The lazy execution could be excused if the story were filled with details to help build the suspense, with payoffs that kept that tension rolling. But the exposition is slow and whenever suspense is built, director Joe Dante never keeps it there, and worse, never makes the results as exciting as we thought we were promised.
Ray’s paranoia is palpable, but not quite cultivated organically enough. A dream sequence is used to show his paranoia instead of utilizing actual plot points to convey and burgeon these feelings. Perhaps if I were more familiar with the film I wouldn’t have been so caught off guard by the sluggish and somewhat underwhelming narrative. But upon my first watch, every time I thought the story was ramping up, it would go back down again.
I don’t mean to make it seem like this movie is all bad, because it’s far from it. Stylishly, The ‘Burbs feels a little ahead of its time. Released in ’89, we get more of a mid-’90s vibe, but without all the cheese that comes with it. Tonally, the mixture of horror and comedy are uniquely complimentary in a way that favors the comedy in a way that’s not done too often, especially this well.
Dante gives us a cleaner counterpart to what Tim Burton was doing around that time. While Burton’s sets looked like he hand-made them, Dante’s film doesn’t feel like it takes place in a totally different universe, bringing more of a surrealistic take on that same auteurism.
A criminally uneven narrative can be made up for with an entertaining finish, which this movie definitely has. Partnered with great moments and memorable characters, The ‘Burbs is still worthy enough for our attention.