Film / The 'Burbs

An unusually grim 1989 comedy about a group of "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.
  • Bad Humor Man: Skip, if the Urban Legend about him is true; supposedly, he was an ice cream man who snapped after a life of routine, and murdered his family.
  • Big Eater: The second thing we see Art do is invite himself to two helpings of breakfast with the Petersons, grab several more munchies from their fridge, eat Ray's leftovers, and then, after finishing, ask if Ray wants to go to town to pick up a sandwich. He later snatches some vittles from a bowl Carol was holding that turns out to be the dog's food.
  • Big "NO!": It's not drawn out, but Uncle Reuben gives a very loud and abrupt one to Rumsfield's question:
    Rumsfield: "So, 'Klopek.' Is that a Slavic name?"
    Reuben: "...NO."
  • Black Comedy
  • Crazy Survivalist: Rumsfield, with a dash of Old Soldier thrown in. Probably a Perilous Old Fool too.
  • Comical Angry Face: Reuben, Han's uncle who is quite the hothead.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Subverted in the end.
  • Evil Is Not Well Lit: The Klopek's house looks dark and foreboding even during the day.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Doctor Klopek.
  • Floorboard Failure: On the neighbor's porch. Sadly, the brownies don't make it.
  • 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.
  • Heel Realization: Ray towards the end. At least until Dr. Klopek revealed that his suspicions were right all along.
  • 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. He briefly goes along with it to throw her off his scent.
  • Hero Insurance: Once the Klopeks are exposed as killers everything seems to be hunky-dory with the cops, even though a detective was tallying up all the criminal charges the guys were facing just moments before.
  • 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.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Art defends leaving a note reading, "I know what you did," on the Klopeks' door by saying, "Now they know that we know that they know that we know!"
  • Idiot Ball: The Klopeks are so terrible at diverting suspicion that it's a wonder it took years for any of their neighbors to ever suspect them. Dr. Klopek grabs the ball even tighter by trying to kill Ray in an ambulance surrounded by police.
    • The biggest idiot ball for Dr.Klopek is if he just kept silent and let Ray get arrested then he would have not only got away with murder he would have had the time to clean up any potential evidence he assumed Ray found.
  • 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. At least, he is until his house catches fire.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: The theory that Walter was murdered by the Klopeks comes crashing down when Walt comes back home from the hospital. The reason the Klopeks had his toupee and his magazines was because he asked them to retrieve his mail. And the femur they thought was Walter's? Why, that just belonged to someone they DID kill, obviously.
  • 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 Mere Windmill: Right about the time you figure 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 Rumsfield.
  • Oh Crap!: Art, when his house is on fire and he realizes that his wife has returned from her vacation.
  • 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: Subverted. The card breaks in half immediately.
  • 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!
  • The Picture Came with the Frame: Hans, after Rumsfeld asks about the pretty girl in the picture.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Mr. and Mrs. Rumsfield. He's a wiry, wild-haired Crazy Survivalist and she's a Ms. Fanservice who looks about twenty years younger then him. This is never really even commented on, let alone played for laughs.
  • What Might Have Been: The first version of the movie had the Klopeks killing Ray and getting away with it. After this ending, and another one 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.