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  • Gareth Crook

Beetlejuice (1988)

Is this another musical? Ha no not really, but there are a couple of songs and a lot more grotesque stuff than I recall. The music is courtesy of Danny Elfman of course, as with most of Tim Burtons films, they must really like each other. Burton has an odd view of the world, creating his own with a weird mix of cookie-cutter America, small towns, with dark under-bellies. Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davies) are a young couple living... for a short while in a typically quirky Burtonesque house. Within 5 minutes they’re dead, having taken their car for a swim off a nearby bridge and wind up living an afterlife in their house, now covered with dust sheets. Not for long though, the house has new owners, the mum from Home Alone, Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller and their daughter Winona Ryder, the only one who can see Adam and Barbara, who are trapped in the house, failing in their ghostly attempts to scare off the new occupants ruining their home. So far, it’s okay, but things really are a bit slow, despite a couple of quirky scenes involving sand worms and the waiting room from hell. Until the arrival of Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, who they call upon as a Bio-exorcist to get back their home. They’re warned not to enlist his help, from a chain-smoking lady with a cut throat, who tells them they ought to learn to haunt the house themselves. Which they do, but it turns out The Deets like being haunted, having poltergeists is cool, an asset, especially after possessing their dinner guests in the hilarious ‘Day O’ scene. Once they’ve unleashed Beetlejuice through, there’s no going back and from here on in, it’s an utterly bonkers, off the wall, surreal trip... at least in its design at least, plot-wise it’s pretty mundane. Beetlejuice is loud, ugly, filthy in several senses of the word, loud, angry, unhinged, creepy, loud, annoying, perverted, loathsome, lecherous and loud. Totally at odds with Adam and Barbara’s preferred way of haunting, y’know, nicely. He’s the villain and as the story unfolds, it turns out he’s quite pointless too. It’s a mix of silly and inappropriate. It might’ve worked in 1988, but I’m afraid it’s dated really badly. The story is simplistic, the characters universally a bit irritating, the special effects, well they’re of their day and there’s something to be said for that at least. It’s heavy on in camera effects and trickery. The make-up department must’ve had a lot of fun, but I found myself having very little. I know it’s much loved and it’s not without it’s charms. One of Burton’s first outings, it’s ambitious, creative and stamps his mark, there’s a lot to be said for that. It now feels very much the cult film, those who remember and loved it in the 80s, will probably still enjoy it for it’s stand out nature, but otherwise revisiting it can be a bit disappointing.



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