Beetlejuice (1988): Halloween Review

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Source: Warner Bros.

Tim Burton is a household name in movies, from Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Sleepy Hollow (1999) to modern takes on children’s classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). Most notably, Burton is known for his dark aesthetic as seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Corpse Bride (2005), and Frankenweenie (2012). Burton’s famous tone began with a true Halloween classic: Beetlejuice. 

Beetlejuice tells the tale of the Maitlands, a couple from a serene town who want nothing more than a quiet life in their large, gorgeous home. After denying multiple offers from potential home buyers, the Maitlands begin a stay-cation by taking a quick trip to town. On the way home from the shop, the Maitlands meet their untimely demise via a car crash, but they mysteriously wake up at home, unaware of how they arrived there or what happened after the crash. As they come to terms with the realities of their new state of being via a guide they found after their death, called the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, a new family moves into their home: the Maitlands worst nightmare.

Since the last thing the couple wanted was to sell their home, the Maitlands would do just about anything to rid their home of this new family, especially when Delia, the new mother of the house, begins to remodel. The Maitlands continuously try to spook the new family into leaving the house, eventually aided by the daughter of the new family, Lydia, who can see the Maitland ghosts. After several failed attempts, Lydia summons Beetlejuice, after seeing ads where he claims to be “the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist.” Lydia and the Maitlands quickly regret this choice. Between his demand to marry Lydia as payment for expelling the humans from the house, and the complete and utter chaos he incurs, Beetlejuice rapidly becomes an unwelcome presence and the Maitland ghosts and Lydia have to fight together to rid their lives of Beetlejuice. 

So what makes this movie so great? Between the stark, undeniably recognizable color scheme, the famously dark themes brought by Tim Burton, and the iconic characters, everything about this film is different from those that came before it. There have been talks of remaking this movie for years, and every time that news makes headlines, film critics and fans alike speak against it – for good reason. The film is an icon and any remake would only serve to disappoint fans of the original. 

Honestly, there are things in this film that I didn’t think I would like: weird sand worms, a creepy, child-bride-wanting antagonist, and normal if not boring protagonists, but Beetlejuice pulls it all off. I’m a particularly finicky movie watcher, and the list of things I complain about during this one is very short, almost nonexistent. For such an odd movie in concept, it ages like fine wine. Each time you watch this one, it gets funnier, more quotable, and more clever. Every year, Beetlejuice becomes even more of a classic, and it’s one that I look forward to watching every Halloween. 

Filmnetic Grade: A

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