Dir: Tim Burton, 1988
What is, quite possibly, Michael Keaton’s best role, Beetlejuice adroitly walks that tightrope between horror and comedy that is seldom achieved.
Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, respectively) are a happily married couple.
Unfortunately, on their way to Adam’s DIY shop, they crash the car into a river.
Arriving home, they soon come to realise that they’re dead and simply ghosts that nobody can see.
However, their home is bought by city dwellers, the Deetz’s and the teenage daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder) can see and speak to them.
Wanting to rid their home of the new family, the Maitland’s contact another spirit, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton).
A bio-exorcist, Betelgeuse is nothing more than a lecherous trouble maker with ambitions to cross into the real world and marry Lydia.
Is Beetlejuice a comedy with streaks of horror or a horror with streaks of comedy?
Doesn’t really matter, because what it is is an hilarious movie with superb special effects and the best performance of Keaton’s career.
Full of quotable lines, memorable scenes and a brilliantly moody, yet comical, score by Danny Elfman, all come together to produce a uproarious cocktail of entertainment.
The scene at the dinner table is inspired film making at it’s best.
The only real weak link is Alec Baldwin. His character is dull and lifeless (pun intended) and could easily have been written out with affecting the film one iota.
Being a Tim Burton film, the horror is very dark and, at times, a tad graphic but it’s all played for laughs which goes some way to levening the scare moments.
Despite not getting top billing, this is Keaton’s film all the way and, criminally, is only in it for a quarter or, maybe half, of the film.
That’s a fantastic indicator to the strength of his performance.
Ryder as the depressed teen isn’t given much to do, even though she is often the centre of the plot.
Morose and miserable, she trudges her way through the film in a zombie-like state, conveying very little emotion in a monotone voice.
But this doesn’t hurt the film in any way.
It is still a classic of eighties comedy, that hasn’t dated and, even after numerous viewings, continues to hold up to this day.