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Beetlejuice (1988) and the Can You Be Scary Moment

The One-Line Summary: Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) have had a car accident but after arriving home they discover they’ve actually died and now the place is home to a new family, so they do the logical thing and hire a horny, mischievous, malcontent ghost (Micheal Keaton) to try and scare them out.

The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Tim Burton, this highly imaginative mix of live-action and stop-motion animation is a dark and funny, slapstick farce that never takes itself seriously while having lots of fun with the horror genre, though never very scary. Keaton delivers a tour-de-force as the titular Beetlejuice, simply tearing up the scenery in a hyper-kinetic and often very funny performance, but is equaled by newcomer Winona Ryder as the daughter in the new family, a gothic, introvert who is actually able to see the ghosts and forms a bond with the recently dead to help them in their quest.

The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about introductions and begins when Adam and Barbara find out that the afterlife is a messy business full of red-tape and that they will have to haunt their house for 125 years before they can move on. They try to scare the new owners but fail miserably and learn that their afterlife caseworker (Sylvia Sydney) has an ex-assistant that is a freelance bio-exorcist but highly recommends they avoid his services due to his unstable personality and reckless behavior. When all else fails, the couple are out of options and despite the warnings and the pleas of their new living friend Lydia (Ryder) to try something else, Barbara calls out his name three times, summoning the devilish, dirty, demon.

The Four-Line Moment: Beetlejuice is instantly unlikable with his pasty-white face spotted with mold, his stringy green hair and foul-looking teeth, but he’s a fast-talker with a powerful desire to cause chaos and takes to Adam and (especially) Barbara right away. They instantly regret their decision, as he is vulgar, foul-mouthed, disrespectful and irritating, constantly trying to fondle Barbara while selling his services to the clearly in-over-their-heads dead couple. They attempt to see if he is qualified, and this slightly angers him as he is obviously the worst thing they have ever seen, but he gives them a taste of his madness, though they still can’t make up their minds despite his aggressive, desperate attempts. The moment is the defining moment in the film and introduces the world to one of cinema’s most endearing characters, a problematic but lovable oaf who is nothing but trouble yet endlessly watchable.

The Five-Word Review: Still waiting for Beetlejuice 2.

Clip courtesy Movieclips



Tim Burton


Michael McDowell (story), Larry Wilson (story)


Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder

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