Mr. and Mrs. Maitland meet their demise when they swerve off the road and plunge their car into a river. However, they realize that they did not survive the crash after they’re unable to recall how they arrived home as well as find a Handbook for the Recently Deceased suddenly appears on one their desks. Meanwhile, in the mortal world, their cherished hilltop home has been sold to the Deetzes - a family of New York yuppies - who intend to turn their house into a postmodern art piece. Frustrated, the Maitlands use everything in their ghostly power to thwart the Deetzes – including hiring a ‘freelance bio-exorcist’ ghost named Betelgeuse.Read more
After scriptwriter Michael Mcdowell and his partner were frequently annoyed by their neighbors, his partner posed a question: “What would be the situation if you had good ghosts and it’s the people who moved into the house who was awful?” It was then that Mcdowell had the concept of Beetlejuice in mind, starting with the title character of Betelgeuse, a freelance bio-exorcist that scares insufferable occupants out of homes.
Beetlejuice is a triumph in that it shows the unique ability of director Tim Burton. In it, he addresses the menacing ideas of death and the afterlife in such a way that is whimsical and heartfelt. At the time, it was the exuberant work of a young auteur. He did not apologise for leaning into the dark and brooding facts of life. It was his rebellious taste for monster films, B-movies, and Gothic expressionism, that made his second directorial work disturbing and humorous. It is through horror and horrifying things that Burton is able to not only build worlds but also layer his characters. The result is a cult-like piece that made its way to mainstream acceptance.
At its core, Beetlejuice is a ghost story of a recently deceased couple driving a family out of their home. Yet, it is neither frightening nor malicious that even its antagonist is likable. It is a combination of horror, comedy, and drama that makes the film, albeit odd, accessible to everyone. Burton portrays a mundane yet beguiling vision of life after death. He makes it clear that he is arguing for a more farcical view of the afterlife than a dogmatic one.
In the end, the charming but scummy antagonist - Betelgeuse - no longer fits in. Because at his core, he is horrifying and dangerous to those around him. He denies any relationship with living beings and the mortal world.
The blissful ending shows the Maintland's and the Deetzes' living under one roof. It is a kind of bizarre metaphor of death as a part of life. The symbiotic existence of opposites is also seen in his later works.
Beetlejuice (1988) is a horror-comedy film directed by Tim Burton. The title-character, Betelgeuse, is played by Michael Keaton, while the kooky ensemble of characters includes Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones. The film was both a commercial and critical success – recouping its filming budget five times over and receiving numerous award nominations; it was nominated by several major award-winning bodies, namely: Academy Awards, British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), Saturn Awards, and Hugo Awards. It also placed 88th in the American Film Institutes list of AFI’s 100 Years . . . 100 Laughs. The B-movie was met with mostly positive reviews by viewers and critics; The Washington Post’s Desson Howe felt Beetlejuice had 'the perfect balance of bizarreness, comedy, and horror.'