Beetlejuice (1988) Movie Review
Written By: Angela DiLella
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Tim Burton
Producers: Michael Bender, Richard Hashimoto, and Larry Wilson
Writers: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, and Larry Wilson
Date Released: March 30, 1988
Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse
Alec Baldwin as Adam Maitland
Geena Davis as Barbara Maitland
Winona Ryder as Delia Deetz
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
After dying and realizing that they will be trapped haunting their home for all eternity, Adam and Barbara are horrified when a yuppie family moves in. To get them out, they summon up the self-proclaimed best bio-exorcist around: Beetlejuice.
There’s not much to speak of in terms of blood, but there are some nasty (and memorable) practical effects that more than make up for it.
The Grave Review
Beetlejuice (1988) looks at a haunted house from the disgruntled ghosts’ point of view. Who could stand to be stuck with a bunch of yuppies that want to destroy everything you built up and worked hard for during your life? It’s a pretty unique idea that is strengthened by how mundane almost everything about the process is: the afterlife is like the DMV, dying comes with an instruction booklet… And it makes the moments that swerve into real horror that much more effective when the time comes. The whole movie is infused with dark and bitter humor that makes it oddly relatable and memorable.
Michael Keaton can’t be beat as Beetlejuice: supposedly it’s one of his favorite roles, and you can tell he had a ball with it. He is the perfect creep, swindling for whatever angle he thinks will benefit him like a deranged used car dealer (who is literally from hell!) The movie before him and scenes without him are perfectly fine and are far from lacking, but he steals the show completely. However, you will find that there isn’t a single actor or actress that leaves you wanting. Catherine O’Hara and Glenn Shadix are also especially memorable in their roles of Delia Deetz (Lydia’s stepmother) and Otho (Delia’s right-hand man) respectfully, for how slimy they make them.
There’s a reason why Beetlejuice is considered one of Tim Burton’s career-defining movies. The humor is on point, the flirtations with horror (which are genuinely unsettling at times) are memorable, and the sets and effects still feel unique, even among Burton’s other films. There aren’t too many weak points to this movie (Lydia’s decision to kill herself has always struck me as sudden and out of place, but that’s all that really seems off, which isn’t bad for a movie that involves stop-motion sand snakes intent on devouring ghosts), and it is one of the rare movies that seems to benefit from multiple viewings. Many of the sets—especially those set in the drab, all-too-mundane afterlife—are packed with detail, some of which seems to hint at something deeper than the dark comedy presented. For example, just this viewing, I caught for the first time an audience of the dead that appears to be watching the Maitlands in their caseworkers’ office, just as I was, on my own couch. Beetlejuice gives a viewer something new to chew on with every watch, and what they remember and enjoy doesn’t get old, either.
It is worth noting that while Beetlejuice is rated PG, there is a fair bit of adult language and adult humor.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Beetlejuice (1988) four graves out of five graves.
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