Creeping back into UK cinemas this week, to celebrate its 35th anniversary, as well as the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros., is the fantasy horror-comedy, Beetlejuice. The movie – directed by Tim Burton – stars Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder, and tells the story of a recently deceased couple and their experiences with a ‘bio-exorcist’.
For those who have never seen Beetlejuice (all three of you), the film centres around Barbara and Adam Maitland – a sweet American couple who are involved in a car accident while out running errands. Upon returning home, the Maitlands quickly come to realise they didn’t survive the accident, and now exist as ghosts, who become trapped in their own house.
But being stuck at home wouldn’t be too much of a problem for the couple if not for the fact their house has just been sold to the Deetz family – a less than conventional clan, headed up by obnoxious wife and stepmother, Delia. The Deetz are very different to the Maitlands, and once they move in (and start making alterations to the décor) Barbara and Adam feel they need to make a stand.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to scare the Deetz family out of the house, the Maitlands enlist the assistance of fellow spook, Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetlejuice), to triumph where they have failed. Betelgeuse claims he can exorcise any house of living beings, and this suits Barbara and Adam just fine.
But as the Maitlands come to discover, Betelgeuse is a tricky spook and once he begins his own brand of haunting, this puts the Deetz family in danger. It now appears that Barbara and Adam have two problems to contend with, starting with the removal of the garish ghost.
For people of a certain age (those who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s), Beetlejuice is one of those rare horror-comedies their parents allowed them to watch quite early on in life. For some, it could have been their first brush with the horror genre, and something they started viewing from as little as 8-years-old.
Yet, until it was reclassified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 2018 to a certificate ‘12A’, the film spent the first 20 years of its life as a certificate ‘15’. However, despite what the BBFC thought of the movie, most youngsters saw Beetlejuice long before they reached this age and knew it inside out.
Why? Because similar to the film Gremlins (also a ‘15’ until it was reclassified in 2012), Beetlejuice was viewed by adults as being fine for kids.
The picture’s dark themes of death and hauntings were offset by the absurdity of the story; the creepy aesthetic of Beetlejuice and his fellow spooks were downplayed by the comedic tone of the film; and the whole picture was often regarded as a live-action cartoon. For many parents Beetlejuice was seen as harmless fun and not something to worry about.
And to be fair, they were right. While Beetlejuice is pretty dark, and did need to be given a more adult certificate by the BBFC back in 1988, this is one of those films which is deliciously fun for youngsters and those young at heart.
From Tim Burton’s imaginative visuals, through to Danny Elfman’s lively score, and Michael Keaton’s scene-stealing turn as the title character, Beetlejuice is just a joy to watch. It’s utter nonsense, which often places style over substance, but it all comes together just right to deliver lots of laughs and plenty of memorable moments.
Is Beetlejuice Tim Burton’s best movie? No – but it is certainly one of his most creative.
Many of the characters in the film (Juno, Lydia, Otho, etc) feel as if they have been meticulously designed, while the sets, costumes, lighting, and Academy Award-winning make-up are a pure delight. From a visual standpoint alone, Beetlejuice is a treat for the eyeballs, and one which never fails to fire up the synapses.
And if you have been watching the film on and off for the past 35 years, I’m pretty confident there are many highlights from the picture that immediately pop into your head. The waiting room scene, the dinner party sequence, and the use of ‘Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)’ are just three that spring to mind.
While these days, Beetlejuice is often wheeled out just in time for the Halloween season, this is a film to enjoy all year round. It’s fun, frivolous, and frighteningly good.
Should you wish to catch it on the big screen, be quick! Beetlejuice arrives in select UK cinemas for one week only, starting from Friday 14th April.
Oh, and you may wish to know that Beetlejuice is one of a number of classic Warner Bros. films getting a theatrical re-release over the coming weeks and months, following on from last week’s re-release of Superman: The Movie. Other Warner Bros. films on the horizon include A Street Car Named Desire, Casablanca, The Matrix, The Lego Movie, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, amongst others.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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