This week’s Family Movie Night we are once again embracing the spirit of October and Halloween for our movie pick. It is in the spirit of the great haunted house movies that we talk about 1989’s The Burbs.
There are a couple of reasons this film came to my mind, aside from it suiting the month. It stars Tom Hanks who is in Bridge of Spies releasing a few days ago and it reminded me a little bit in tone of the recent Goosebumps movie. Both are films I thought were worth seeing if you have a chance.
I think sometimes we get used to seeing Tom Hanks in movies like Bridge of Spies that we forget how funny he can be. For years comedy was in fact his bread and butter and he is one of the most frequent hosts of Saturday Night Live with some memorable skits over the years.
The Burbs finds Hanks in fine comedic form playing Ray Peterson a man who has decided to use his vacation to stay at home (what we’d call now a staycation). His wife played by Carrie Fisher wants him to go to the lake but he is determined to relax around the house for his time off.
Unfortunately he lives in a neighborhood courtyard with some eclectic characters including Art (Rick Ducommum) who is very nosey and Mark (Bruce Dern) who is a straight talking ex-military man. I also liked Corey Feldman as Ricky the neighbor kid who finds it more entertaining to watch his crazy neighbors than to go to a movie or watch TV and I can’t say I blame him.
The reason the neighborhood is particularly on edge is a few months before a family named the Klopeks moved into the big scary house and they never seem to leave and are seen doing mysterious things like digging graves. Art starts spying on the Klopeks and drags Ray and Mark into it and the more they see the more suspicious they get that the Klopeks are up to no good.
The Burbs is directed by Joe Dante who directed Gremlins and you can see that same flare for both horror and comedy in both films. I actually think The Burbs is slightly more entertaining but they are both good. What Dante does so well is builds tension slowly both comedically and in scares. They even make the bold decision to have the neighbors (and viewers) meet the Klopeks and they seem like fine people if a little odd. This helps us put our guard down and leads to some unpredictable outcomes.
Hanks is great at the type of comedic performance Richard Dreyfuss does in What About Bob. You let one thing get to you than another, and another until you explode. This always leads to great laughs. It’s especially funny because Ray is trying to relax and things just get worse and worse.
I could totally understand if someone finds The Burbs to be really stupid. Comedy is super subjective and this might not do it for you because it is pretty broad and even silly at times. I like that kind of humor when it is done well and I think kids will really like it. It also helps calm down the scares which can be pretty intense in the film.
Dante also gives us little winks at classic horror films like The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I haven’t seen those films and I still enjoyed the joke. It might be scary for small kids but older kids and adults will like those references.
All of the performances are good. I particularly liked Bruce Dern as the lieutenant Mark. He gets a lot of snappy funny dialogue and executes it well. The 3 actors who play the Klopeks, Henry Gibson Courtney Gaines and Brother Theodore, are all sinister looking without being cheesy and you believe they could just be strange guys.
The sets including the Klopeks house looks very convincing. It really feels like a neighborhood in the suburbs. The music by Jerry Goldsmith is perfect with a gothic but fun feel to it.
If your kids like Ghostbusters and aren’t too scared by that then they should be fine with The Burbs. Both movies have darker sections but humor as well. Aside from the scares there isn’t much to be offended by except for a lady in a 2 piece bathing suit.
Have you seen The Burbs? Was it a favorite of yours growing up? What kind of scary movies did you like as a kid? I would love your feedback in the comments section.