Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Jan 22, 2008
Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) are a nice young couple. When they are killed in a car accident, they find themselves doomed to haunt their former home. Their beloved house is sold, and its new occupants, the Deetzes, plan to wreck it with avant-garde art and tasteless redecoration. Frustrated by the bureaucracy of the afterlife, they hire a freelance ghost, Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), to drive the Deetzes away. However, Beetlejuice is a loose cannon, and he demands a price for his services that the Maitlands cannot pay.

Beetlejuice was one of Tim Burton’s first large films (it’s not huge-budget, even so). It’s weird, and, at the time, was unlike much else. Now, of course, it is quite like every other Tim Burton film, except that it is sharper, funnier, and doesn’t include Johnny Depp. (There are two basic viewpoints on Depp, it seems: either you fancy him, or he’s irritating. I know where I stand). Beetlejuice is full of strange, rather charming details that would crop up again in later Burton films: the striped, fanged sandworms that look like giant evil stockings, the way that Beetlejuice himself changes shape like a cartoon character, the Danny Elfman score, the goth character who knows the truth that the “normal people” can’t see.

Keaton plays Beetlejuice as a tough, sleazy creature, a mixture of a demon, a dirty old man and an ambulance-chasing lawyer. Depp would play the part now, with much clowning and CGI: Keaton is nastier and rougher than Depp would be, as suits the black comedy of the afterlife. Beetlejuice is ultimately a “nice” film, but it has an edge that Burton’s later, more schmaltzy films lack, especially in the afterlife’s rather ghoulish waiting-room. It’s interesting that all the characters are a bit absurd, including Lydia (Winona Ryder), the goth daughter of Mr Deetz, who can see the Maitlands and is probably the closest thing to a Burton-substitute. The Maitlands come out best.

About halfway, I began to feel slightly sorry for the Deetzes, who seemed foolish rather than evil, and I was glad that the film ends with a compromise rather than a victory for either side. Without giving much away, the film ends satisfyingly.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this film. It’s highly entertaining and shows Burton at his best.


There Are Always new Things to Learn.
Jun 29, 2014
The film always reminded me a bit of the Adams Family and Munster tv series with its gothic weirdness. :)

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