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Beetlejuice is one of my all time childhood favourites. A married couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) die in a freak car accident and begin to realise they are now ghosts, trapped in the world of the living. They must learn the rules and limitations of their new ‘lifestyle’ if they are to adjust to their new life as the dead. Their paranormal education is interrupted however when a power couple (Catherine O’Hara and Jeffery Jones) move in to their home along with their gothdaughter (Winona Ryder). Our ghosts are mortified when the couple begins tearing apart their dream home. In a bid to get the frustratingly annoying couple to leave, they try their best to scare the family away using their ghostly powers. Trouble is, they are newbie ghosts and suck at the whole haunting thing. Cue Betelgeuse. Played by Michael Keaton, Betelgeuse is the scum of the other-side. Keaton is at his best as the bio-exorcist Betelgeuse.
He is crude, rude and adept at scaring the daylights out of the living. Our ghostly couple enlist the help of Betelgeuse, but this backfires and various mishaps unfold.
Directed by the kooky and brilliant Tim Burton the film was a step in a new direction for Hollywood at the time. Its use of the quirky and morbid sense of black humour is complemented by Burton’s style of direction. The trips to the underworld provide the most memorable and cinematically attractive parts of the film. Strangely enough, the film was never meant to be a comedy. It was not until Michael Keaton came on board that comedy stepped out from the role as relief, to a more dominant, dramatic narrative.
I owe my love of Tim Burton’s later works to Beetlejuice. If you have not yet seen it, make a point to do so.