The Ghost with the Most: Beetlejuice

So, this was another one of those what-the-hell-am-I-actually-going-to-write type articles. They pop up at least once every other issue, don’t worry. When stuff like that happens, well, I usually turn to my DVD shelves and play eenie meenie minie mo. I had planned to do a sort of retrospective on the Iron Man movies seeing as how the third in the series is out now in the UK and well timing wise it made sense. Except I haven’t seen the third movie yet so you’re going to have to wait until I process the most likely awesome of that movie. So, the question boiled down to today, what shall I give the dear Wanderers as a review. “It has to be something worthy of them,” I thought. Then I realised I was getting far too close to deadline time and opted to give you a review of Beetlejuice instead.

Beetlejuice film poster

 A 1988 American comedy horror, Beetlejuice is actually on my list of favourite films of all time. Which says something about the state of that list, let me tell you, but I never claimed to be a film buff of any sort so let me have my crazy flicks, and you can have your Citizen Kane. This film is one of the many in Tim Burton’s back catalogue, and the visual signifiers of it being a Burton film are there, but don’t – I repeat DO NOT – play the drinking game for them. You’ll have a very nasty hangover plus, y’know, drink responsibly and all that malarkey.

Okay, so what about the plot? Well, the story of the film revolves around a young couple who have recently passed away and have become ghost, now haunting their former home, hoping to scare away the new inhabitants who are not their sort of people whatsoever. They contact an obnoxious, devious, “bio-exorcist” named Betelgeuse [A strange man just walked past my office door… -Ed.] from the Underworld to help them scare away these new inhabitants, permanently. And, to put it shortly, all sorts of scary hijinks ensue. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton in the title role of the ghost with the most.

Okay, so when it gets down to it, it is not the deepest or most involved plot in the world. It’s your basic deal with the devil-or-other-bad-guy style plot. And what a bad guy it is. Our title character, Betelgeuse – yes, it’s spelt like the star – is only in the movie for about … I think it’s not even half an hour of screen time. But it’s Michael Keaton’s fantastic performance in the role that makes him one of the most memorable movie villains of all time, in my personal opinion of course, and I’ve already admitted I’m biased in favour of this film. Keaton is unrecognisable in the Betelgeuse make-up, and makes the most of every minute he’s on screen, giving what could have in the wrong hands been a flat character energy beyond belief. According to my research, almost 90% of Keaton’s lines were ad-libbed, which goes to show just how much he gave to making the character the memorable ghost that he is.

And in other random information about the film that I should probably mention: believe it or not, this got an animated adaptation. Tim Burton produced the cartoon and turned the titular Beetlejuice into a snarky underdog anti-hero that you couldn’t help but root for, who had an intergenerational friendship with perky goth Lydia. As far as cartoon adaptations go, it was pretty cool. It’s going to be released on DVD by Shout Factory at some point this year, so keep a look out for it if you’re keen.

But long story short, not that I couldn’t ramble on about stuff I like forever and a day but we don’t have that long, Beetlejuice is really a movie worth checking out. Full of scary good laughs and some truly terrifying moments, you’ll be chanting his name more than three times.

I’d give this film a four out of five.

Z McAspurren (It’s Showtime!)

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