So, Arrow Video have released yet another under-rated 1980s gem, this time in the shape of Joe Dantes black comedy-horror-satire The ‘Burbs. Being one of the first films to have Tom Hanks name above the title, The ‘Burbs was released in 1989, and despite a critical mauling at the time, found a degree of favour amongst audiences, and certainly grew a cult following on home video.
So, what’s the plot? Well, Tom Hanks stars as Ray Peterson, a suburbanite who just wants to enjoy his “week off” work (more on this later), but finds this almost impossible as the arrival of his strange new neighbours, the Klopeks, sets in motion an ever escalating sequence of events which culminates in an explosive finale. Suspecting the Klopeks of killing one of their neighbours, Ray and his friends come to wonder just who the “weirdos” are: the Klopeks or themselves?
Now, this is a simple enough plot: new neighbours cause suspicion, but it is the way Joe Dante handles it that gives the film its bite. Ray is an “everyman”, who is notionally on a weeks vacation from work (although as the film progresses we begin to suspect that there may be much more to his lack of work than just a simple “vacation”), and his neighbours are a collection of suburbanite oddballs: the crazy ex-military guy with the hot younger wife, the annoying best friend, the snotty teen, and the pretentious (possibly gay) older batchelor. Add in Rays cynical wife (ably played by Carrie Fisher), and you have a unique collection of characters. And that’s before we get to the Klopeks themselves. These 3 are creepy in an Addams Family way, and may or may not be harbouring a deep, deadly secret. Throw in a whole host of Joe Dante tropes (cameo roles for Robert Piccardo and Dick Miller, references to other films/film-makers, etc), and you have a wonderfully black comedy, filled with satirical commentary, and looney tunes madness.
Now, the film transfer looks spectacular, which is a given for Arrows releases. The super vibrant colour scheme chosen by Joe Dante is vivid and eye catching. And as the film progresses, and the colours become more muted, the image quality holds up phenomenally well. Much of this film takes place at night, and there is nary a hint of grain to be see, even in the darkest shots. Sound is uniformly excellent as well.
The disc includes a wonderful set of extra features to gorge on as well. Alongside the usual commentary track, there is an isolated score, a feature length retrospective making off, featuring most of the surviving cast (Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher are the notable absentees), trailers, an alternate ending (previously only available on the US R1 DVD), and the entire workprint cut of the film (care of Joe Dantes personal collection) replete with comparison featurette showing the main differences between the 2 cuts.
This film straddles the horror/comedy divide exceptionally well, and is highly recommended to Fiends and Fiendettes everywhere.
5/5 Fiends. Essential.