For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
Say what you will about Tim Burton and the downward trajectory he’s taken in the last decade-plus, this film (and some of his other early ones) are born out of a level of originality one rarely sees. Beetlejuice is many things, almost so many I can’t name them all, and even if I could- what would I say?
I’ll try to make this as coherent as possible, but when it comes to Beetlejuice, nothing is off the table.
The smaller, mini–me first saw Beetlejuice at a very young age, and was instantly smitten. There are layers to the film that peel back to reveal varying genres and moods, but also, it’s applicability in audience. I didn’t get certain references as a child, or think about much more than “wow, this looks so cool.” As I continued to fall in love with film, what was visually… loud, was then realized as creative and imaginative. What was zany fun, became, okay, well- still zany fun, but also, outrageously hilarious. I admired the boldness, and felt comfortable here, snug in this movie magic world.
When the Maitlands die and discover they are now ghosts, stuck in their large home, well, it’s not ideal! Worse, a new family that they can’t stand, The Deetz’s, have moved in. It should be easy to scare them off, right? Well, after some poor decisions, a dismissal of a manual to the afterlife, they turn to the help of Beetlejuice, the last (person?) they should entrust with this task.
Yeah, they kind of suck at this.
Michael Keaton really goes for it here as the gonzo titular character, and it honestly, couldn’t have been done by anyone else. Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin play our married protagonists with lovely naivety that makes their fumbling attempts to be scary charming. Catherine O’Hara is wonderfully kooky as always. Winona Ryder as Lydia is like the truth teller, the seer. She is us. She sees the strange and unusual. I see her as the main course in the weirdest dinner party you’ll ever attend, that reminds you, this is more than just an array of oddity. There’s groundedness and pain living in the cracks.
Dare to be weird. Burton dresses his film in a cartoonish variety, embracing the peculiarity and letting the surreal strut its stuff. It’s a rare and wonderful thing when you can’t offer up another film to compare, because it stands on its own supernatural legs.
It’s daring in its journey, and while this movie is far from perfect, the best or Oscar-worthy, it’s the kind of entertainment that can remind you of what makes movies an art form that’ll never die. It’s going to haunt us for life.
Something that’s only really happened with a few films I have seen at a young age, is the persistence of a sensation, the transportation of time and place. When I watch this film now I feel younger, giddy- even, and also, there’s a eerie-ness that’s perceptible like I’m seeing some things for the fist time. The netherworld, as it is, in all it’s wonderful set design, makeup, effects and spooky colors, is unsettling. Even with some witty, dark humor wrapped around something as terrifying as death, it’s still macabre.
Danny Elfman wields the musical composition with wacky perfection. Beetlejuice leans into its obnoxious push on your senses. It feeds off of it, in fact. And if you give in, it can be a blast.
Outlandish, but rich with imagination, Beetlejuice is likely to charm the life out of anyone with its lively display and ghoulish delights.
If you haven’t seen it, watch it.
Yes, I’m talking to you.
I got a chance to visit Beetlehouse in NYC! Read more here.