Amazon Prime film review: Beetlejuice
Neil Brazier | On 04, Jun 2015
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder
Watch Beetlejuice online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
When Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara (Davis) Maitland become the latest members of the recently deceased, they struggle to accept that their life is over. Finding their beloved home taken over by a new family of the living, they enlist the help of a bio-exorcist for hire to scare them off. But having been banished for centuries, the ghost with the most – Betelgeuse (Keaton) – makes things a little too scary, even for the dead.
Originally planned to be a much darker horror, the change in tone for Tim Burton’s 1998 comedy allowed the cast more room to have fun, something clearly evident in the performances. Keaton steals the show, a statement made even more powerful knowing that he was only in 17 and a half of the film’s 92-minute runtime. Whether he’s being crass or creepy, Keaton manages to draw your attention and leave himself etched in your mind. If it weren’t for Catherine O’Hara’s exasperated Delia or Ryder’s curiously dark and mysterious Lydia, Keaton’s absence would have you calling his name three times to bring him back.
It’s the dry humour of these characters, blended with the eponymous ghoul’s crazy, that works so well (and leaves you wanting to sing The Banana Boat Song around the dinner table at your next function).
The humour is not for everyone, though, and the film did have its detractors, who were upset at a comedy featuring a teenager considering suicide. Despite that, the film did well, ranking as the tenth-highest grossing movie of 1988 and winning an Academy Award for Best Make-Up. The Beetlejuice balloon grew bigger when a children’s animated TV show was created, which ran for four seasons between 1989 and 1991, with Tim Burton as executive producer. Today, the ghost with the most still sells costumes at Halloween and even has his own stage show at Universal Orlando Resort, so talk of a sequel has, inevitably, been long discussed.
Back in 1990, Tim Burton hired Jonathan Gems to write another Beetlejuice outing, with both Ryder and Keaton onboard assuming Burton would direct. Titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, the project (thankfully) stalled when Burton and Keaton got tied up in Batman and Batman Returns. Kevin Smith was then offered the project in 1996, but turned it down. In 2011, the sequel resurfaced, but with a new writer, Seth Grahame-Smith, who had worked with Burton on Dark Shadows. He wanted to make a story worthy of the Beetlejuice legacy and only with the original main trio involved. Burton said in 2014 that they were actively working on a script, which sent the Internet abuzz.
27 years on, its director is now known for his uniquely gothic style. The imagery and sounds that flow through all his movies almost create a time vortex, leaving Beetlejuice feeling as fresh and exciting today as the day it was released. The visual effects carry with them Burton’s distinctive design. They may look a little awkward and move with a stutter, but rather than dating the film they add to this world that Burton has built. It is that personality that has been remembered for over a quarter of a century; Beetlejuice may have been banished to the afterlife’s waiting room, but there is still that urge to call his name three times and bring him back for more.
Beetlejuice is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.