Five Reasons Why I Love The 'Burbs!
by: -RoG-

The 'Burbs is one of those rare, special little movies that, no matter how many times you've already seen it, you can't help but watch it any time it comes on TV. The humor in this movie is absolutley universal, and if you've ever lived in the suburbs, you can surely relate to many aspects of it. In suburbia, nothing exciting ever happens, so the residents come up with their own crazy little ways to keep themselves busy - in this case, boredom and paranoia lead them to suspect their new neighbors of being part of some homicidal Satanic cult. With no official proof of this, Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) and his pals start taking matters into their own hands to find out once and for all what their new neighbors, The Klopeks, are really up to.

It's a perfect blend of comedy and horror with some truly awesome characters, so I'd like to take some time today to share five of my favorite things about the movie.

#1: Mark Rumsfield

As far as I'm concerned, out of all the characters in the movie, nobody is as entertaining to watch as Rumsfield (Bruce Dern). He's an old ex-military man who's obviously been retired for a while, but he's still clinging onto his old rigid lifestyle. Rifles, night-vision sniper scopes, walkie-talkies, glass cutters... even though he's living in suburbia, he's got it all and is more than ready to jump at any chance he can get to use the stuff. After all, his creedo is still, "A soldier's way saves the day!"

Even with his competitive military background, he's still been losing the "who has the best lawn on the block?" battle against his neighbor Walter and his poodle who he's trained to crap in Rumsfield's yard. And believe me, you haven't lived life until you've seen Rumsfield threaten Walter: "That scum-sucking, barking rat of yours has just taken his last dump on my lawn! I find one more - just one - and I'm gonna catch him and staple his ass shut!" And like most cranky old men, he hates all teenage delinquents (or lame-o meatballs as he calls them) - especially Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman), who constantly distracts Rumsfield from his covert operations. All in all, he's exactly the kind of quirky old dude you'd want to have in your neighborhood because any time you see him, you can bet your ass that he'd put on a good show whether he realizes it or not. Whether its watching him fall off a roof from his sniper position or watching his youthful excitement as his fellow neighborhood "soldiers" complete little missions, Rumsfield will always be the man. Oh, and watching him slide-tackle one of the Klopeks has got to be one of the greatest moments in the entire movie, especially when he proclaims: "Don't you make a move sonny! I was eighteen months in the bush and I could snap your neck in a heartbeat!"

#2: The Klopek House

Back in middle school, I was walking around late at night with a friend when all of a sudden a window in a nearby house lit up bright green and a shadowy figure appeared in the window. It didn't move, it didn't make a sound... it just stood there looking at us while the green light glowed behind it - and keep in mind, this was around 2am. Needless to say, my friend and I made a run for it... for all we knew it was the prince of darkness himself.

Every neighborhood in suburbia has that one house that creeps everybody out, and the Klopek house from The 'Burbs is no different. Whatever is going on in the house, it's one of the main reasons that all the other residents in the neighborhood are suspicious of them. Late at night, the house emits a loud sound like a jet engine starting up while a bright fiery glow lights up the basement. Nobody knows what the hell is going on down there at first, but whatever it is, Rumsfield remarks, "it smells like their cooking a god damned cat over there!" It's definitely one of the best creepy houses you'll ever see in a movie - old, creeky, unkempt, and of course, it has a furnace from hell in the basement. I'm still hoping to see a place like the Klopek house come Halloween one of these years. If you have a basement, you owe it to all the trick-or-treaters out there to Klopekicize the hell out of it.

#3: Ray Peterson's Nightmare

If there's one thing I love in movies, it's a good dream sequence. No, not just because I'm a huge fan of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies... it's simply because all the rules of reality that govern what would be a normal comedy get thrown right out the window during a good dream sequence. After having his neighbor, Art Weingartner, continually bother him about how his neighbors are Satanists, Ray Peterson can't get them out of his head. Eventually he falls asleep and we're treated to his own personal nightmare which starts out with a chainsaw-wielding maniac cutting right into the wall of his house and sawing through a picture of his family. From there, it changes to Ray being tied to an oversized barbeque grill in the Klopek's backyard by a bunch of hilarious looking Satanists who are all wearing death shrouds - complete with goat horns sticking out of their heads. They saved the best part for last though, because Walter (the missing neighbor that they're all convinced the Klopek's killed) appears before Ray with an axe embedded in his head. His precious poodle also has a miniature axe embedded in its head as well. Before the garbage man drags Walter and the poodle away, Walter warns Ray not to let them do what they did to him, but it's too late. Ray looks up and sees Uncle Reuben Klopek about to drive a sacrificial dagger into his chest... and then he wakes up.

It's a great scene and his neighbor Art shows up briefly as a psychotic soda fountain worker, but even better, if you listen closely, you'll hear all of the satanists quietly chanting "I want to kill everyone. Satan is good. Satan is our pal." It's funny, because when you think about it, it's really Art who has gotten into Ray's head, not the Klopeks.

#4: Hans Klopek

Hans Klopek. He's the youngest of the Klopek family and I always loved how absolutely weird he looked and acted in this flick. He's an extremely jittery guy who obviously doesn't get to see a lot of sunlight or converse with people. What's more, his relationship with Rumsfield is hilarious, because he obviously makes Hans extremely nervous and loves to harp on him - I particularly enjoy the part towards the end of the movie where Rumsfield calls him "Pinocchio" because of the ridiculous outfit with lederhosen that he's wearing. But the real reason I love Hans is because when he takes out the trash, he really takes out the trash.

At one point in the movie, Ray and his pals are spying on the Klopek house in the middle of the night when a car pulls out of their garage without the lights turned on and stops at the edge of the driveway. Hans emerges from the car, goes to the trunk and removes a large, apparently heavy bag of trash. He puts it in a nearby trashcan, grabs a garden hoe and then proceeds to repeatedly (and furiously) beat the living hell out of the trashbag for a while. He then puts the lid back on the trashcan, gets back into the car and backs it up into the garage. Ray Peterson then comments, "I've never seen that. I've never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and bang the hell out of it with a stick. I-I've never seen that." You and me both Ray, you and me both...

#5: Worst. Snack. Ever.

Ray's wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) is fed up with all of the nonsense that her husband and his friends are getting into because of their new neighbors, so she decides to put and end to everything by having them all pay a visit to the Klopeks in an attempt to get to know them better. In addition to pounding the hell out of trash, Hans is apparently in charge of serving snacks on the rare occasion that they have guests over at the Klopek house. He comes out with a bowl of pretzels and a can of sardines. At first, the women decline Hans' offer of sardines, but when he makes his way over to Ray and asks him if he'd like a sardine, Ray's wife nods to him as if to say, "Go on honey, be polite and eat the sardine!" Like a good husband, Ray grabs one of the slimy sardines, places it on a pretzel and slowly puts it into his mouth knowing full well that it's going to be 100% awful.

The noises that the sardine makes when entering his mouth and as he begins to chew it are absolutely nauseating and the sound guy deserves an award for this scene. If it doesn't make you cringe when you watch and listen to it, then there's gotta be something wrong with you. Ray then has an equally hilarious allergic(?) reaction to the sardine-pretzel treat and starts half-sneezing uncontrollably until he finally grabs a nearby newspaper and yacks up the treat into it. Classic.

The 'Burbs will always hold a special place in my movie collection because it brings back a lot of memories and it's just one of those flicks you simply can't get tired of watching no matter how many times you've seen it. It's a gut-busting reminder to us all about just how childish we can become when boredom strikes and we let our imaginations run wild. I'm sure Joe Dante doesn't realize this is the most important film he ever made, and that's saying a lot considering this is the guy who made Piranha, Gremlins and more... but we hardcore fans know it really is his best work. God I love this street.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?


Reader Comments



Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 04:48 AM
Yes, god yes. As a kid growing up this was in very heavy rotation in our vcr, to the point where 'Klopek' became a family macro for weirdo beyond the pale. Thanks Rog for reminding me my DVD collection is not yet complete. Now do 'Yellowbeard'.
Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 06:35 AM
I must have rented this movie about 300 time with my friends... come to think of it, why didn't we just buy it???

I had such a thing for Cory Feldman...
Using Ninjitsu of Fushin
Feb 8th, 2008, 08:02 AM
This was one of the highlights of the good tom hanks era, bravo!!!
Feb 8th, 2008, 08:07 AM
Love it. The humor was both so subtle and so over the top in this movie, it shouldn't have worked. But damn if it didn't.

Rog, you picked out some great parts of the movie. My favorite has to be when Ray first goes to knock on the Klopeks' door, and the camera does slow close-ups of all the other characters. The tension builds and builds, and then they do a close up of the dog. Priceless.
<me|yourmom> = you
Feb 8th, 2008, 11:27 AM
I sometimes drive to the end of my driveway to take out the trash.
after enough bourbon ...
Feb 8th, 2008, 11:34 AM
Gods, but this was and is a great movie. The three scenes that stand out for me are 1) the bone they find in the back yard, when the camera goes in and out real fast while they stand there, screaming, in a truly cartoonish moment, 2) when the pizza delivery truck crashes at the end of the movie, and Corey Feldman shouts "Yo, pizza dude!" and 3) at the beginning of the movie when Feldman looks Mrs. Rumsfield up and down, nods and says "Hey, Mrs. Rumsfield! No tan lines!" Classic!
Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:30 PM
Yo Rumsfield!!!!!
Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:35 PM
I absolutely love The Burbs. I even have a grind metal band dedicated to it.

Ms. Sorghum Molasses '82
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:53 PM
Five... FIVE THINGS you love about "The Burbs" and you didn't mention Brother Theodore ONCE?

May you have your head removed and replaced with a bloom of broccoli!
Feb 8th, 2008, 01:34 PM
Around my home, a viewing of The Burbs was traditional when home sick. I seriously have to pick this up on DVD.
is hopped up on goofballs
Feb 8th, 2008, 02:18 PM
A list of 5 things to love about The Burbs is far too few...make it 15 and you'll be able to get everything in. Ah, one of the last good Tom Hanks movies...
Waiting for the worms.
Feb 8th, 2008, 02:36 PM
My favorite thing was always Cory Feldman trying to set up a party and going "Rumsfield, we've got the pizza dude coming!" And despite Tom Hanks being dragged down the street on a stretcher, all he cares for is the fact that the pizza dude dropped about 1000 large pies. "whoa! pizza dude!"
Pickled Patriarch
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:08 PM
Originally Posted by Sleazeappeal View Post
Five... FIVE THINGS you love about "The Burbs" and you didn't mention Brother Theodore ONCE?

May you have your head removed and replaced with a bloom of broccoli!
I mentioned that he was about to stab tom hanks in the dream sequence, but no, he didn't make my "top five". If it were a "top ten", Uncle Reuben and his voice which sounds like he's constantly gargling, would have definitely made it. But as far as the Klopeks go, it doesn't get any better than Hans in my book.

Another honorable mention would be when Tom Hanks appears from the burning Klopek house at the end of the film like some kind of cowboy hero. I love the way he just slides down the steps as he leaves a trail of smoke behind him.

And argonath is right, the zoom-in close-up of the poodle is another classic moment as well.

He's soooo suspicious of them!
Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:12 PM
Rumsfield carrying the brownies to the Klopeks' house is also classic.
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:18 PM
Remember when Tom Hanks used to make funny movies?
Forum Virgin
Feb 8th, 2008, 03:24 PM
Remember when Tom Hanks used to make funny movies?

Pickled Patriarch
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:08 PM
I remember.

Joe Versus The Volcano is still one of my all-time favorites and it's EXTREMELY underrated.

The Money Pit is another great one. It kills me in the scene when he gets stuck in the floor and the scene when he laughs like a madman because the tub fell through the floor. Those two scenes had me in tears I was laughing so hard the first time I saw 'em.
From the Home of MST3K
Feb 8th, 2008, 05:16 PM
I think the inspiration for Rumsfield used to live down the block from me.

That, or men like that were installed in every suburb to stop terrorism.
The Magnificent Bastard
Feb 8th, 2008, 06:35 PM
I love this movie too.

The "Pizza Dude" and "Satan is our pal" are my favourite lines.

What's great about this movie is that everyone knows people like this.
Feb 8th, 2008, 09:00 PM
The part near the end where Tom Hanks is like "I'm sick! Take me to the hospital!" and then lays on the gurney, stands back up, throws it in the back of the ambulance and gets back on it is one of my favorite moments in cinematic history.
Fookin' up planets!
Feb 9th, 2008, 01:48 AM
Best part is when Art is in Camo and Ray and him are talking as they kind of semi ignore the dog as he keeps bringing up a human bone and Art keeps throwing it... until they both realize what they have and Art say's "Ray, This is Walter"....

que overly long and damn comical scream ended abruptly by a Klopek in walking slowly behind the fence...

laughing just thinking about it.

I may be pushing it but I rocked to "Joe Versus The Volcano" too.
Forum Virgin
Feb 9th, 2008, 03:08 AM
It seems like most gifted comedy actors either decide to change genres (Hanks, Willis, etc.) or they cling to comedy and end up with dying careers and LAME movies. (Murphy, Steve Martin, etc.)
Forum Virgin
Feb 9th, 2008, 03:58 AM
Fantastic article. I absolutely love this movie. You did not mention it,so I am assuming you are unaware(but I doubt it) that "Hans Klopec"(Courtney Gains) was also "Malachai" in "Children of the corn". Another 80's classic.
Psychobabble Debate Champ
Feb 9th, 2008, 11:25 AM
I'm going to buy this on DVD today. Thank you for reminding me that this is still a classic flick. This is "Mr. Oscar WW2" Tom Hanks at his pre-Gump best, and you get a side of Princess Leia and Henry Gibson, to boot! Toss in a take-out order for Cory Feldman and you've got yourself a classic.
Forum Virgin
Feb 9th, 2008, 11:52 AM
*Sigh* "Didn't ch. 11 or something show this movie every other month back when there was always something entertaining to watch on T.V like almost everyday? Man T.V sucks now. I can't remember the last time I saw this movie. "
Pickled Patriarch
Feb 9th, 2008, 03:20 PM
Originally Posted by NightProwler View Post
Fantastic article. I absolutely love this movie. You did not mention it,so I am assuming you are unaware(but I doubt it) that "Hans Klopec"(Courtney Gains) was also "Malachai" in "Children of the corn". Another 80's classic.
Damn it, I've been told that a million times, but every time I see The 'Burbs, I never seem to remember that he was Malachai. "Outlander! Outlander!" Definitely a good call man... maybe I'll actually remember it next time I see The 'Burbs and think to myself, "Boy, that Hans is one weird dude."
Forum Virgin
Feb 9th, 2008, 11:11 PM

this site never ceases to amaze me on how you guys' taste in film is so uncannily similar to my own. I've had the 'Burbs on my myspace faves list forever now, and every person i talk to has absolutely no clue what the hell these movies are.

So since once AGAIN you've mirrored my joy, here's some other titles I'd like to see a review on (or I'd gladly do myself):

The Miracle Mile

...just to name a few. Or I'll gladly accept paypal for anyone who says at least one of these doesn't have a review already in the making
Fookin' up planets!
Feb 10th, 2008, 05:01 AM
I agree with Sakura....

Do "The Miracle Mile" next.... Pure 80's Joy!

and "Night of the Comet"
MMA for Life.
Feb 11th, 2008, 12:23 PM
love this film. wish they made more films like this, but i guess the era is over.
Freelance Product Tester
Feb 11th, 2008, 10:28 PM
Damn, now I need to buy this. The ending was one of my favorites in film history.
Mar 8th, 2008, 01:53 AM
I read this and it made me join the site, Watch the DVD and start spying on my neighbors. That has to be one of the best things I have read in a while.
What? Me worry?
Mar 8th, 2008, 03:36 AM
This movie was king!
Mar 11th, 2008, 06:12 PM
Kinda disturbed...but I must go find this movie now.
Forum Virgin
Mar 19th, 2008, 03:36 PM
One of my all-time favorite movies from the 80's.

Love it when Rumsfield is at the Klopeks house and starts pulling the wallpaper from the wall.
sailin the seas o cheese
May 16th, 2008, 01:13 PM
comeon rueben was the best part
Forum Virgin
May 21st, 2008, 11:29 AM
Great article.
My favorite lines:

"What you got in the cellar, HAIR Klopek!?!"

"There go the goddamn brownies!"
Amicable Herculean
Dec 21st, 2008, 11:30 PM
Did anyone else spot that the Klopeks have Rosebud in their basement?
Forum Virgin
Aug 30th, 2009, 01:23 PM
corey feldman is so cute in this movie!!!
Forum Virgin
Jan 26th, 2010, 04:25 PM
OMG, nobody here noticed the resemblance to Maniac Mansion?? Hans reminds me somehow of Weird Ed, and as "the doctor" shows up from the cellar, he looks like Dr. Fred Edison :D
Love them both, the Klopeks & The Edisons!
Registered Absoludicrat
Apr 2nd, 2010, 03:37 PM
One of my personal favorites.

Notice how this film seems to be a swan song for a lot of the actors:

You've got Tom Hanks just before the start of his Serious Actor phase, Carrie Fisher at the tail end of her hotness, Corey Feldman's last role in a movie more than 12 people saw, Wendy Schaal right before most of the universe forgot she existed, and, though I haven't looked this up, probably Gale Gordon's last film prior to shuffling off this mortal coil.
Oct 10th, 2010, 02:32 AM
I love this movie. Anyone else notice the Klopek theme is very similar to the wrestler Kane's old entrance music?

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