Beetlejuice (1988)


By Scott Ross

Tim Burton’s best movie. Working from a black-tinged comic screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren (and his own, highly original, character designs) Burton crafted something uncategorizable — a horror spoof that’s both hilarious and creepy. In the title role, Michael Keaton gives a performance of such outrageous vitality and comic brilliance it’s non-pariel — like seeing Groucho Marx for the very first time. A very likable Geena Davis and a surprisingly endearing Alec Baldwin are the newly departed owners of a rustic New England house taken over by a pretentious “artist” (the sublime Catherine O’Hara), her lackadaisical husband (the deliriously blasé Jeffrey Jones) and their disturbed teenage daughter (Wynona Ryder). The great Sylvia Sidney has a recurrent cameo that’s really just a visual sick-joke, but it’s so perfect you may gasp with shock and pleasure. Danny Elfman composed the utterly distinctive score, and Harry Belafonte’s recording of “Day-O” is given an invigorating comedic workout.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross


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