The 'Burbs - Blu-ray Review

'at its best a searing Horror-inflected satire, looking closely at the sort of almost-hilarious neighbourhood bigotry that can escalate from letting your dog poop on next door's law, to the xenophobic treatment of the new family'

Though The 'Burbs has problems on both a form and content level, it deserves highlighting from the off as a film that does not just have something to contribute to anthropology loosely within the Horror genre, but one that bases its entire form around the idea it wants to consider. The 'Burbs at its best is a searing Horror-inflected satire, looking closely at the sort of almost-hilarious neighbourhood bigotry that can escalate from letting your dog poop on next door's law, to the xenophobic treatment of the new family on the block. The barely-contained 'should I laugh or should I cry' hilarity is the perfect tonal setting for a subversive film that does a great job exposing much of societies 'everyday' problems.

More than that, the slowly escalating battle between Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) and his largely unseen neighbours, The Klopeks, can be read as reflective of some of the more negative elements of American culture. Having set loose his suspicions, Ray and his band of locals go up the extremity scale to the point at which Rumsfield (a hilariously committed Bruce Dern) points a sniper rifle at The Klopeks' house. Behind the gentle japes (Rumsfield promptly falls off his roof) how indicative is this of many everyday American disputes that have the potential to end in lethal force?

Made just after the first Gremlins film, when Joe Dante was arguably at the height of his creative power, this new restoration of The 'Burbs looks impressive, is approved by Dante himself and marks yet another release in Arrow's growing library of 'must have' special editions. For 'Burbs fans, it is unlikely you will have seen the still-impressive opening 'zoom from space' shot looking this good. Though I have yet had the time to delve into them, the extras boast an impressive-sounding brand new documentary featuring Dante, Corey Feldman, Courtney Gains and Wendy Schaal and a comparison of what missed out when Dante carried out a cut from his workprint. It's an extremely good set, with content from Hanks, Dern and Carrie Fisher, who plays Hanks' on-screen wife, arguably the only omissions.

For non-'Burbs fans, there are things to note here that may limit your enjoyment of something that claims to be knockabout but has the above subtext driven into its veins. This is not, for example, a vintage Tom Hanks performance, in the way that we have come to understand that phrase, and certainly not on the basis of what that phrase meant in the late 1980s. Though apparently set-up for the actor's comic inclination, Hanks is really the straight guy in the triangle of Dern and schlubby neighbour Art (Rick Ducommun). Swayed by his two compatriots - another example of the film's understanding of social politics - Ray is rarely anything more than a blank canvas waiting to be influenced. It's a far cry from when Hanks was let loose in this period - populist fare such as Turner & Hooch in the same year, or Joe Versus the Volcano one year later; Big was only a year into the past - but nevertheless it is a performance that fills its purpose, even if it might not be the purpose you expect.

If The 'Burbs falls down then it is largely in the slapstick and the Horror Dante packs around his message, like Comedy disguises, barely hiding the owner's true identity. The Horror never gets above gentle, with one shot from Ray's perspective showing The Klopeks digging at night in the rain hinting at the potential scares Dante could have created but frequently seems to waste or turn down. The humour too, though entertaining, hardly ever breaks out; Dern's rooftop fall and Ray's encounter with an unexpected chainsaw the only true highlights.

It makes for a surprisingly mundane experience, given that the idea seemed to have so much scope for outlandish elements but, if you accept an argument that this was never Dante's aim to begin with, The 'Burbs ends as a rather sterling success.

The 'Burbs is released on new Blu-ray and Steelbook in the UK on Monday 15th September.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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