October 5, 2013


Tim Burton, 1988


Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) realize that they are deceased. Bound to their country home they loved dearly, they want to do anything they can to stop the new residents from getting too comfortable. They seek the help of "Beetlejuice", a "bio-exorcist" who assists them in scaring the new homeowners away.

A classic for children of the 1980's, any probably scary to young ones of today. One of Tim Burton's best, probably second best (with Edward Scissorhands in the lead). He uses the innocent Vermont backdrop to showcase quirky caricatures and his own bizarre creations. You venture into the white farmhouse only to discover the model home Adam has been working on so detailed, and comes alive as soon as they are dead. There are so many moments in this film that have a lasting impact. Walking out of the house and landing in the sand-worm's dimension. The waiting room of the case worker's office. The possession scene at the dinner table. And most of Beetlejuice's antics. Keaton is so buried in his role. One must wonder who or what he used to channel this performance. He probably should have been nominated for an Oscar, but it was a very competitive year with Dustin Hoffman winning Best Actor for his role in Rain Man. The film still took home an Oscar for Best Makeup, and for good reason.

Tim Burton's older films are so much better than his newer films. Why? Age? Did he lose that edge as he got older? Probably a lot of reasons. But he certainly took more risks in the 1980's. This film was so out there for it's time, it could have completely flopped. But it didn't. It was made on a rather modest $15M budget and ultimately grossed $73M. At times it has an almost Cronenbergy feel to it. But also very much unlike Cronenberg's films in the sense that the characters never really take themselves seriously. Adam and Barbara are very quickly accepting of their own death, and jump into a more defensive mode in trying to maintain ownership of the house. The most serious person in the film is likely Lydia (Winona Ryder), but her lack of fear of communicating with her deceased housemates certainly diminishes any kind of serious tone and only adds to the comedy.

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