It wasn't easy to decide what to do for Memorial Day here in the states and tie it to horror. Being a holiday today, the news is slow so we figured we would pick out a classic film, blow the dust off of it and give the proper attention it deserves...
Deciding what the film would prove to be the hard part. But out of nowhere it came to us like a beacon of light shining down from the heavens. How about a look back at "The 'Burbs", a film that certainly has its foothold in Americana and even has an Army war veteran ala Lt. Rumsfield which is a striking resemblance to Dale Gribble from the animated sitcom "King of the Hill". I would go so far as to say that the creators of "King of the Hill" must have based Gribble's character after Rumsfield they are so similar. Maybe there's a copyright lawsuit in there somewhere after all these years. Nonetheless, we had our tie into Memorial Day and that was it, "The 'Burbs" it would be.
A new horror Memorial Day tradition is born.
So we talked to HorrorBid Canada (Will from The Film Reel) about "The 'Burbs" and he decided to get a copy and give us his expert review which is below. It's good to see he had the same reaction that it had on us after all these years. A true gem that may not have solid roots in horror but the undertone is there and enough building blocks for any true horror fan.
One last thing (wouldn't want to ramble here) we did a little mini-contest today on Facebook asking you what film we would tackle for Memorial Day. After a ton of response and good guesses one fan got the right answer. Congrats to David Foskey for winning the "mystery" prize (can't wait to hear your response once you get your package David). Thanks again to everyone for participating. You guys make work fun! Now onto the review.
Directed by - Joe Dante
I assume that a lot of people live in the suburbs. Obviously not all of us or there would be plenty of empty cities. I have always lived in the suburbs and have been living on the same street for over 20 years now. I literally moved from my parents house to a house across the road. Yeah, a little weird but I have two kids so it was always handy having the grandparents 2 seconds away. There's plenty about The Burbs that makes me think of my own neighborhood. Everyone on the street knows each other and when someone new moves in there's always plenty of gossiping about them. Much like the characters in the movie, some of the people on my street are right into everyone's business.
The Burbs is straight up comedy laced with a dash of horror which is exactly what living in the suburbs is all about! Tom Hanks is Ray Peterson, a regular guy with Princess Leia, I mean Carol (Carrie Fisher) as his wife. Bruce Dern is his war vet neighbor, Mark Rumsfield, who seems to be waging war on the burbs themselves. Rick Ducommun is Art Weingartner. A slightly odd man who seems to be the neighborhood gossip, although all his stories have a sinister tone to them. These three guys begin to believe that the new neighbors, the Klopek's, have murdered another neighbor and are hiding his body in their basement. We get to watch as they get themselves in every manner of trouble while trying to investigate the Klopek's.
The suburbs and the Feld-mister are getting under the skin of the neighbors.
It's hilarious to watch these 3 idiots get themselves in trouble. They fall off roofs, electrocute themselves, get attacked by dogs and eventually almost blow themselves up. It's as if the 3 Stooges moved across the street from me. What's even more funny about the movie is it really isn't that far out there. Plenty of insane stuff has happened on my own street but we've never banded together to infiltrate the neighbors house when they're out of town for the day. Common sense doesn't stop Ray, Art and Mark though and the Klopek's themselves don't really help to ease their suspicions.
The Klopek's are a creepy looking bunch making me think that if Leatherface and his family moved into the suburbs they would be the Klopek's. There's Hans, the inbred looking son of the family, Uncle Reuben, who could almost pass for Uncle Fester if he shaved his head and the father of the family, Dr. Werner Klopek whose bedside manner would probably include a healthy mad scientist laugh followed by lightning and thunder. It's not really much of a stretch to think that the Klopek's are killing the neighbors. They dig massive holes in their backyard in the middle of the night, there's loud noises and strange lights streaming from their basement and then there's the odd way they take out the trash. Hans drives it from the garage to the curb, puts the garbage bag in the can and then beats it with a stick before backing the car into the garage.
Relax, he's a doctor.
While the Klopek's certainly look like the types to be hiding bodies in the basement, that doesn't mean they are and there doesn't seem to be much evidence that says they've done anything wrong. Regardless of how many times they turn up nothing, Ray and his gang never seem to be able to stop looking. It all leads up to a great ending where we finally get to see who the crazy ones really are, the Klopek's or everyone else around them. Normally after watching a comedy all the funny is sucked out of it. A joke is only good the first couple of times but there's a lot of physical comedy in this one that had me bursting out in laughter. Every time that someone goes up to the front door of the Klopeks house they wind up putting a foot through the floor of the porch and every time I howled with laughter. It was like watching someone walk into a glass door, no matter how many times I see it or the fact that you can see it's coming, I still laugh my ass off. That's just a little taste of the comedy in this one.
Horror is also a small part of this one but it's that maniacal laughing, over the top kind of horror here. There's a point where Hanks' character is watching TV and passes by The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Fitting since the Klopek's remind me so much of Texas Chainsaw. The house the Klopek's live in looks like it's straight from a horror flick, complete with lightning striking its weather vane during some storms. Dr. Werner himself is an obvious mad scientist with his stern accent and creepy manner and you can't forget Hans, the son. This guy looks like he stepped out of The Hills Have Eyes. How could you not think they're up to something!
The Burbs has its monsters in the form of the Klopek's but it's all harmless fun, making us laugh more than cringe. There's something that calls to me as a horror fan though. This is the kind of flick that you can share with the kids on a Sunday afternoon. Its got its creepy charm but it won't scare the crap out of the little ones. I guess it's a lot like Abbott and Costello meet whatever Universal monster was on display at the time. The Klopek's are creepy but are put into a comedy setting. Still, there's something here that satisfies that horror fiend inside me while still making me laugh my ass off. This is a perfect flick for the horror fan in need of a good laugh and you can even bring along that friend who hates horror movies, they should enjoy it just as much as you do!
Under the marquee - Will (The Film Reel)
Below is a little "The 'Burbs" trivia and fun facts for you to chew on.
Early in the movie, when Cory Danziger is eating breakfast, a box of Gremlins cereal can be seen on the kitchen counter in the background. Director Joe Dante also directed Gremlins (1984) and Corey Feldman was in Gremlins (1984).
Prop master Mark Jameson was charged with making fake dog poop when the actors complained that they didn't want to step in the real thing. He made a mixture of canned dog food, bean dip, and other items. It was loaded into caulking tubes and squeezed out where needed.
At the very beginning of the movie, when the camera starts to pan down the street, a street sign appears, "Mayfield Place." Mayfield was the town where the Cleavers lived in "Leave It to Beaver" (1957). The movie was filmed on the same lot.
Ray Peterson's (Tom Hanks) final "It's not them. It's us!" rant is used in Portland, Oregon musician Eluvium (Matthew Cooper)'s song "A I Drift Off" on his 2006 album "When I Live by the Garden and the Sea".
The street was shot on location in the Universal Backlot. It's been used in many films and TV shows, including "Desperate Housewives" (2004). Some of the buildings have changed over time, but Walter's hasn't changed a bit.
Wendy Schaal's voice might be recognized by some. She voices Francine Smith on the animated "American Dad!".
Before all the neighbors go over for a friendly chat, Carrie Fisher says "Before someone falls off a roof or sets themselves on fire." Both happen after this scene, Rumsfield falls off his roof and Ray sets himself on fire.
Outside of the opening and closing shots of the Earth seen from space, the whole film unfolds on the street of Mayfield Place.
There is one family at the end of the street who are never seen - the occupants of the house between Walter and Rumsfield. Their last name is Finnell, a reference to producer Michael Finnell, which is seen on the side of their Chevrolet Astro Van as "Finnell Plumbing". They also have a Buick sedan and presumably are visible at the end of the movie near Walter's house after the explosion.
Courtney Gains (Hans) was also Malachai in "Children of the Corn"
The Munster house was used in the 1989 movie "The Burbs" with Tom Hanks. Corey Feldman's character "Ricky Butler" lived there.
I'd also heard that one of the houses used in this movie was the same house used in the Munsters. Can anyone verify that because I love me some Munsters!
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