A masterful dark comedy from director Tim Burton, Beetlejuice teamed him with actor Michael Keaton for the first time (the following year, Keaton starred in Burton’s Batman).
Not one for your children if they are easily frightened, but a must-see for older kids (there is some swearing and spookiness) who get a kick out of twisted humour.
Wholesome couple Adam (Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Davis) die in a car accident and find that they have become ghosts in their own picture-postcard home. Unfortunately a new family moves in – wealthy Charles (Jeffrey Jones), bleak daughter Lydia (Ryder) and stepmother Delia (Catherine O’Hara) – and the Maitlands are horrified when Delia remodels their dream home into a freaky gothic architect’s nightmare.
Unable to terrify the family themselves (when they appear with sheets over their ghostly selves, Delia thinks it’s quaint and decides to invite friends over to witness the apparitions), they call upon Betelgeuse (Keaton), a coarse, belching nasty ‘bio-exorcist’ who offers to rid their home of the horrible humans – for a price.
Deliciously dark, enjoyably icky and fun throughout, this is one of Burton’s best films, and features a tornado of a performance from Keaton, who is only on screen for a third of the film’s running time, yet steals the movie from the other excellent actors with his maniacal, hyper turn. Ryder, in her third movie role, is a treat as Lydia (‘my whole life is a dark room’) and Baldwin and Davis are hilarious too. Just perfect.
Is Beetlejuice suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Although this was originally a 15 certificate in the UK, there is nothing here that should truly frighten older children. However, if you do allow a child (aged 10 to 15 – this is NOT recommended for anyone younger) to see this movie, please bear in mind that the humour is dark and death is a central theme.
Kids may be scared of Beetlejuice, especially during the scene in which he transforms himself into various shapes and sizes including a carnival carousel ride, and when he terrorises Lydia.
Scenes showing disfigured people after death (you can see the manner in which they died) may also upset viewers. And the sand worm isn’t very nice, either.
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