Unusually grim 1989 comedy about "normal" suburbanites who suspect that something very sinister is going on in the home of their rarely seen foreign neighbors. It's directed by Joe Dante
and stars Tom Hanks
, Bruce Dern
and Carrie Fisher
Contains the following tropes:
- Adult Fear: In spades. Lampshaded by a long story narrated by Art about a neighbor from the distant past who murdered his whole family and left them in the basement to rot in the middle of a summer heat wave.
- Ash Face: happens to the main character after the Klopek's furnace explodes in his face, setting the house on fire.
- Aside Glance: "God I love this street."
- Astronomic Zoom and Logo Joke: At the very beginning the Universal logo name vanishes but not the globe behind it. Instead the camera zooms down and into it until it hovers right above a Midwestern suburban cul-de-sac and the Klopeks' house.
- You can tell something is a little off with that logo because it's still the '70s/'80s Universal logo, which isn't CGI in other movies, but this globe obviously is. This is because of another studio (Industrial Light and Magic) doing this particular logo.
- Also, the typefaces for "Universal" and "An MCA Company" are different.
- Big "NO!": when Art and Ray find a femur bone that they believe belongs to their missing neighbor.
- Black Comedy
- Broken Aesop: What could have been a lesson in tolerance and paranoia becomes subverted in the end, when it turns out they really are evil! Dang.
- Crazy Survivalist: Rumsfield, with a dash of Old Soldier thrown in. Probably a Perilous Old Fool too.
- Deconstructive Parody: Subverted in the end.
- Evil Is Not Well Lit: The Klopek's house looks dark and forboding even during the day.
- Faux Affably Evil: Doctor Klopek.
- Floorboard Failure: On the neighbor's porch.
- Harmless Electrocution: When Art cuts the power to the Klopek's house, he gets zapped right off the power pole, but is only a little worse for wear.
- Henpecked Husband: Poor Ray is accused of being one by Art and Rumsfield, when Carol is really just trying to keep him from acting like an idiot.
- Herr Doktor: Rumsfield refers to Doctor Klopek in this way, patronizingly insinuating he's conducting activities unfit for a doctor as well as insulting his German qualities.
- Karma Houdini: Even though Art turned out to be right all along about the Klopeks, he's never punished for all of stress and grievance he causes for his neighbors.
- Leitmotif: Rumsfield's is the theme from Patton, for which Jerry Goldsmith also did the score.
- Lightmare Fuel: The entire theme of the film is predicated on this.
- Never My Fault: Art was essentially the one who started the whole fiasco about the Klopeks, and came up with wild ideas, negative assumptions, encouraged others to be obsessed as he is, yet he always tries to shift the blame onto someone else.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Cory Feldman's character, who views the neighborhood as a source of warped entertainment.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's no coincidence that Rumsfield has a nearly identical name (and bears more than a passing physical resemblance) to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
- No Mere Windmill: Type 2. Right about the time you figure out that Ray and his fellow snoops are just being paranoid about the Klopek family, it turns out they really are serial killers.
- Nosy Neighbor: Ray and his friends.
- Not so Above It All: Ray slowly becomes more obsessed with unmasking the Klopeks than either Art or Rumsfeld.
- Only Sane Man: Ray and his wife qualify... until Ray gets as paranoid as Art and Rumsfield.
- Rabble Rouser: Art; it's just him and two other guys and it turns out there is something suspicious, but he feeds the paranoia that essentially is the plot.
- Running Gag: "Yo, Rumsfield!"
- Skeleton Key Card: It doesn't work.
- Stealth Insult:
Carol: He can't come out until he resembles the man I married.
Art: Carol, we don't have that kind of time!
- What Might Have Been: The first version of the movie had the Klopeks killing Ray and getting away with it. After this, and another ending where the Klopeks are completely innocent, tested poorly, the compromise ending where the Klopeks are serial killers but fail to kill Ray worked much better.