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By Patrick Samuel • August 20th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Warner Bros.

Original release: March 30th, 1988
Running time: 92 minutes

Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, Larry Wilson
Composer: Danny Elfman

Cast: Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder


It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while now; is there a way to defeat death? We spend our lives in this state of denial about something we know is going to happen to each and every one of us at some point, and yet when the moment comes – who’s ever truly ready? So wouldn’t be great to know that death isn’t really the end; that somehow we can still watch over our loved ones, go about our unfinished business and tie up any loose ends we might’ve left?

As a kid back in the later part of the 80s, Beetlejuice was the film that introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of Tim Burton and immediately there was something about his way of storytelling that struck a chord with me. Was it the zany characters? The outlandish sets? The bizarre situations that unfolded? It’s all of these things, and what I always loved about his films was that, like me, he didn’t shy away from the subject of death at all. In fact, he embraced it and with Beetlejuice what we see is a family who come to accept that death is part of life, and it’s only just the beginning!

The film opens with married couple Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) deciding to spend their vacation decorating their New England country home, but as they’re driving back from town, their car plunges off a bridge and into the river below. Despite this mishap, they return home and gradually come to realization that they’re actually dead, based on some not-so-subtle clues (they’ve been left a copy of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased). Having to adjust to their new afterlife, they also realise their beloved house has been sold to an obnoxious family from New York City. The Maitlands decide to put on an old-fashioned haunting to spook the new residents, but the couple couldn’t scare a mouse even if they tried.


With their once-comfortable home now transformed into a gaudy piece of pastel-toned modern art by the Deetzes, the Maitlands resort to hiring Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost to get rid of them once for all. With his stripy suit, pale, decaying face and wild green hair, he has his work cut out for him because at first Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara) and Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones) aren’t too fussy about owning a haunted house, believing they can milk some money out of it. But the vulgar character has quite a few tricks up his sleeve.

While the Maitlands remain invisible to the living, Delia and Charles’ teenage goth daughter Lydia can see them and it doesn’t take long for the curious girl to befriend the ghostly original residents of her new home. When her parents attempt a séance and summon Adam and Barbara, they appear to them but start to decay. Seeing her friends like this horrifies Lydia and she calls on Beetlejuice, making a deal with him that she’ll be his bride if he saves them.

There’s a lot going on Beetlejuice, from giant worms and otherworldly planes to nightmarish fairgrounds and yuppy 80s home furnishings, but the film isn’t short of heart. As we Beetlejuicewatch the Maitlands trying every possible way to win back their home we start to understand what it might be like to be in the afterlife and face losing the place you called home. Where would go? What would you do?

Through it all the cast give incredible performances with the great material they’re given, but it’s really Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder who shine in their roles as Beetlejuice and Lydia. When first I saw Batman (1989) I really couldn’t back then it was the same actor playing Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader; the wonders of make-up and the difference in his acting always amazed me. As for Ryder, this was the film of hers I saw and I was riveted by her style and performance. In the years to come I’ve enjoyed seeing her in many other cult movies, including Heathers (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Dracula (1992) and Reality Bites (1994).

With a great script and fantastic cast, Beetlejuice is another film by Burton that has a score by the always recognizable Danny Elfman, but it also comes with Harry Belafonte’s infectious Banana Boat Song (Day O) and Jump The Line, used to great effect during the dinner party scene and at the climax.

Beetlejuice will always remain in my Top 5 Tim Burton films, with Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns (1992), Sleepy Hollow (1999) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), which he didn’t directed, but wrote and produced. He made the idea of the afterlife being a fun, crazy and exciting place while at the same time unsettling and filled with bizarre characters you wouldn’t necessarily want to meet, but even still, who could resist, especially a film like Beetlejuice?


Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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