31 Days of Terror - 'Beetlejuice' (1988)
31 Days of Terror will cover a wide array of horror films leading up to Halloween. We'll be posting our thoughts and feelings on some of our favorites every day for the next 31 days. If your favorite doesn't make it, it doesn't mean we don't like it, so speak up in the comments below!
A Halloween movie list isn't complete without Beetlejuice; which is still considered a career high point for both Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. While not particularly scary, Beetlejuice has the perfect atmosphere and eccentric characters which helped make it into a huge hit for audiences in the late eighties. The film has since developed one of the largest followings among comedic horror films and has stood the test of time.
The story follows a married couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) who die in a car accident, only they don't realize they've died until other people begin moving into their house. Once they figure out they are in fact ghosts, they go to extreme lengths to scare the intruders off, including consulting Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) and the young girl in the family who can communicate with them (Winona Ryder).
Despite all of the attention Michael Keaton gets for his role here, the rest of the cast is really what helps hold the film together. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play the perfect couple that are consistently fun to watch deal with their new-found ghostly powers. I also love Winona Ryder and her infinitely obnoxious family. The way the Maitlands torment them throughout the course of the film is constantly amusing for me, I always get a kick out of watching people I don't like be scared out of their minds.
This film also boasts some impressive special effects work. I read that only $1 million of the $15 million budget was devoted to the effects created for the film, which is stunning when you consider just how much is going on at all times. The scene where they are aged in front of the family that is holding a seance is oddly terrifying to me, and that's mainly due to how convincing the make-up and costume work is. There's also heavy and effective use of stop-motion throughout the film, and it is used seamlessly in a way that I wish more films would. I also find the realm of the afterlife to be very creatively conceived, thanks both to the effects team and Burton's creative and twisted mind. I love how all of the spirits have basically become caricatures of how they died. The shrunken head looking over at Betelgeuse is comic gold.
Beetlejuice succeeds on so many levels. Whether it be the now-iconic performance from Michael Keaton, the wildly imaginative direction from Tim Burton, the uniquely macabre effects work or that instantly-recognizable score by Danny Elfman, Beetlejuce is a fantastic representation of what makes the horror comedy genre so great, and it's what helped put Tim Burton on the map. I doubt there are many out there who haven't seen this film yet, so do yourself a favor and just watch it again before Halloween rolls around, you won't regret it.