Sunday, October 26, 2014


Directed by Tim Burton and screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren from a story by McDowell and Larry Wilson, Beetlejuice is the story of a recently deceased couple who asks a deranged ghost to get rid of a family who have moved in to their house. The film is a strange romp of horror and comedy where a couple try to deal with living with an eccentric family where its teenage daughter can see them due to her fascination with death. Starring Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Glenn Shadix, Robert Goulet, and Sylvia Sidney. Beetlejuice is a wild and extremely insane film from Tim Burton.

Following their death due to an accident, a newlywed couple deal with new inhabitants of their house that includes a death-obsessed teenage girl prompting the couple to hire the services of a crazed ghost by the name of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules of conventional horror as it’s more of a comedy where this recently deceased couple cope with their death as well as the fact that they’re forced to share the house with a New York City family and their offbeat interior designer. Yet, Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, respectively) do befriend this Goth teenager in Lydia (Winona Ryder) who is the only one that can see them due to her fascination with death. Even as it is frowned upon by the afterworld to make friends with the living as Beetlejuice would cause hell for the Maitlands.

The film’s screenplay starts off with the life of the Maitlands as they just bought their new home which they refuse to sell from some potential buyers as a simple errand goes wrong which lead to their deaths. Upon this discovery that they’re dead and any place outside of their house has them in a very strange afterworld as they would eventually go to a caseworker named Juno (Sylvia Sydney) who reveal what they have to deal with as well as what to do to get rid of their new inhabitants in real estate developer Charles Deetz (Jeffery Jones) and his aspiring sculptor in Delia, who is Lydia’s stepmother,.

While the Maitlands try to haunt them, they would eventually succeed in haunting Charles and Delia but end up amusing them while their interior designer Otho (Glenn Shadix) would realize what is going on. Adding to this sense of chaos and the Maitlands’ attempt to get rid of the Deetzes is Beetlejuice whose approach to scaring the living is cruel and diabolical. Yet, there is something about the character that is so off-the-wall as he ends up being this very unconventional antagonist. Even as he has this macabre sense of humor who thinks The Exorcist is a comedy while is very crude to the Maitlands as he also pines for Lydia who would get to know what Beetlejuice is.

Tim Burton’s direction is definitely off the wall where it starts off being this quaint little story about a nice couple living in this small New England town. Then comes this very chilling accident where it plays to the sense of macabre humor that would be prevalent in the film. Even as Burton’s compositions ranging from some wide shots to some offbeat close-ups and medium shots showcase something that is really out of this world. Notably the scenes in the afterlife where the dead arrive in a waiting room to meet their case worker and later learn how to live as a dead person. Much of the presentation of the afterworld is presented with some unique visual effects and stop-motion animation to play into this strange approach to black humor that Adam and Barbara have to deal with.

The direction also had Burton create some moments that really amp up the line of reality and fantasy such as a dinner party with the Deetzes where Delia finds herself singing The Banana Boat Song where she has no control of what is happening to her. It’s a sequence that mixes humor and horror in the most absurd way as it refuses to play into any kind of traditional or conventional genre but rather a mish-mash of genres. Even as the film’s climax would maintain that offbeat approach of horror-comedy would force the Maitlands to do something as Beetlejuice would just cause hell for everyone. Overall, Burton creates a very spectacular and hilarious film about two dead people hiring a psychopathic ghost to get rid of people who moved into their home.

Cinematographer Thomas E. Ackerman does fantastic work with the film‘s cinematography from the use of colorful lights for some of the film‘s interior scenes including the dinner scenes and the meeting with Juno. Editor Jane Kurson does excellent work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and suspense. Production designer Bo Welch, with set decorator Catherine Mann and art director Tom Duffield, does brilliant work with the set design from the house in and out based on Otho‘s work as well as the world of the afterlife including the sand dunes. Costume designer Aggie Guerard does superb work with the costumes from the Goth clothes that Lydia wears to the fashionable upscale New York City look that Delia and Otho wears.

Makeup designers Steve La Porte, Ve Neill, and Robert Short do amazing work with the makeup from the look of Beetlejuice as well as the look of the dead characters in the afterlife. Visual effects supervisor Alan Munroe does awesome work with the visual effects from the use of stop-motion animation to the design of the sand dunes world that would feature sandworms. Sound editor Richard L. Anderson does nice work with the sound from some of the low-key sound work in some of the scenes at the house to the sound effects that occur in the world of the afterlife. The film’s music by Danny Elfman is incredible as it is very offbeat with its playful orchestral score that is filled with strange choirs and string arrangements while the soundtrack features some amazing songs by Harry Belafonte to play into the film’s offbeat tone.

The casting by Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins is just phenomenal as it features some notable small roles from Annie McEnroe as the woman who tries to sell the Maitlands’ home early in the film, Patrice Martinez as an afterworld receptionist, Dick Cavett and Susan Kellermann as a couple of guests at the dinner party, and Robert Goulet as Charles’ boss Maxie Dean who wants Charles to do some things to the small town. Glenn Shadix is very funny as the interior designer Otho who tries to give the Maitlands’ home a post-modern look that plays to his taste. Sylvia Sydney is amazing as the deceased case worker Juno who often smokes a cigarette where smoke would come out of her neck as she is very blunt and to the point about what not to do. Jeffrey Jones is excellent as Charles Deetz as a real estates developer who is eager to wanting a simple life as he copes with the chaos involving ghosts. Catherine O’Hara is amazing as Delia as this aspiring sculptor who wants to make it as an artist while wanting to live the life of a New York City artist.

Winona Ryder is brilliant as the troubled Goth teenager Lydia whose fascination with death has her meeting the Maitlands as she wants to die due to loneliness. Alec Baldwin is fantastic as Adam Maitland as a guy who designs models who tries to make sense of everything that goes on. Geena Davis is superb as Barbara Maitland who also tries to make sense as she doesn’t want to bring harm to Lydia despite what the people in the afterworld says. Finally, there’s Michael Keaton in a magnificent performance as the titular role despite only appearing in less than a third of the film. Yet, he steals every moment from his crude approach to humor as well as being completely wild in every kind of mannerism that he does as it’s really an iconic performance for the ages.

Beetlejuice is a rapturous yet extremely fun film from Tim Burton that features a tour-de-force performance from Michael Keaton in the titular role. Along with a great cast as well as some amazing technical work, it’s a film that showcases Burton’s gift for blending weird and macabre humor with an absurd approach to horror. In the end, Beetlejuice is an outstanding film from Tim Burton.

Tim Burton Films: (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure) - Beetlejuice - (Edward Scissorhands) - Batman Returns - Ed Wood - (Mars Attacks!) - (Sleepy Hollow) - (Planet of the Apes (2001 film)) - (Big Fish) - (Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) - (Corpse Bride) - (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) - (Alice in Wonderland (2010 film)) - (Dark Shadows) - (Frankenweenie) - (Big Eyes)

© thevoid99 2014


Chris said...

Agree Danny Elfman's score is superb. The film didn't make me laugh, but I loved the set design and miniatures, and the story of learning how to be ghosts was pretty fun and original.

thevoid99 said...

It's my favorite Tim Burton film as I just love how absurd it is and it still makes me laugh. Especially because of Michael Keaton who is one of the great actors in cinema.

ruth said...

It's been a while since I saw this but I remember liking it. Michael Keaton is such an underrated actor, he can be funny, quirky but also serious and sinister. His range is amazing and he also has this likable persona. I can't wait to see Birdman!

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-It's one of these films that I grew up watching and just didn't get tired of it. It's so funny and it makes me excited for Birdman as I'm on board the Keaton comeback train.

Anonymous said...

Beetlejuice is one of my favorite Burton movies, it's so much more re-watchable than many of his other films with all the macabre humor. It's weird to think how it became a kids cartoon that I watched, and my daughter has watched, but the original movie is such a great piece of work.

thevoid99 said...

@flightstightsandmovienights-I remember the cartoon which I liked a lot. It's not the film but it is still quite fun to watch. I can watch that movie a million times and still laugh my ass off.