Thursday, October 25, 2018

Halloween 2018 #24: The Burbs ***1/2 (1989)

If there's a short list of movies that signal the end of a decade, The Burbs is one the great going away 1980s parties. 

Jerry Goldsmith's scored echoes his from Poltergeist as the camera pans across the Universal back lot (Patton also gets referenced). The Burbs was one of the last straight up comedies to star Tom Hanks before his career would skyrocket into dramatic roles during the 1990s. Corey Feldman appears as the Greek Chorus, a fading archetype of the 80s (the persona,not the actor!). 

Suburbanite Ray Peterson is on vacation, but his new neighbors the Klopeks have him on edge. Egged on by his obnoxious neighbors Art (Rick Ducommun) and Mark (Bruce Dern), Ray starts to believe the Klopeks may be serial killers. With his patient wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) tolerating his shenanigans, Ray begins to investigate.

Director Joe Dante manages to send up every trope of suburban horrors (the world of Spielberg). Some of the humor gets really silly, but the cast makes it work. For a PG movie there are some genuinely creepy moments, but they're always counterbalanced with a gag. Hanks maybe has his best comic moment ever on film.

There's a delightful irreverence to The Burbs, anarchic at times. The 90s would end with the tragicomic American Beauty, yet Dante's sly direction appears even more subversive in retrospect, a determination to avoid seriousness. Spielberg's suburbs: the seat of ghostly terror, intergalactic connections, and intense family discord all gets satarized by Dante into a farce of the highest magnitude. 

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