Suburbia (1984) - My Rating: {>>>-} (Sweet, like Trogdor is sweet!)

Please note that this review is laden with spoilers.

The first time I saw this movie was when I was nineteen years old and living in Colorado Springs. I had been hanging out with some punk guys on a pretty regular basis. Of course they all lived with their parents, and none of them had bands, so they weren't really all that "punk" anyway, but they did all have dumb hair. They talked about this movie all the time. I don't think I had been hanging out with them for more than a week before we rented it from the video store.

So when I saw this movie at the video store for a mere $2 I immediately snapped it up. It wasn’t even a former rental. The thing was still in shrink wrap. Unfortunately it wasn't a vintage 80s copy, it was a year 2000 re-release. Not that it really matters, but I like to snag the older style VHS tapes whenever possible. They are heavier than the new ones and feel moe substantial.

Body count:11. There are approximately seven dogs that are shot by rednecks. One baby is ripped apart by a dog. A security guard is stabbed in a club. A girl commits suicide, and a child is hit by a car. As long as you are counting dogs as bodies then this film beats many horror films in terms of body count.

Plot Outline: The movie starts out with a girl named Shiela running away from home. She is hitchhiking with a middle aged lady and the lady's young child. The car gets a flat tire. Soon we see everyone get out of the car and go to a pay phone, where the small child gets ripped apart by wild dogs, while the mother is using the phone.

Then we jump over to the story of Evan. Evan's alcoholic mother comes home and starts giving him grief about drinking her vodka (they never actually establish if he did it or not). She goes off on him for a little while. Evan decides to run away, so he says goodbye to his little brother and leaves.

Evan does what all homeless kids do, he heads off to a punk rock club to watch DI do a live show. Someone offers to sell him drugs, which he refuses, but they spike his drink with something anyway. Meanwhile one of the skinheads in the audience decides it would be a good idea to completely rip some poor girls clothes off of her body, underwear and all. The poor girl screams and cries, but no one will help her. Some real tool is operating the spotlight, and he aims it right for her. Eventually the band stops their song and starts yelling at the crowd about what they are doing. Even after the music stops no one will step in, so the owner closes the club down for the night.

Evan is completely passed out on the floor from whatever it is that he took, so the bouncers just drag him outside. From there he is picked up by Jack Diddley, who takes him back to T.R. House in his banged up old car. On the way there they pick up Joe Schmo who is running away from home again. Joe's reason for running away seems to be the fact that his dad is gay. They eventually all make their way to T.R. house, which is a squat in a condemned row of homes.

There are a ton of other kids living in the same home. The rest of the movie we watch what happens to them, and Evan's little brother Ethan (who he goes to get later on).

My Opinion: This is a great movie and it is well worth watching at least once. It looks at the whole punk scene from several angles. What most of the punks who are fans of the film fail to realize is the fact that the movie fairly clearly shows that most of the problems the kids encounter are caused by their own actions. Jack Diddley didn't even seem to have a reason to be squatting, his stepfather sure seemed concerned and loving.

Interesting Notes:
  • The reason there was a large tract of abandoned houses was because they were condemned via eminent domain in order to build Interstate 105. The only problem was the fact that it took them fifteen years to build the thing.
  • The "wild" dog that tries to get in the window of the car has a clearly visible chain. The toddler eaten by the dogs obviously turns into a doll the moment the dogs get him, and you can see the tripwires used to knock the dogs over when they were shot.
  • Jack calls the "Razzle" character "Flea" in one scene. Those kind of flubs seemed incredibly common in 80s movies, the same thing happens more than once in The Goonies.
  • In one scene Shiela's shirt is torn off, she is shown clearly topless, but a few moments later you can spy something taped over her breasts as she is being restrained by one of the redneck bad guys.
Fun Quotes!

This movie doesn't really have a lot of good dialogue and largely isn't very quotable. So I didn't have much to put in this section.

  • "My old man's gonna be back soon and if we're still here he's gonna shit Twinkies." - Jack Diddley

Lead roles:

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

Writing credits: Penelope Spheeris

Sources: The oh-so-wonderful IMDB, my head, and watching the sucker. A big thanks to weasello for the format used.