Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice…Beetlejuice! Say it once, say it twice, third times a charm, except it isn’t quite so charming to greet an obnoxious dead guy who likes to eat all sorts of bugs and manipulate his way through some sleazy ( but funny) dialogue. A guy no one would want to be friends with.
Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam ( Alec Baldwin) Maitland are the happy couple living the cosy suburban lifestyle. They are busy on vacation trying to decorate their home, whilst having a snooping neighbour who likes to remind them that their house is just two big for a couple and would be well suited for a family. ” I don’t think it’s any of Jane’s business”. I agree Adam. I agree.
On their way home from a little trip to town, they swerve their car from a dog who stands in front of them and the car falls into the river. Moments later we see the couple arrive in their soaking state, to a lit fire in their home, but something doesn’t quite feel like being at home. Their hands can catch on fire and no reflection can be seen in the mirror as they notice a Handbook for the recently Deceased waiting to welcome them instead. ” I don’t think we survived that crash”.
The couple try to understand the manual but trying to catch up on some ghostly reading can be pretty overwhelming when you’ve just come back from the dead ” maybe this is heaven”, although a frustrated Barbara is quick to think ” if it was Heaven, there wouldn’t be dust on everything”, but they do understand that they cannot be seen by the living.. (well in most cases).
It’s not long before the house is sold to the owner’s of the Deetz family. Charles who is quickly adjusted to the house, his wife Delia, a sculptor ( which is unfavoured in the monstrous outcomes), Otho, their interior designer, and their daughter Lydia, a strange and unusual girl who likes to dress for the funeral.
As the unwelcomed guests to the Maitland begin to change the wallpapers and furniture around, the couple try their best to scare them out of the house by tearing off their faces, hanging themselves in the closet and becoming headless, which all fail miserably as it’s no good being invisible to a living person, although to their surprise they find Lydia is able to see them.
As the renovation for the house goes under construction, so does the minds of the couple who are eager to do their best to get these people out of their home. As they try searching through the handbook for the decreased, they find a pamphlet reading Betelgeuse, an apparent ‘bio – exorcist’ who will ” eat anything you want me to eat! I’ll swallow anything you want me to swallow, so come on down, I’ll chew on a dog!” That’s one way to advertise.
Unaware of his wacky intentions, the couple follow the manual at first by drawing a door and stepping into another dimension to a ghost centre, where they find themselves among different kinds of dead people who have suffered worse ways to die, looking quite burnt, shrunken, alien and just plain skeleton. Even the dead need some guidance on how to lead a good afterlife.
Meeting their cut throat caseworker Juno, the pair realise there is much to learn. ” what about that beetle..” shh don’t even say his name. You don’t want his help”. She explains that “he does not work well with others. He got into trouble and then more trouble as a freelancer, trying to haunt people out of their homes”.
Taking note of this rumour, the pair try their hands at disgusing themselves with bed sheets, not forgetting to make eye holes to ironically become ‘a ghost within a ghost.’ But even that proves ineffective as Charles is more concerned about ” your mother will kill you when she sees you cut holes in her $300 sheets.
Approaching Lydia, she takes a photograph of them and is hardly frightened. Instead she anticipates if they are as gross looking as the night of the living dead movie she has seen too many times. Alas, they are just your friendly neighbourhood ghosts who look as aesthetically pleasing dead as they were alive. The sophisticated dead couple with the personality of Casper.
It would seem about time they took a visit to the pin striped ‘professional’ who has ” seen exorcist 167 times, and it just keeps getting funnier”! Sleazing around a miniature model who wants nothing more than to get out in the real world where he can cause more havoc than he already has.
It was a movie I repeatedly watched around the age of ten. ( someone had recorded it for me on a bulky VCR tape) and one i remember finding both scary but entertaining, as it was a scary but light-hearted film that stood out for this little girl at the time.
Now I realise how terrible the C.G.I really is that Tim Burton lacked to visualise, but where it lacked special effects, it made up for the amazing performance given by Michael Keaton as the eccentric nutcase who caused such comic relief that he became unrecognisable. And the story is nothing short of being boring at any time, which is why i can almost forgive that awful sock like snake monster that was meant to frighten us all.
Betelguese has the heart and brains of coming across as crude and wacky and his demeanour impressively shines through as ” I’m the ghost with the most babe ” , and it makes for such a unique watch that Burton achieves in a lot of his movies. A man well -known for creating that gothic and fantastical eerie environment, where darkness meets charm. It’s a peculiar movie for those who live a peculiar life.
His taste for musical score is also very fitting as usual which no surprisingly comes from the genius Danny Elfman, who sets the tone perfectly, as it enchants its way through the story which always makes my mood get uplifted and my heart flutter. It’s almost as if they were married to work together, but I have no complaints as it always works out.
When you quite don’t get how to effectively scare the bejesus out of someone, be careful meeting the insane dead traveller who’s lived through the black plague and had a pretty good time during that. Not to mention you’re talking to a dead guy! Now do you think he’s qualified? Let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose.
Credits: Movie poster artwork by Dimitri Frudakis
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson
Starring: Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’ Hara, and others
Music by: Danny Elfman
Other honourable mentions from 1988 that I love:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Directed by Robert Zemeckis
They Live- Directed by John Carpenter
Big- Directed by Penny Marshall
The Blob- Directed by Chuck Russell
Akira- Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Grave of the Fireflies- Directed by Isao Takahata
Heathers – Directed by Michael Lehmann