of characters. For its great spirit, class comedy and excellent performances at a top-notch quality entertainment level, I give it a 7.5/10. Be sure to enjoy “The Burbs (1989) this summer!


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2 Comments

  1. Lin Jenkinson

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