- Street Date:
- August 16th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- January 18th, 2018
- Movie Release Year:
- Universal Studios
- 102 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Suburbia is under attack by a shadowy, seditious presence threatening the status quo in Joe Dante's hilarious cult classic The 'Burbs, and it's up to the private citizens of an idyllic middle-class neighborhood to protect it. However, the threat isn't from a foreign power immediately forcing its oppressive rule via a violent overthrow, a popular thematic device and motif that infiltrated many action flicks of the 1980s (Red Dawn). Instead, it springs forth from the paranoia and suspicion growing within the unrestrained imagination of the bored, purposeless residents of a quiet, perfectly manicured cul-de-sac. It's a fun twist to a prevalent theme that digs to a very real, commonplace sentiment about foreignness that understandably grew from Cold War tensions, a satirical allegory that draws battle lines right at the heart of the problem itself: a misunderstanding of those perceived as different, strange and other. Of course, by film's end, the bad vibes coming from an unusually creepy family are ultimately warranted, which is only in paying service to the film's horror elements while giving audiences one final ironic gag, but the central idea remains intact.
Working from a script by Dana Olsen (Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Inspector Gadget, George of the Jungle), Dante doesn't shy away from this fact and practically goes out of his way to make the point clear as day, virtually ensuring audiences wouldn't mistake his film for anything other than what it is. After opening with the Universal Studios logo of a turning world, the globe conveniently slows on North America, and the camera quickly zooms down the center before settling on the quiet, innocent neighborhood of Anywhere, U.S.A. It's an intentionally clichéd image of suburbia that suspiciously looks a lot like the street where The Munsters once resided and vampire Jerry terrorized horror-hound Charley in Fright Night, which in actuality is not the same set or location but only reflects back to the homogeneous, nondescript quality of the neighborhood. Dante immediately jumps to the plot's creepy aspect with everyman Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson, an average, blue-collar Joe wanting to spend his vacation at home with family, literally crossing into the unknown on a dark, windy night when next door neighbors make a loud ruckus.
The next morning, we wake to more suburban truisms of a rude paperboy on a bike carelessly chucking newspapers while introducing the rest of the cast, starting with the curiously keen-eyed and hormonal teen Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman), who serves as our chorus-like observer and quasi-commentator. A very funny Rick Ducommun also stars as Ray's best friend Art, whose endless meddling in other's lives, as shown during breakfast when eating Carrie Fisher's cooking without so much as a please or a thank you, is the result of the apathy and monotony in his own life. Across the street, an equally hilarious Bruce Dern plays veteran Mark Rumsfield, a gung-ho patriot always itching for some action and finds it in his neighborly war with the old, prickly Walter (Gale Gordon) and his pesky dog. One of the production's more amusing aspects is showing Ray, Art and Mark's unwarranted mistrust of the one weird, spooky house with the unwatered lawn and dilapidated air as ultimately nothing more than a little boy's game, one that apparently goes too far and in need of Fisher's mediating, basically putting Hanks in a timeout.
The wickedly clever and delightfully charming black comedy romp toys with Cold War notions in the eccentric Klopek family, an uncommonly foreign name that suspiciously sounds Eastern European. Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore and Courtney Gains are terrific in their roles, raising our own suspicions of them while still managing to carry a macabre, eerie air about them with Gibson doing marvelous as the mad scientist type and Theodore just being all around hair-raising menace. Working carefully with cinematographer Robert M. Stevens, Dante displays a talent for balancing horror with comedy, which was first seen in Gremlins and most recently in Burying the Ex, without one overwhelming the other and maintaining an engaging story to the very end. During its original 1989 theatrical run, those tensions that influenced much of the plot were already starting to wane and the film was a moderate critical and box-office success. Over the decades, however, The 'Burbs has garnered a strong following amongst those who better appreciate its satirical take on suburbanites, making it a beloved cult classic.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings The 'Burbs to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase. At startup, viewers are taken straight into the movie without previews or menu screen, but the usual set of options can be accessed through the pop-up menu.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Paranoia terrorizes suburbia with a nice and mostly satisfying 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that easily beats previous home video editions and makes this a clear winner. The best moments are without a doubt daylight sequences, showing that the cult dark comedy might have been remastered or more likely borrowed from last year's UK Steelbook release by Arrow Video since it appears quite similar.
Whatever the case may be, the presentation displays well-balanced, spot-on contrast and crisp, bright whites throughout, giving the movie a rejuvenated, youthful glow that almost seems as though it were made recently. Black levels are strong and accurate with deep penetrating shadows and very good gradational differences between the various shades that never obscure the smallest object in the distance, even at night and during poorly-lit scenes. Adding to the reinvigorating look of the movie, colors are full-bodied and vivid with richly-saturated primaries that pop off the screen while flesh tones appear healthy and revealing. Awash with a very fine layer of natural grain that is more prominent during darker sequences, which is to be expected, the 1.85:1 image comes with sharp definition and fantastic clarity of the smallest details in the clothing, houses and the whole neighborhood in general.
To be fair, the presentation comes with its share of poorly resolved sequences and a few blurrier moments, which appear related to the condition and age of the source, but overall, the movie has never looked better and fans will be more than happy with the outcome.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The archetypal cul-de-sac spiral into manic hysteria thanks to an equally awesome DTS-HD MA stereo soundtrack that also puts previous releases to shame.
Imaging is terrifically engaging almost right from the start and continuously active, creating a spaciously wide and expansive soundstage. The lossless mix also exhibits excellent differentiation between the loudest and quietest moments, maintaining outstanding clarity in the higher frequencies while still delivering warmth and richness in the mids. Various noises and the subtle ambient sounds of the neighborhood are spread across the entire screen with convincing effectiveness and fluid, flawless panning. Vocals are distinct and precise in the center, allowing for the Klopeks's Eastern European accents to come through with believable variation. The low-end is impressively ample and responsive, providing the high-rez track with a terrific weighty presence.
Best of all, the design lends itself marvelously to the receiver's upmixing function, expanding the soundfield with several amusing atmospheric effects spreading into the rears. The score benefits most from the upgrade, filling the screen with music that bleeds into the front height channels with discrete clarity in the instrumentation and superb separation within the mid-range.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Suburbia is under attack by a shadowy, seditious presence threatening the status quo in Joe Dante's hilarious cult classic The 'Burbs, a satirical allegory on Cold War tensions and a biting cynical look at suburban life. Starring Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Rick Ducommun and Corey Feldman, the film is a fun twist to a prevalent theme that digs to a very real, commonplace sentiment about foreignness and remains just as relevant today as it was nearly thirty years ago. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will surprise and satisfy fans everywhere, making it the best home edition available. Although criminally jipped in the bonus features department, especially when compared to the UK release by Arrow Video, the overall package for the cult classic is nonetheless worth the price.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
- English SDH
- Alternate Ending
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