Thursday, October 24, 2013


Every horrorhound's favorite month is upon us, and to celebrate, I'll be dishing out a personal pick from the genre for every day in October. Some will be obvious and rather unoriginal (sorry that I like movies other people like), while some will be a little more oddball and off-the-wall. Some may even challenge your idea of what constitutes a "horror" movie. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the month with some good movies, even if they aren't ones I recommend!

Today's Pick: Beetlejuice (1998)

Before getting swallowed into remakes and pre-packaged properties like Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton was a very special voice when it came to ghoulish filmmaking. And besides his crowning artistic achievement (that'd be Ed Wood), I don't think there's any argument that Beetlejuice is his best film (Edward Scissorhands takes a very respectable third place). It showcases his signature style while not becoming overpoweringly distracting, and the material seems tailor-made for Burton's childish love of the macabre.

When Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are killed in an auto accident, they return to their home as ghosts. Unfortunately, their house is bought by the Deetzes (Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones), an obnoxious New York couple. After learning what the afterlife entails, the Maitlands try to scare the Deetzes out of their house, but only end up exciting them about the idea of living in a real haunted house. That's when they enlist the help of a "bio-exorcist" called Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), but Beetlejuice has his sights set on escaping the spectral world by marrying the Deetzes sweet and strange daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder).

Considering that the original concept for the film was much darker and scarier, it's pretty great to see such a blatantly horror-centric film cross over into the mainstream so successfully without being too tame. Beetlejuice's concept of telling the story of a ghostly married couple forced to live in a house with people they can't stand lends itself to lots of comedy, but there's a wonderful balancing act done with this film in regards to scares and laughs. Lots of that has to do with the production design and lighting which uses lots of vivid colors to alleviate some of the gloom.

But, above all, it's the performances that make this film so memorable, specifically Michael Keaton as the villainous sleazeball Beetlejuice. Even though he is a disgusting and vile character, he's so damn entertaining that it's no wonder people seem to forget he's not the main character. The sweetness of the two leads and their relationship with Lydia is often pushed aside for Beetlejuice's wacky antics. Everyone does a great job in the film and it's certainly a prominent point in the careers of everyone involved.

Above all, Beetlejuice is dripping with Halloween goodness. You get lots of classic spooky tropes filtered through Tim Burton's wacky imagination, and nothing is ever too scary that everyone can't enjoy it. I know a sequel might be looming on the horizon, but there's no way it could ever capture the magic of the original, even with lots of the original creative team involved. Stick with this one and make sure your kids are nearby when you watch it. They'll have a ball.

Speaking of kids, tomorrow's film is for them. But that doesn't mean the parent scan't enjoy it too! In fact, it's one of the better "kids movies" I've seen in years. Care to take a guess?

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1 comment:

  1. Soooo uhhh what happened to the rest of em??