Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s Take on Death
Humanity is often baffled by the question, “What happens when you die?” Some say you will simply decompose. Some say you will be judged by your deeds and sent to a place befitting of the verdict. Some say you will be reborn depending on how you lived your life. Beetlejuice has the kind of ideology that will make you very uncomfortable if you take it seriously. But seriously, who would take it seriously? Tim Burton directed it. Danny Elfman did the music. This movie isn’t here to preach; it’s here to weird you out and make you laugh.
A gaudy introduction, I’m sure, but I do declare that Beetlejuice deserves it. As a live action movie based upon an old cartoon series, it scores remarkably well with most critics and reviewers. In this case, it scores well with me. The first positives that come to mind are: costumes, humor, and visual effects. Mind you, this is a 1988 production, so it’s obviously not a CG-holic like most films nowadays.
Adam and Barbara Maitland start the movie strong by dying within the first fifteen minutes. Better to get that out of the way so the real conflict can go down. They live in a huge house that they spent a lot of time decorating, which is a real shame. They die, they spend a lot of time in a waiting room, and they come back to find out that the Deetzes, an “artistic” family from New York, have moved into their house. They don’t really want to have their home torn down and fixed back up after all the work they’ve done on it, so they seek assistance in clearing the Deetz family out.
Beetlejuice is the first to offer his assistance, but from his conduct, it’s obvious that the lights upstairs are a little dim. Or insane. Their case worker, Juno, tells them to avoid Beetlejuice at all costs, but to no avail. He quickly proves to be a threat, and is sent back to the realm of the dead. Of course, he doesn’t take too kindly to that.
Lydia, the gothic looking gloomy daughter of the Deetzes, can see the Maitlands because she is strange and unusual, something specified in the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. As Lydia gets closer to the Maitlands and learns their story, Beetlejuice gets closer to Lydia. He uses her fear of the Maitlands leaving to trick her into bringing him into the world of the living, but not before Otho, the interior decorator, uses the Handbook to perform a little bit of necromancy.
Now that I think about it, I’m leaving out a whole lot of what makes this movie great; The little snippets of weirdness scattered here and there. For example, an explorer with a shrunken head checking Barbara out. Beetlejuice feeling up the legs of a woman who had been cut in half. Adam gets offered a cigarette by a man who burned to death smoking in bed. The visual effects are realistic yet comedic. The comedy is morbid and hilarious.
Beetlejuice is what I like to call a “childhood classic.” On its own, it’s kind of a unorthodox, surreal movie with little more to offer than disturbing laughs and a fairly straightforward plot. It’s a good movie for both kids and adults, although I should inform you that Beetlejuice says the fuck word at a point. He’s a very angry person. He also makes the movie awesome. I think you should watch it.