The Burbs (1989) – Tom Hanks Horror/Comedy MOVIE REVIEW

By Geno McGahee

There are a lot of movies that take pokes at the horror genre. Some do it well and some like SCARY MOVIE do not. There is not a better example of a horror film based comedy than the 1989 film “THE BURBS.” I hadn’t seen it in years and stumbled across it for really cheap in a 5 dollar bin. A lot of the time, the movies that I enjoyed from this time lost their appeal, weren’t as funny, and didn’t grow with the times. THE BURBS had me laughing throughout and I think I enjoy it more now than ever before.

We begin with Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks). He’s on vacation and just trying to enjoy his time off, but the new neighbors, the Klopeks, have gotten his attention. They are quiet, don’t maintain their yard, and have been caught digging at night. Ray’s good buddy, Art (Rick Ducommun) is convinced that the Kopeks are murderers and points to a wicked smell in the area and strange noises coming from the home. Ray’s wife, Carol (Carrie Fisher), isn’t amused by this theory and wants her husband to be normal and have a real vacation.

Ray and Art begin talking about the Klopeks and notices one of them, Hans (Courtney Gains) standing on the porch. Art dares Ray to say hi to him, and when Hans goes back inside, Art lays into him. It’s hilarious. Art notes to Ray that he looked like a coward in front of his son, which prompts Ray to storm over, dragging Art along. They get attacked by bees when they reach the porch, prompting another neighbor, Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) to save them via garden hose. We now have three neighbors united, curious about the Klopeks.

When the old man in the neighborhood, Walter (Gale Gordon), disappears and the only thing left behind is his hair piece, the theory from the trio is that the Klopeks killed him. When Ray notices that the Klopeks are digging again, they believe that they are burying Walter. Art comes up with the theory that they are Satanists and that this was a ritual killing. Carol looks over the evidence and says “ritual sacrifice?” The reaction from Ray is hilarious as he says with no conviction: “Yeah…that’s one of the theories.”

The three work off each other and eventually elect to break into the Klopek home when they are away to find the dead body of Walter. They knock out the electricity to the town and Ray and Art break in. After they dig up the entire back yard of the Klopeks, they enter the basement and start digging that up. As they are doing that, Rumsfield notices that Walter was dropped off at home. They were wrong, but Ray hits the gas line and blows up their house, barely escaping with his life.

In the end, the Klopeks turn out to be evil and it’s a great conclusion to a great film. I loved how they referenced THE EXORCISM, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and RACE WITH THE DEVIL as they made this hilarious tribute to horror films. This really is a great comedy and a must see for any horror fan. The cast is perfect and there are little things that you will appreciate along the way. I highly recommend this film.

THE BURBS is a winner. Hanks, Ducommun and Dern are a great comedic trio, working off of each other and each a distinctive hilarious character. The idea behind the movie was great with a bunch of suburbanites without anything interesting going on, creating something for drama. It’s a winner.

Rating: 9/10