Neighbors (1981)

“You’re not the ideal neighbour. You sank my truck, insulted my sauce, and you violated Ramona.”

Based on the novel by Thomas Berger, Neighbors, one of the great cult classic comedies from the 80s, was John Belushi’s last film. This dark comedy film explores the horrors of suburban life through the lives of terminally bored Earl and Enid Keese (John Belushi and Kathryn Walker) and their relationship with their new annoying neighbors Vic (Dan Ackroyd) and Ramona (Cathy Moriarty). When the film begins, it’s Friday night, and Earl and Enid return home in their station wagon to their sprawling colonial mansion in the suburbs. Their home is right next to a house that’s stood empty for 6 months. Earl, who’s exhausted by his commute from the city, settles down to begin his normal mundane weekend parked in front of the television. Little does he know that nothing will ever be the same again….

Earl’s peace and quiet–and also his terminal boredom are permanently shattered with the arrival of the bizarre new neighbors who move in next door. Vic sports a large tattoo on his right forearm that says “Born to Party”, and Ramona is an elusive lithesome woman who teases Earl from his drone-like stoicism. Vic and Ramona shove their way into Earl’s quiet life, breaking all the rules of politeness, and leaving Earl unsure of exactly how to respond. Earl seems to be a fairly mild-mannered person–although this may be just because his normal response mechanisms have been gradually worn down by the commuting treadmill. Earl appeals to Enid for a united front against the obnoxious neighbours, but she’s more than a little titillated by Vic, and like Earl, she welcomes anything that breaks the desperate humdrum boredom of their mildly antagonistic marriage.

Most of us can identify with the suburban horrors of pushy new neighbours. Earl responds to Vic and Ramona’s antics at first with suspicion and then with implied violence and one-upmanship. With a giant unpredictable electrical pylon, a stinky chemical-induced swamp, a hostile tow-truck driver, and Vic and Ramona full of tricks and practical jokes, it’s not a good weekend for Earl. Or is it? Earl’s life is a system of patterns and predictable routine, and his relationship with his neighbours highlights the inadequacy of his life. Are Vic and Ramona the worst thing that can happen in a neighbourhood? Are they escaped loonies who threaten Earl’s middle-class existence or are they a catalyst for change and liberation?

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Filed under Comedy, Cult Classics

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