The Movie Buff October: Beetlejuice

Colby Perron, "The Movie Buff," reviews the 1988 cult classic, "Beetlejuice."


Colby Perron, Staff Writer

In a month full of all kinds of new, unnecessary horror sequels (looking at you “Ouija 2”), one film stands high above the rest. No, not a new-age horror flick just in time for Halloween, but instead, the 1988 cult classic horror-comedy: “Beetlejuice.”

Directed by the legendary Tim Burton during his prime when he released “Batman” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” instead of “Alice in Wonderland,” and the pitiful “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” this film is classic Burton, and overall, just an amazing film.

So, our story starts off in a quiet New England town (I want to call it Connecticut, so we are going to do just that) when a young couple named Adam and Barbara, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, are suddenly killed in a car accident while trying to enjoy their vacation. Once they discover that they have died, they begin to attempt to figure out life after death in their old home, despite the pressures of a new family moving into their home.

The new family is a rich New York family hoping to make their move to the countryside. Comprised of the father, Charles, played by Jeffrey Jones, the mother, Delia, played by Catherine O’Hara, and of course, their daughter, Lydia, played by the fantastic Winona Ryder. Delia, a self-proclaimed sculptor, enlists the help of Otho, an interior-designer played by Glenn Shadix, in order to change the 1960’s style house into a more “modern one.” Of course, on the other side, Adam and Barbara are attempting to seek out help to get these new people out of their home. With help for the dead being very slow, they decide to enlist the help of self-proclaimed “bio-exorcist” Beetlejuice, a rowdy and excited spirit who gets pleasure in scaring the living, played fantastically by Michael Keaton.

Some of the scenes included in this film are extremely popular in our culture. While “Star Wars” has Luke and Vader duelling over Cloud City and Jaws has the shark popping up as they chum the waters, everybody knows the “Banana Boat” scene in “Beetlejuice.” Simply the sheer spontaneity of that scene, coupled with the confused looks on all of the actors’ faces while dancing around to a traditional Jamaican folk song, produces such a great scene that is remembered for generations.

This film could have never have succeeded without the stellar cast and the amazing director that was 1980’s-1990’s Tim Burton. The practical effects, while maybe not being as great as they once were, still hold up well enough to not take away from the film, and the story itself is just wacky and zany enough to be enjoyable but with just enough disturbing material to really put itself among the Halloween classics.

I consider “Beetlejuice” to be a “perfect Halloween movie because it truly captures the spirit of Halloween. No, it isn’t a jump-scare ladened gore fest remade for the nth time, but instead, it’s an original story featuring both scary and hilarious and fun elements all in one hour-and-a-half fun-filled film. While today’s audience may not be creeped out by the puppetry and claymation that makes up many of the fantastical dead (especially the shrunken head, I love that guy), it is still very refreshing to see them. Sure, maybe going to see “Ouija 2” will give you a better scare, but if you are looking for a great Halloween film, I definitely recommend checking out “Beetlejuice” today.