Beetlejuice is a 1988 American comedy horror film directed by Tim Burton, produced by The Geffen Film Company and distributed by Warner Bros. The plot revolves around a recently deceased young couple who become ghosts haunting their former home and an obnoxious, devious “bio-exorcist” named Betelgeuse from the underworld who tries to scare away the new inhabitants permanently.
Beetlejuice stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Sylvia Sidney, and Michael Keaton as the titular Betelgeuse (the film’s title being a phonetic spelling of the character’s name).
Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic New England country home. While the young couple is driving back from town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog wandering the roadway and crashes through a covered bridge, plunging into the river below. They return home and, based on such subtle clues as their lack of reflection in the mirror and their discovery of a Handbook for the Recently Deceased, begin to suspect they just might be dead. Adam attempts to leave the house to retrace his steps but finds himself in a strange otherworldly dimension referred to as “Saturn,” covered in sand and populated by enormous sand worms.
After fleeing back into their home, the Maitlands’ peace is soon disrupted when their house is sold and obnoxious new residents, the Deetzes, arrive from New York City. The new family consists of Charles (Jeffrey Jones), a former real estate developer; his second wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara), an aspiring sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) from his first marriage. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho (Glenn Shadix), the Deetzes transform the house into a gaudy piece of pastel-toned modern art. The Maitlands seek help from their afterlife case worker, Juno (Sylvia Sidney), who informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years and that, if they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. The Maitlands’ attempts at scaring the family away prove utterly ineffective.
Although the Maitlands remain invisible to Charles and Delia, their daughter Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno’s advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), a freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost, to scare away the Deetzes; but Betelgeuse becomes more interested in marrying Lydia so that he can re-enter the land of the living. It takes the combined efforts of the Maitlands and Lydia to defeat Betelgeuse. The Deetzes and the Maitlands decide to live together in harmony. At the film’s conclusion, Betelgeuse is seen waiting in the afterlife reception waiting room, where he angers a witch doctor, who shrinks his head.
The opening credits are an homage to Alfred Hitchcock using a very similar flyover used in the opening credits of The Trouble with Harry, also filmed in and around East Corinth, Vermont, 33 years earlier.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: