Supernatural comedy film, released in 1988 and directed by Tim Burton. Michael McDowell wrote the screenplay, with cinematography by Thomas Ackerman, original music by Danny Elfman, art direction by Tom Duffield, and costume design by Aggie Guerard Rodgers.
The film's stars included:
And Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett made cameo appearances as houseguests of the Deetzes and hapless victims of Beetlejuice.
The film won an Oscar for Best Makeup and was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Makeup by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It won Best Horror Film and Best Make-up at the Saturn Awards.
Our plot focuses on Adam and Barbara Maitland, who die in a tragic but silly car accident and are then doomed to spend the next 125 years as ghosts in their beautiful New England home. Unfortunately, a rough situation gets even worse when their home is sold to Charles and Delia Deetz, a crass but wealthy couple who proceed to gut out the house to accommodate Delia's rotten artwork.
Mixed into all of this is Lydia Deetz, the goth daughter who is the only person able to see the spectral Maitlands; Otho, a chubby and scheming interior designer and Delia's artistic instigator; and the Sandworms, gigantic monster worms who attack the Maitlands if they try to leave their home.
And that doesn't even include stuff like the "Handbook for the Recently Deceased," which everyone agrees reads like stereo instructions. There's the Maitlands' trip to the Underworld, which looks like a combination of the DMV and an auto factory. There's Juno, the Maitland's grumpy afterlife case worker, who chain-smokes her cigarettes through a razor slash in her throat.
There's the Maitlands' ineptly trying to scare the Deetzes away by ripping their own faces off, turning themselves into popeyed grotesqueries, running around the house in designer bedsheets, and possessing Charles, Delia, and their dinner guests and forcing them to dance and sing to Harry Belafonte's classic calypso hit "Day-O."
Into all of this steps Beetlejuice, a filthy, perverted scoundrel who operates as a "bio-exorcist" to help scare living humans away from haunted houses. His scare tactics are a lot more effective than the Maitlands' ideas, but he's also a great deal more ruthless and dangerous, and he decides to marry Lydia so he can return to the living world. Can Adam and Barbara get rid of Beetlejuice and save Lydia before they get exorcised into nothingness?
Most of the actors do a good job -- Baldwin and Davis, in some of their earliest starring roles, act amiably goofy and domestic, and Jones and O'Hara are amusingly offbeat. Glenn Shadix's Otho is simultaneously a scheming conman and an ignorant fraud, leeching off Delia's wealth by encouraging her mostly unimpressive artwork. Ryder was justifiably considered the film's breakout debut, even though it wasn't her first movie. She embodied goth teens for many people -- smart, open-minded, iconoclastic, dark, moody, and surprisingly normal.
And of course, the movie belonged to Michael Keaton, who dominated the film even with his scant 17 minutes of screen time. Almost unrecognizable under a white fright wig and moldy makeup, Keaton unleashed his id to conjure up the smarmy, sneering spook. Gross, rude, crude, lecherous, plotting, intensely dishonest, and without a doubt the movie's lead villain, but you still can't stop loving him 'cause he's just so damn funny. "Beetlejuice" the movie may be only the second-best supernatural comedy after "Ghostbusters," but Beetlejuice the character is definitely the best and most enjoyable ghost in cinematic history.
The only thing that could possibly upstage Keaton is the art direction of the movie itself. From Delia's awful sculptures that eventually become humorously ominous minor characters to the incredibly baroque face-twisting disguises the Maitlands' take to scare off their human lodgers, the entire movie is jam-packed with the morbidly bizarre creations that have become Burton's trademarks. And one of the simplest designs has become one of the film's most unforgettable images -- Beetlejuice's iconic vertically-striped black-and-white suit.
Do I recommend it? Shyeah, I recommend it. If you wanna see the movie that made Tim Burton, Michael Keaton, and Winona Ryder stars, if you wanna see one of the funniest horror movies ever, if you wanna groove on hilarious makeup, stop-action animation, and calypso choreography, this needs to be on your rental list.
Favorite trivia: Burton jokingly suggested "Scared Sheetless" as a title when the studio expressed doubts about "Beetlejuice." He was appropriately horrified when they actually considered using it.
"I'm the ghost with the most, babe."