Halloween will be here before we know it, which means soon enough I’ll be sorting through all my favorite horror and horror-related movies. Although Beetlejuice doesn’t fall under horror, it’s more of a fantasy based film with an abundance of horror elements, it’s one of my favorite ones to watch around this time of year.
I can’t believe this cult classic turns 30 this year – it makes me feel so old yet I can deny loving it just as much now as I did when I first watched it. It’s aged perfectly. Plus, I love Michael Keaton. He most definitely is the ghost with the most! Celebrate Beetlejuice’s 30th anniversary with us as we take a stroll down memory lane.
From the beautifully bizarre mind of Tim Burton comes another one of his fantasy worlds that we have loved for the past 28 years. In this story, the beautiful Maitland couple, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis), have been enjoying their quiet and peaceful lives together until, one day, they die in a car crash on a bridge. It takes them a little bit to realize they are the “recently deceased,” but once reality hits they go into a panic until they realize that they can still live their unlives in peace in their beautiful house together. However, this blissful dream doesn’t last long when a new family moves into the house and disrupts their new ghostly lifestyle. They acquire the services of a “bio-exorcist,” aka Beetlejuice, to help rid their home of these pesky humans. But once again things don’t go as planned and everything becomes more complicated than before. Will they learn to live together? Or will Beetlejuice ruin everything? I’m sure you already know the answer to this. If not, for shame!
Make-up artist Ve Neill transforms Michael Keaton into the Ghost with the Most!
The original script for Beetlejuice was written by Michael McDowell, but later on was rewritten by Larry Wilson and Warren Skaaren. According to Wikipedia, the original was far darker and less comedic. They made several changes to give it a lighter tone. Apparently, they made the right call because the film was a huge hit with audiences and made over $73 million at the box office against a mere $15 million budget. Dang, that’s pretty impressive! Because of its success, it spawned a television series, theme parks, and just recently a Beetlejuice themed bar/restaurant in New York City. Along with this, it went on to win three Saturn Awards: Best Horror Film, Best Makeup and Best Supporting Actress for Sylvia Sidney, plus an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
All of this doesn’t surprise me one bit, though, because there’s nothing quite like this ghost story. That’s probably because it’s far more than just your average ghost tale. It takes you into a beautiful fantasy world, something that we would imagine in our dreams, and delivers a unique perspective from the recently deceased and what they go through. Maybe ghosts aren’t so bad after all? Are they really haunting a house if the house was theirs in the first place? Anyway, Beetlejuice is super fun with spooky elements, amazingly unique characters, an awesome soundtrack, and an overall creative plotline with memorable and funny dialogue. This is why, after all these years, it still has a huge fan base and is one of Tim Burton’s most popular films.
Now, Beetlejuice may not be scary, but it has plenty of spooky elements to keep us on our feet! For example, just think about when Beetlejuice turns into a giant snake or the huge sandworm that reminds me of the movie Tremors. Both of those things were creepy and I’m sure they’ve given plenty of people the heebie-jeebies. Plus, the fantasy parts really bring something extra special to this story. One of the first magical moments is when the Maitland couple creates a door to the other world with chalk and knocking three times. How freaking cool! It’s far more than your average ghost story as it dives both into the world of the recently deceased and the new family that has moved into their house. Both sides, in the end, have one similar message: it’s okay to be different and it’s okay to embrace the weird and unusual.
Along with the creative story comes the awesome dialogue that everyone loves to quote! Here a few fan favorites.
- “Go ahead, make my millennium.”
- “I myself am strange and unusual.”
- “I’m a ghost with the most, babe.”
- “Nice fuckin’ model!”
- “Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse.”
- “We’ve come for your daughter, Chuck.”
One of the best things about Beetlejuice is all of the wonderful and creative characters. First, we have Lydia who is played by the lovely and talented Winona Ryder. She plays a moody and depressed teenager who is the only one who can see the ghosts. Then her parents, Delia (Catherine O’Hara) and Charles (Jeffrey Jones), are an odd pair but compliment each other well. Plus, you’ve gotta love our recently deceased couple, Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara (Davis), and how their characters progress. Along with that is the eccentric Otho (Glenn Shadix) who brings a lot to the table, including summoning the ghosts. Plus, the timeless Sylvia Sidney who plays Juno the ghosts caseworker (and, as mentioned before, she won an award for this role). But most of all, it’s the ghost with the most who really sells the movie: Beetlejuice aka Betelgeuse, played by the wonderful Michael Keaton. It’s amazing that he only spent 2 weeks filming his part in the film and he based his performance on the character Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I can’t picture anyone else playing this character; his voice, makeup/costume, and personality have left a lasting impression that would take big shoes to feel if it was ever to be remade.
And finally, let’s talk about the music! Although there are many reasons to watch this film, many people tune into this film solely based on the awesome musical scenes. The musical score is mostly arranged and written by Danny Elfman; however, the two original songs are performed by Harry Belafonte and have become iconic.
First, is the dinner party scene where “Day-O (Banana Boat Song)” is played. It’s so damn catchy that you can’t help but sing and dance along.
Then there is the song at the end, “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora),” which you can see in the above clip. Lydia performs this after doing well on her grades and we are sure glad she did!
Final Thoughts on Beetlejuice:
As you can see, I absolutely adore Beetlejuice and every single thing about it. For the longest time, there were rumors that there would be a sequel, but most of that has been laid to rest. Part of me wishes it was true, while another part knows that nothing will ever add up to the epicness of the original. I’m sure I will watch this movie at least a dozen times during this upcoming season, but it really just puts me in the spirit – after all, he is the ghost with the most! Happy 30th Anniversary!!!