(Beetlejuice, 1988 – Warner Bros.)
This film has some real quality moments but often misses the mark. It’s easy to overlook the little things this film could do better because the true great thing about Beetlejuice isn’t the story (though the concept is wonderful), it’s the look of the film and the overall feeling it produces. It doesn’t quite flow as well as it should, some cuts are too jarring and they ruin comedic timing and in some cases the jokes have grown tasteless over time.
However, it’s so dutiful in the detail. It’s a hidden pleasure to look behind the action – at the other dead patients waiting to be seen, to listen to the PA system in the waiting room, and even the bureaucracy that exists even after death. It’s also nice to see how the film made use of old Hollywood special effects techniques, avoiding the Star Wars (Lucas, 1977) look. The miniature town set is a highlight, the production design is beautifully wacky.
Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice isn’t given enough screen time, you get the sense he had so much fun playing the role but he leaves you wanting to know more about him, his reasons and his background, you’d expect more from a titular character. Though I’m aware it takes more than just one vision to make a film, you can’t help but feel like this fits so neatly into Tim Burton’s eclectic style – a pure celebration of the strange and unusual. It’s dated, but is definitely one of my favourite features by Burton.
The Handbook for the Recently Deceased is on my list of fictional books to collect.