Beetlejuice

A young couple, spiky-haBeetlejuice-beetlejuice-the-movie-32800707-500-700ired Alec Baldwin and plump-lipped Geena Davis, get into a car accident and come home depressed and sodden, their vacation off to a bad start. And they don’t know the half of it!

A handbook for the recently deceased mysteriously appears in their home and they get to wondering if maybe they didn’t survive the crash after all.

First rule of death? You can’t leave your house. First rule of real estate? When the previous owners die, a new family will move in (cue: pale and deliciously high-strung Catherine O’Hara, creepy as ever Jeffrey Jones, and strange and unusual Winona Ryder). The ghosts of the old owners plus the thoughtfull new owners makes for a very crowded house. We all know that if you want to rid a house of ghosts, you call an exorcist – but what if the ghosts want to rid a house of the living?

beetlejuiceBefore he was Birdman, even before he was Batman, Michael Keaton was Beetlejuice, the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist. Free demon possession with every exorcism! Keaton goes all out in this film, and he’s the absolute stand-out, despite the fact that he’s in all of 17 minutes on-screen. He’s ghoulish and manic and clearly having a lot of fun leaping into improvisations.

Makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte, and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on this film. Watching it now, it feels a little dated, but that’s nothing in comparison to the weird, stop-motion stuff that Burton dreamed up for the afterlife.

beetlejuice-2-michael-keaton-winona-ryderI was a kid the first and last time I saw this, and I had to work hard to convince my mom to rent it for my little posse of pony-tailed friends. Beetlejuice was perfect sleepover fare: creepy, with the illusion of the illicit, but overall harmless fun with an inspired Calypso soundtrack perfect for sleeping bag shenanigans all night long. Rewatching it now, I have a new appreciation for how dark and funny it is, and for the formidable Catherine O’Hara, whom I always love, but who rarely looks as stylish as she does in this movie.

The movie ended up being successful enough to spawn a cartoon series and whispers of a sequel that remained in the works for years but seemed to die off until they were recently dusted off for us in 2015. It’s been terribly hush-hush, Burton unwilling to confirm except that he’d only consider it if Keaton is on board – and he is, and so is Winona. Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride & Prejuidice & Zombies) has been working on the script since 2012. Chloe Grace Moretz (rumoured to play Winona’s daughter) and Samuel L. Jackson have reportedly already begun filming.

As for Delia Deetz, style icon, I present you:

She wears mostly Japanese designs by Mitsuhiro Matsuda, Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garçons. James Acheson took home the Oscar that year for Dangerous Liaisons, and I can’t argue that, but I do think it’s a crime Aggie Guerard Rodgers didn’t even get a nomination for her work here.

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Jeffrey_Jones_plays_Edward_R._Rooney_in_Ferris_Bueller's_Day_OffAnd while I’m engaging in some movie history revisionism, can we please start a campaign to digitally erase Jeffrey Jones from our favourite movies?  You want to know why he was so convincing as Feris Bueller’s  creepy principle? Because he’s a real-life pedophile. In 2003 he pled no contest to the felony charge of taking sexually explicit pictures of a minor, and possessing child pornography. He’s a registered sex offender. Can we maybe take him out family movies like this one?

 

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44 thoughts on “Beetlejuice

  1. NotAPunkRocker

    So funny enough, I finally watched the last of Season 1 of American Horror Story last night (yeah, I know, how many years behind am I now?). M had already seen it but I likened a lot of the events that took place in the last few episodes to the same rules/behavior, just a lot darker.

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  2. emmagc75

    Great movie and love that song! I just saw a little bit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off last week. Hubby and I were discussing him being arrested for that. Really Creepy!

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  3. jameshaseltine

    Not sure if I’m thankful for the update on Jeffrey Jones or not? He is one the best characters in Ferris Bueller, now he has a dark and twisted hidden suggestion behind his persistent hunt for Bueller. Screw you assholes

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  4. Christopher

    My favorite thing about “Beetlejuice” was its wonderfully simple premise: a ghost story from the ghosts’ perspective. And the added twist that as weird as the afterlife may be the actual life of the one-percent (or at least upper class) is weirder. And all the wonderful details like smoke wafting from Juno’s slit throat, the old guy next to the Maitland’s hardware store who complains about a kid with “hair down to his shoulders”. And Otho who was played so wonderfully by Glenn Shadix, whom I met at a convention once. It was brief but he seemed like a really nice guy.
    I’m focusing on him because I’m trying to erase Jones. Oh, great, now Amadeus is going to be hard to watch too.

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  5. kmSalvatore

    well.. ill be passing on this one… my kids loved this movie so much they wore the tape out. yes i said tape:) just the mere mention of this movie. and i want to barf. the end:)))

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  6. DotedOn

    I should watch this movie again, maybe with my kids.
    I didn’t know about J. Jones, he does look creepy. I love your idea of digitally erase him 🙂 (I would digitally erase so many actors!!).

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  7. Birgit

    That dinner scene cracks me up every time and my Brother loves that scene. O’Hara never looked better and don’t forget the great Sylvia Sydney in a small but great role as the dead smoking lady who sees them in the “dead” life (waiting room). I agree about Jones. I wish he was in jail but, alas, I don’t think he is. I always found him a little uncomfortable to watch and never knew why. Now i know

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  8. Spacerguy

    Beetlejuice is actually quite funny, Keaton shines in this classic and for some reason the cornball humor, hits on the pretty girl and awful makeup is a winner – don’t ask me why but I found myself laughing watching this one.

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  9. Liz A.

    You had to convince your mom to let you see it? My parents took me to the theater to see it. I don’t think I was kicking and screaming in protest, though. (The list of movies I got dragged to as a kid is funny. My father had a way of picking the good ones with only the occasional clunker.)

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  10. ninvoid99

    This is still my all-time favorite film by Tim Burton. It’s just fucking hilarious. I saw it as a kid and I haven’t stopped. I still think this is Michael Keaton’s best work. “You bunch of losers!!!! You’re talking to a professional here! NICE FUCKIN’ MODEL!!!!!!!”

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  11. J.

    Sequel! Hurrah! Despite how badly it’s aged effects wise, this remains one of my all time favourites.

    As for Jeffrey Jones … I didn’t know this about him. Maybe they could digitally insert another actor … kinda like they did with Hayden in Jedi.

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  12. Sarah Ferguson

    I saw Beetlejuice at the theater three times – twice at birthday parties, and once with my family. I haven’t seen it for years, but if there is a sequel…well, I think I may have to re-watch it sooner rather than later!

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  13. StephLove

    My wife (then girlfriend) and I saw this at a drive-in the summer we were 21. Ah, memories… I wonder if our teen would like it. Or maybe the 9 year old… I can’t remember how scary it is.

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  14. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

    Awesome review. I need to watch this again. I totally agree with a lot of your points – including erasing Pedophile Jones. The costumes and overall design is phenomenal. I love all the spooky creature FX too. Such a fun movie too. I didn’t realize Keaton was on screen for such a brief time. That goes to show you how amazing his performance was.

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  15. Chris

    I agree Michael Keaton was the stand-out, he suprised me with his zany performance in this one. Beetlejuice is so different to what I’m used to seeing from him.

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