The ‘Burbs
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

Horror comedies are a tricky thing to do right. Far too often they tend to go way overboard on the comedy and completely forget about the horror. Worse yet, often the comedy isn’t so hot, and that’s the one thing they have. Thankfully 1989’s The ‘Burbs isn’t one of those films. Directed by Joe Dante, who mastered both the creepy and the funny many movies back, as in The Howling, Gremlins, and his segment “It’s a Good Life” from The Twilight Zone Movie. So it’s about time this movie got the Blu-ray treatment it deserves, but is this new release from Scream Factory it? Well, be sure to mind your own damn business and let’s find out.

Tom Hanks is an everyman married to Carrie Fisher’s everywoman. They both live in a bright, shiny, and green suburban cul-de-sac populated by many a unique and oddball character. Into this slice of oh-so-perfect life comes some new neighbors who are even too odd for this bunch. They are three men, they have questionable hygiene, they are very secretive, and worse yet: they are European! There are also strange sounds and lights coming from their basement and then one day a member of the neighborhood goes missing. Coincidence? I think not! Or maybe yeah, it is. Whatever the case, Hanks and his two best buddies team up to uncover the truth, no matter the cost or how many hilarious hijinks ensue.

Director Joe Dante is at the top of his humor/horror game, with both sides of that coin being represented here. Likewise all the actors do a great job in this. I even liked Corey Feldman as the neighborhood stoner teen, and he is usually hit or miss with me at best. Bruce Dern as the gung-ho neighbor (with the prophetic, too-close-it’s-scary last name of Rumsfield) is another highlight, as is his hot “tan-line-free” wife played by Wendy Schaal. And meek, mild Henry Gibson is a scene stealer as the (evil?) Dr. Werner Klopek.

Let’s get to those extras on this new Blu-ray from Shout! Factory’s newest imprint, Shout Select. There is an audio commentary track with the film’s writer, Dana Olsen and author Calum Waddell. There is a new making-of featurette with director Dante and many of the actors and the crew and this runs for an hour and six minutes. There is a new interview with director Dante that’s 18 minutes, there is an interview with photographer John Hora that’s 11 minutes, and an interview with the editor Marshall Harvey that’s 10 minutes long. A real nice addition for film historians is the original workprint of the movie of Joe Dante’s personal archive. Then there is an alternate ending, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, a poster and still gallery, and a theatrical trailer. So quite a bit of extra for an already excellent Blu-ray.

The ‘Burbs is like nearly everything else Joe Dante has ever done: a little bit spooky with a little bit funny, and I always like his handling of that combination. It’s loaded with talent who are all doing a great job, the movie is made with tons of talent and I love it to pieces. So yeah, this gets a very high recommendation from me.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.