The Suburban Nightmare: Five of the Best

When your story is projected onto a 30-foot screen, the truth has nowhere to hide. Cinema has frequently taken us beyond the veil of respectability, turning dreams into nightmares as it exposes domestic dissatisfaction, deception and even violence. The American Dream has taken a particular pummelling with its associated images of prosperous, identikit families living in suburban bliss.

In the style of the Guardian’s Clip joint series, here are some of film’s most memorable attacks on the aforementioned illusion.

1) Halloween

Michael Myers’ murderous spree on a quiet, leafy street proves that in suburbia no-one can (or wants to) hear you scream.

2) The Naked Kiss

In Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss a retired call girl (the statuesquely named Constance Towers) exposes a small town’s dark heart. This sequence set on the local children’s ward features a sweet but decidedly unsettling song.

3) Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet’s absurdly idyllic opening images give way to prosaic horror as a man collapses in agony, before the camera delves deeper into the deceit.

4) Revolutionary Road

Sam Mendes’ adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel has mental patient Michael Shannon seeing through a couple’s glamorous façade and repressed housewife Kate Winslet furiously rattling the chains of domesticity.

5) The ‘burbs

On a lighter note, after triumphantly – if messily – unmasking their reclusive neighbours as villains, amidst the cleanup chaos Rick Ducommun tells reporters, “Do not mess with suburbanites”.


About emmasimmonds

Emma is a film and TV critic whose work has appeared in Time Out, Little White Lies, The Spectator and Popmatters, amongst many others. She is also a contributor to the London and New York volumes of the World Film Locations book series.
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