The 'Burbs (1989) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • This story takes place in a typical American neighborhood, when some new neighbors come to live in the house next to Ray Peterson. These new people are really strange; nobody has ever seen them, their house is a real mess, and during the night you can hear weird noises from their basement. The only thing they know is their name: Klopeks. One day Walter (an old man of the neighborhood) suddenly disappears and everyone starts to suspect the Klopeks...

  • Ray Peterson takes a week off from work just to walk around in pyjamas all day, read the newspaper and lay low. However, Ray Peterson have some very peculiar neighbors. In fact he has no normal neighbors, but one neighbor in particular is especially strange. Therefore Ray Peterson and the other neighbors decide to investigate what's wrong with the Klopeks, and the relaxing week off from work becomes something far from relaxing...

  • In a neighborhood, a family named the Klopeks move into a old house and act very unusual. Everyone nearby is concerned why these people are acting strange and the people have never seen them before. Plus, no one has greeted them for the month they've moved in there. Then 3 people group up to see if they can figure out what is really going on with the Klopeks.

  • An overstressed suburbanite and his fellow neighbors are convinced that the new family on the block are part of a murderous Satanic cult.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) awakens one night to investigate a strange light coming from his new neighbor's basement, but is pushed back by a strong wind. He notices someone watching him from an upstairs window and retreats into his house.

    The next morning, Ray observes as "Queenie," a small poodle owned by the elderly and grouchy Walter Selznick (Gale Gordon), excretes on Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield's (Bruce Dern) lawn, while Ricky Butler (Corey Feldman), a teenage neighbor, prepares to paint his house. Rumsfield and his much younger wife Bonnie (Wendy Schaal) emerge from their home and run an American flag up their flagpole. Ricky yells for Lt. Rumsfield to be careful, but the older man steps in the pile of feces and screams vengeance on the dog.

    Over breakfast, Ray's wife, Carol (Carrie Fisher), bemoans the fact that Ray is staying home for his vacation instead of going to their lake house for a fishing trip. Another neighbor, the overweight and immature Art Weingartner (Rick Duncommun), stops by and begins gossiping about the cul-de-sac's new residents, the Klopecks, whose previous home supposedly burned down in a fire. Ray's young son, Dave (Cory Danziger), claims that he saw the family of three digging in the backyard late at night. After breakfast, Art and Ray dare each other to visit the Klopeck's house. Realizing all the neighbors are watching them, they climb the porch stairs and bang the doorknocker. A porch light falls, and a swarm of hornets chase them across the street.

    That night, Ray joins Art and Ricky on the porch of Ricky's house to drink a few beers while his parents are away. Art tells Ricky and Ray a story about a man named Skip who murdered his family in their town. He was caught because a heat wave caused the bodies to decompose, creating a hideous smell. Ray confirms the story and wonders what their new neighbors are doing in their cellar.

    Later, Art and Rumsfield join Ray in spying on the Klopek house use an infrared scope to spy on the Klopecks. A loud hum emanates from the cellar as a shock of lightning strikes the rooftop, causing the other lights in the neighborhood dim out. A smell that Rumsfield describes as "a burning cat," permeates the air. They hide as the Klopecks' garage door opens and the freakish teenage Hans Klopeck (Courtney Gaines) drives his car to the curb, removes a large plastic bag, and stuffs it into a trash can. It begins to rain, so the men decide to wait to dig through the garbage. As the storm intensifies, Ray watches from his bedroom as the three Klopecks-Hans, Werner, and Rubin-dig a hole in their backyard.

    When a trash truck appears the next morning containing two bickering garbage men (Dick Miller and Robert Picardo), Art and Rumsfield snatch Klopecks' waste from the compactor and strew it across the ground, but do not find anything unusual. Art theorizes that the Klopecks spotted them and buried the body to hide the evidence. After the two garbage men leave, Bonnie notices Walter's dog Queenie running loose and assumes that Walter must have left and forgot to feed his dog.

    Later that afternoon, Ray, Art, Mark and Bonnie Rumsfield and Ricky go to return the dog to Walter Selznick. When no one responds to their knock, Rumsfield breaks into the house and discovers the television has been left on all night and a chair overturned. They grow concerned when they discover Walter's toupee in the kitchen. Art breaks a knick-knack, causing Ray to order everyone out of the house. He unconsciously puts Walter's toupee in his pocket and leaves a note telling Walter he has Queenie. He slips it and the toupee into the mail slot, and notices someone in the Klopecks' house watching him; an old man (Brother Theodore). Ray calls out to him, but the old man closes the window.

    That evening, Art talks with Ray in the basement of Ray's house where he tells the skeptic Ray that the Klopeks might have murdered Walter and that they might be practicing satanists. Art presents Ray with a book all about the occult who then shows it to Carol who also voices her skepticism. That night, Ray has a nightmare about being accosted by the Klopeks and being made into a human sacrifice.

    The next day, Art and Mark Rumsfield run to the Klopek house and slip a note under the front door. Art then tells Ray about him and Rumsfield's act with the note reading, "I know what you've done." Ray frets and panics that the Klopecks will think he did it because one of the Klopecks saw him the previous day slip a note under Walter's front door. While Ray and Art are arguing, Ray's dog, Vince, arrives carrying a human femur bone. They realize Vince dug it up in the Klopecks' yard. Just then, Art's note is tossed into Ray's yard, causing him to panic. He runs into the screen door just as Carol storms out

    After, Ray tells what Art and Mark did, Carol then frets, claiming she has had enough of the men's childish behavior and demands they simply introduce themselves. Art, being the immature of the group, is not invited. Carol, Ray, Mark and Bonnie walk over the Klopeck house where Hans Klopeck answers the door, and reluctantly lets them inside to meet his Uncle Rubin. They sit in awkward silence while Hans makes coffee. While Carol, Bonnie and Mark look on, Ray is extremely nervous, thinking that the Klopecks might do something to him now that he is in their home.

    Ray complains about the neighborhood drainage problems and suggests they check the Klopecks' cellar for moisture. Before Ruben can answer, Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson) emerges from the basement wearing a rubber apron, wiping what looks like blood off his hands, but explains it is only red paint. Over tea, Werner plays the perfect host, explaining that he is a practicing pathologist currently on sabbatical from a local university, and that his older brother Ruben and their nephew Hans travel from state to state when Werner's job takes him to other colleges to teach. Werner claims that his teaching at the local university requires him to move frequently, and that he is already planning to look for a new house the next day. When Mark suddenly asks the Klopeks what secrets they have hiding in the basement, the panicked Ray spills hot coffee on his lap and rushes off to find a bathroom. Instead, he opens the basement door and releases a Great Dane. The dog smashes through a screen door, spots Art, who has sneaked into the backyard, and chases him over the fence, which sets off an alarm. This brings the visit to a quick end and Carol, Bonnie, Mark and Ray leave.

    Later, the neighbors regroup at Ray's house where Carol and Bonnie think that the Klopeks appear odd, Mark and Art think that they are psychos. When all of them ask Ray (who is now strangely calm since arriving back from the Klopek house) of his opinion, Ray says that the Klopecks seem "alright." However, once the women leave Ray calls Art and Mark into the study to privately talk with them. There, Ray pulls Walter's toupee from his shorts. He states he left it at Walter's house yesterday, but found it at the Klopecks' in a pile of magazines addressed to Walter. Ray now vows to search the Klopek house to find Walter's dead body.

    The next morning, Carol takes Dave to visit her sister, while Ray stays behind, claiming that he and Art are going to play golf all day. Carol is clearly suspicious to Ray's sudden change in behavior, but she leaves anyway. The minute that Carol leaves, Ray, Art and Mark spring into action. When the Klopecks leave their house, Art dresses up as a maintenance man and scales a utility pole to cut the power lines, disabling any alarms. He clips a wire, and the electrical charge hurls him into an old tool shed, causing a blackout throughout the neighborhood. Hearing the disturbance, Ricky Butler sees Mark Rumsfield, now dressed in military fatigues, climbing onto Ray's roof to maintain a lookout. Ricky calls his friends to come over and watch the fun.

    After hours of digging up the backyard, Art suggests they search the house. Ray breaks a window and they descend to the basement, where they find a commercial blast furnace. When Ray turns it on, the noise startles Rumsfield, who falls off the roof and discharges his rifle, shooting out a car window. Convinced that bodies are buried under the cellar's dirt floor, Ray begins to dig.

    That night, the Klopecks return to see the glow of the furnace coming from their cellar. They turn off their headlights and drive away. When Ray hits something metallic, Art radios Rumsfield claiming that they have found Walter and runs out of the house. Just then, Walter arrives home and the Klopecks return with the police. Rumsfield attempts to alert Ray, but Ray is still frantically digging and doesn't hear his warning. Out on the street, Ricky and Art see the Klopecks returning with the police. Art tells Ricky to stall them while he gets Ray out of the Klopek house. Ricky is forced to literally jump on the hood of the policeman's car.

    Art races to the cellar to warn Ray to leave just as Ray declares he has hit a gas line and the whole basement is flooding with methane gas. Art barely escapes the house before the furnace flames ignite the gas. He despairs that Ray is dead, but his friend limps out of the burning ruin with half his hair singed off.

    Later, Carol returns to find Ray bandaged and under arrest. Nearby, Art talks with a police detective (Franklyn Ajay) who tells him that Walter suffered a heart attack the night he vanished in which he managed to call his daughter and son-in-law who took him to the hospital for treatment. The reason why Walter's toupee was found in the Klopeck's house is that Werner Klopeck is a famous pathologist who was collecting mail for Walter while the old man was in the hospital. Ray realizes Werner must have picked up the toupee while collecting the mail, and concludes their paranoid suspicions were unwarranted. When Art mentions that someday police will find a body buried in the backyard, Ray loses his temper and tries to strangle him. He hurls a gurney into an ambulance, jumps inside, and demands to be taken to the hospital.

    While in the ambulance, Werner climbs in with him, and Ray apologizes. To his surprise, however, Werner accuses Ray of finding skulls hidden in the furnace, and explains that he murdered the previous tenants before moving in. Ray looks up to see that Hans behind the wheel. Before he can scream, Werner pulls out a syringe and Hans drives away. Ray pushes Werner into Hans, who loses control of the vehicle and smashes into Art's house through the front door. The back doors spring open and the crowd sees Ray and Werner fighting as the gurney rolls down the road and into the Klopecks' car, causing the trunk to pop open. Declaring a "citizen's arrest," Ray knocks the syringe from Werner's hand. Ricky Butler discovers several skulls and bones in the car trunk, and police arrest Klopecks.

    Ray puts his arm around Carol and tells her he wants to go to the lake to spend his last few vacation days with her. As Art musses about the media attention the neighborhood will receive, Mark and Bonnie Rumsfield yell to him that his house is on fire from the ambulance stuck in the front door, and that Art's wife has just returned from her vacation to visit her parents. Art is horrified and distraught.... because his wife is home.

    As the fire trucks return to put out the fire at Art's house, Ray returns to his house with Carol. Ray passes by Ricky and instructs him to keep an eye on the neighborhood. In the final shot, Ricky breaks the fourth wall by saying to the viewers, "God, I love this street!".

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