Meet the Maitlands, Barbara and Adam. They're a young couple, crazily in love, and trying to have a baby to fill up their idyllic home in a sleepy little Connecticut town. One day, they run to town for an errand... and crash through the covered bridge over the river.The ghosts of the Maitlands return home, not knowing how, and find that they can no longer leave it (unless they want to be beset by Sand Worms). Even worse, their house has been sold to the Deetzes — an eccentric, upscale yuppie family who want to do a complete overhaul. With no clue about what to do and little-to-no real help coming from the Celestial Bureaucracy known as the afterlife, Barbara and Adam learn of a being known as Betelgeuse (pronounced, of course, "Beetlejuice") who claims he can rid their house of its new owners. They release him after saying his namethree times. Hilarity Ensues.This iconic Tim Burton movie remains one of the most popular comedy movies of all time. Though it contains the typical gothic imagery you'd expect from Burton, it also features memorable performances by Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix, Winona Ryder, and Michael Keaton as the B-Man himself, as well as the musical stylings of both Danny Elfman and Harry Belafonte. Mix all of these elements together, and it's not hard to figure out why Beetlejuice soon became a staple of Halloween.Interestingly enough, Beetlejuice was originally conceived as a very serious horror film titled The Maitlands with Beetlejuice originally envisioned as a shape-shifting reptilian demon. The involvement of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton helped turn it into more of a comedy.The movie was so popular that it spawned an animatedRecycled: The Series on ABC and Fox Kids. It bore little resemblance to the movie, however; the Maitlands and Juno were eliminated entirely, the title character's name was spelt "Beetlejuice", he and Lydia were best friends, and the stories largely took place in Beetlejuice's home dimension of "the Neitherworld".
Affably Evil: While hardly anybody's friend, Betelgeuse actually seems like a fun guy to be around. How miserable can someone really be if he occasionally dresses up as a cowboy, enjoys carnival games, and offers to make Barbara and Adam an Italian dinner?
Faux Affably Evil: However that fun side can actually be the enjoyment of his sadistic nature to torture and kill. It has been shown that he's perfectly willing to harm and even murder people with Dark Humor continuing on with the laughter and humorous effects afterwards.
Otho: Well, of course! You remember, after my stint with the Living Theatre. I was one of New York City's leading paranormal researchers, until the bottom dropped out in '72. Beryl: "Paranormal"? Is that what they're calling your kind these days?note Which makes the line "the bottom dropped out" even funnier. (rest of the dinner table goes silent)
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Betelgeuse does the following in his second summoning: Kills Maxi Dean and his Wife, sexually harasses Lydia, and changes Otho's suit into one not his style.
Bedsheet Ghost: The Maitlands, while trying to scare the Deetz family. It didn't work: Charles thought one of them was Lydia playing a prank, Delia was too doped out on valium to notice them, and Lydia thought it was Charles and Delia playing some kinky bedroom game (at first).
Berserk Button: He might not look it, but Betelgeuse takes great pride in his work as a bio-exorcist. When the Maitlands save Charles from being killed by Betelgeuse in his snake form, he gets pissed off at them for interrupting the work of a professional.
Bishonen Line: Betelgeuse shapeshifts into a variety of forms throughout the film and appears in the model repeatedly, but for the final confrontation appears full-sized at last, now wearing the iconic black and white pinstripe suit.
Bizarrchitecture: Most notably the hallway in the afterlife... but also a few other instances, such as at the very end. Not to mention what the Deetzes do to the Maitlands' house after moving in.
Black Comedy: Of course. Prime example: Betelgeuse says he'd better flip to the business section of his paper and look for a job - and flips to the obituaries, which colorfully and cheerfully list the dead as new arrivals to be greeted.
Book Ends: Early on in the film, Adam reads the Handbook For the Recently Deceased and claims that it "reads like stereo instructions." Charles later says the same thing at the end of the film when he's reading a guide for living people with ghosts in their houses called "The Living and the Dead".
Brick Joke: The receptionist in the afterlife implies she's at her position because she committed suicide in life by slitting her wrists. Otho later cracks that people who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife. This is after he's taken the Handbook For the Recently Deceased and presumably has been looking through it.
Cessation of Existence: This was nearly Barbara and Adam's fate when Otho summoned them in a sťance and they began to crumble into dust - only for Betelgeuse to rescue them after Lydia promises to marry him. Otho, who knows quite a bit about the hereafter himself, confirms this for us with "They're already dead. They can't feel a thing."
Janitor: Those are ghosts that have been exorcised. That's death for the dead.
Death Seeker: Lydia. The existence of the Maitlands just makes her more convinced suicide is the answer. The Maitlands manage to cure her of this with An Aesop that the afterlife is just as difficult and that death doesn't have any of the mystery people think it does.
Establishing Character Moment: Adam and the tarantula. Instead of squashing, he only comments on its size and lets it go free, showing him to be a nice guy. Mirrored later on when Lydia sees a big spider and nods "I could live here" — pretty much guarantees she'll get on well with the Maitlands.
Eureka Moment: Lydia figured out Betelgeuse was the snake that attacked her, her parents, and Otho.
Lydia: It was you, wasn't it? Betelgeuse: Me? Lydia: The snake. Betelgeuse: No! What snake? You kids and your overactive imaginations. Just say it!
Even Evil Has Standards: When Lydia gives Betelgeuse the implication she wants to die by telling him "I want to get in", he responds with a concerned "Why?", pointing out that no matter how bad things get, death is still worse. Even in his current situation, he'd rather be alive.
Evil Is Not a Toy: Lydia and the Maitlands learn the hard way not to trust Betelgeuse, no matter how hard he tries to talk you into letting him out. While not "evil", the Deetzes also realize they can't control the supernatural like they try to.
Exposition Diagram: Charles Deetz uses a Type 1 to show what his "Museum of the Paranormal" will look like.
Forceful Kiss: Immediately introducing himself to Adam and Barbara, Betelgeuse grabs her and gives her this kind of kiss. As you can imagine, they're immediately regretting their decision to meet with him, especially since he acts like a pervert around her the rest of the time.
Foreshadowing: Delia is momentarily trapped by a piece of sculpture when her art collection is moved into the new house. Though he hadn't even been summoned yet, Betelguese somehow picked up on this.
Free the Frogs: Lydia gets a C in Biology because she refuses to dissect frogs. Though she clearly stated, she did it because she thought it was gross, not for animal rights. She tries to get out of it by claiming that it's against her religion, but gets the C all the same.
A very subtle example. The Maitlands actually do glide while wearing sheets and "pretending" to be ghosts. However, when Lydia begins taking pictures of them, they begin to show more normal signs of movement.
A more direct example comes at the climax when Lydia, suddenly garbed in her red wedding dress, slieds effortlessly to Betelgeuse's side. Though this is not of her own accord.
I Gave My Word: Betelgeuse does exactly what he promised to do after Lydia releases him, saving Adam and Barbara from being exorcised. He's quick to try to dispose of them afterwards, however, sending Adam to the model and sending Barbara to the Sand Worm infested desert of Saturn. Both tricks backfire, as Adam is able to use the toy car Betelgeuse drove to distract him while Barbara manages to befriend a Sand Worm, which swallows him.
Idiot Ball: Adam and Barbara grab this at the climax when they both have enough time to get out Betelgeuse's name three times if they're quick about it, but fail. Barbara rather obviously waits for him to retaliate between sayings (though this could be attributed to her still being exhausted from her brush with "death for the dead").
It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: At first, Adam couldn't even pronounce Betelgeuse's name right. A bit of a Running Gag seemed to be that Adam wasn't the brightest as earlier he read deceased as Diseased before Barbara corrected him.
Miss Argentina: This is what happens when you die. That is what happens when he dies. And that is what happens when they die. It's all very personal. And I'll tell you something: if I knew then what I know now... (shows her slit wrists) ...I wouldn't have had my little accident.
Adam and Barbara are actually completely intact through most of the film too, only being a little cold and wet right after they die.
Jerkass: Though it's a minor role, Jane shows herself as this, implied to be repeatedly trying to sell the Maitlands' house behind their backs for no reason than she thinks it's too big for a childless couple, which she tells Barbara outright. She then gives a half-hearted apology before Barbara pushes her out the door, as we find out later the Maitlands are trying to conceive and just haven't had it happen yet. And, of course, Betelgeuse himself, but unlike Jane he's a strangely lovable jerk-ass.
Karma Houdini: Jane the realtor. She's taken it onto herself that the Maitlands' house is "too big" for the two of them and has been advertising their house against their wishes despite being told not to repeatedly - which is practically harassment. As Adam said, it isn't "any of Jane's business".
Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Otho. He claims to be schooled in chemistry among other things while sharing many of Delia's off-beat fashion and artistic interests, but according to Lydia he can't even change a tire. Otho's lack of know how comes back to bite him in the ass when he snags the Recently Deceased handbook and summons the Maitlands without realizing he's actually exorcising them, which in turn leads to Betelgeuse humiliating him with a Shameful Strip (see below). However, his claim that suicides become civil servants in the afterlife is actually true.
(normal voice) "Ah. Well... I attended Juilliard... I'm a graduate of the Harvard Business School. I travel quite extensively. (creepy voice) I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I've seen The ExorcistABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT... NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU'RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY... NOW WHAT DO YOU THINK? You think I'm qualified?!"
Though not nearly as Large a Ham as Betelgeuse, Glenn Shadix as Otho certainly qualifies.
Laughably Evil: Betelgeuse is the villain. He's a pervert and a con-man and he tries to force Lydia to marry him to get permanent access to the mortal world. But he's so funny, people forget just what a terrible person he is.
Barbara: Why did you disappear when you stepped off the porch? Are we halfway to heaven? Are we halfway to hell? And... how long is this gonna last? Adam: I don't see anything about heaven OR hell. This book reads like stereo instructions. Listen to this: "Geographical and temporal perimeters. Functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation."
However, it's implied that they should have been able to understand it by now.
Juno: Okay, have you been studying the manual? Adam: Well, we tried. Juno: The intermediate interface chapter on haunting says it all. Get them out yourselves. It's your house.
Mouse World: Adam's elaborate model of the surrounding town.
Multiple Choice Past: Betelgeuse makes all sorts of bizarre and contradictory claims while describing his qualifications to the Maitlands, as noted above under Large Ham. When he's in the waiting room at the end of the movie, he claims that he has a photoshoot with GQ Magazine coming up, and that they've been bugging him to do a spread with them for a while now. More likely all his claims are Blatant Lies.
My God, What Have I Done?: The Deetzes realize something is terribly wrong after summoning the Maitlands into their wedding clothes... by performing an exorcism instead of the seance they intended.
Naked Freak-Out: He's not left naked or in his underwear, but Otho has this kind of reaction after Betelgeuse changes his outfit into a leisure suit.
Nested Mouths: The Saturnian sand worms have what looks like a smaller version of themselves inside their mouths, with a different colour scheme.
New House New Problems: The Deetzes move into a haunted house; however, the lackluster haunting job done by Adam and Barbara Maitland does nothing to scare them away.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: As Juno calls them out on, the Maitlands let out Betelgeuse, they let Otho steal the Handbook, and their lackluster haunting attempts have succeeded only in Charles thinking the town would make a neat tourist attraction.
Nightmare Face: Betelgeuse makes one to demonstrate his talents to the Maitlands. "Can I be scary? Well, whaddya think of this?"
Noble Demon: For all that he's a disgusting con man and pervert, Betelgeuse does have some otherwise redeeming moments:
When the Maitlands first enlist his services as a bio-exorcist, he goes right to work and actively tries to live up to his end of the bargain in getting rid of Otho and the Deetzes.
When Lydia is contemplating suicide, he actually shows genuine concern for her.
When Lydia agrees to release him in exchange for saving the Maitlands from being exorcised by Otho, he again lives up to his end of the deal and saves them... Then immediately subverted when he promptly welshes on that agreement by attempting to banish the Maitlands and force Lydia into a much larger marital contract than she agreed to. Fortunately, the Maitlands return and promptly turn the tables on him.
Nonindicative Name: Ironically, if the lead character's name had been spelled the same as the title of the movie, it would have made sense. However, he has nothing to do with what he's actually named after; "Betelguese" is a star in the constellation Orion, notably a home of the Elder Gods in the Cthulu Mythos and Hell in the poem "Betelgeuse, a Trip Through Hell".
Only Sane Man: Charles seems to be a straight example, but ends up as a subversion. Compared to Delia, Otho and Lydia, he is a perfectly normal guy, and is openly frustrated with the behavior of the other three. However, the speed with which he goes from trying to relax in his new home to trying to exploit his new hometown for profit shows he's just as obsessed with success and just as eager to destroy something simple and beautiful as Delia, but he works on a larger scale.
Betelgeuse tempts a fly with a Zagnut bar. (Yes, Zagnut is a real candy bar.)
Minute Maid Orange Juice.
Production Foreshadowing: During the sequence where Adam and Barbara enter Juno's office and see her speaking to the recently deceased football team, a movie theater full of ghosts can be seen through Juno's office window. Two of those ghosts are a red skeleton and a green skeleton, which is exactly what some of the characters are reduced to in Tim Burton's later effort, Mars Attacks!.
Reality Warper: All ghosts seem to be able to do this to an extent, though they are limited to the place they are haunting. The Maitlands, being new to the whole Dead thing, take most of the movie to get the hang of it. Betelgeuse's powers, on the other hand, seem virtually limitless... though that is hampered by that whole "call my name" business. His glaring weakness is touched upon a few times during the movie, (particularly during the Scaled Up scene, where he nearly murdered one of Lydia's parents before Barbara was able to send him back) which leads him to seek out Lydia.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Otho is all too happy to ditch the Deetzes when his seance gets out of control. He doesn't get far, though...
Sealed Evil in a Can: The title ghostly con artist is trapped in the afterlife. He can be temporarily brought back to the real world (and returned) by saying his name three times, but can only be truly free if he marries a human female.
Shameful Strip: Happens to Otho when Betelgeuse goes on his hilarious climactic rampage. When Otho tries to make a run for it Betelgeuse uses his supernatural powers to shoot Otho's black and red clothes off, but rather than leave him naked or in his underwear he leaves him clad in a light blue '50s/'70s style leisure suit, causing him to scream in horror before running away in despair.
During the sequence where Adam and Barbara enter Juno's office and see her speaking to the recently deceased football team, a movie theater full of ghosts can be seen through Juno's office window. Two of those ghosts appear to be Jake and Elwood Blues.
Shrunken Head: At the end, BJ runs into a hunter who has a shrunken head, and starts chatting with the Witch Doctor next to him, asking if that's his work, while he steals the witch doctor's line number. He gets his head shrunk himself in retaliation.
Beetlejuice: Hey, this might be a good look for me.
Skeleton Key: Lydia gets one from a relative of the deceased couple.
Small Name, Big Ego: Delia thinks she's a great artist. Most everyone else thinks she's insufferable and her sculptures are garbage.
Small Secluded World: The main characters are stuck in their house, unable to have any contact with the surrounding world. At first, they do not realize that they are dead and haunting the house in which they lived.
Smoking Is Cool: Juno, in a Black Comedy sort of way; when she smokes, she exhales through a wound in her throat, which presumably has something to do with how she died.
Stellar Name: Betelgeuse. It's worth noting that Betelgeuse (the star) is part of the constellation "Orion." The armpit of Orion. Also used by Lovecraft as a home of the Elder Gods and by Jean Louis de Esque as the location of Hell.
Tear Off Your Face: Barbara pulls her own face off in an attempt to frighten off the Deetzes. Unfortunately they can't see her.
Terrible Artist: Well, maybe calling Delia's work "terrible" is unfair, but she's not exactly Picasso. In the final scene of the movie, she actually sculpts a bust resembling Betelgeuse's "snake form", scaring Charles half to death, and then still presumes he likes it.
That Reminds Me of a Song: In an infamous scene, several dinner guests are possessed, and forced to perform Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" - which they rather enjoy.
Together in Death: A rare lighthearted approach, where Adam and Barbara Maitland are stuck as ghosts haunting their own home. Even in death, they remain a Happily Married couple. Used in a much creepier way later, when Lydia's family attempts to conduct a sŤance but accidentally perform an exorcism instead. We see Adam and Barbara's summoned spirits progressively drying up and being consumed together... They don't disappear in the end, but only because of Lydia's "Please, I Will Do Anything!" to Betelgeuse himself.
The Wall Around the World: The impassible and dangerous desert around the Maitlands' house that keeps them there. The context of a remark from Betelgeuse about hating sandworms suggests the place outside their house may be Saturn.
Weirdness Censor: Lydia is the only one who normally sees the dead couple; just about everyone else completely filters them out.
Weirdness Magnet: Lydia. She's initially the only one who can see the Maitlands, and is nearly forced into a marriage with an undead bio-exorcist. Not too many people can say that's happened to them...
Wicked Stepmother: Downplayed. Delia is rude and dismissive towards Lydia, but not actively cruel to her. In the end, she really does seem to care about her stepdaughter.
Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: At the end, when Barbara tries to banish Betelgeuse, she's able to get his name out once before he zips her lip...literally. She unzips her lip to say his name a second time, which pisses him off enough to seal it up with a metal plate.
When Adam leaves the house for the first time, he ends up in a desolate desert landscape filled with "Saturnian sandworms". When he makes it back into the house, Barbara tells him he was gone for two hours. Appropriate, since Saturn was a god of time.
This also happens in the social workers' office. The Maitlands spend about three months waiting for their turn, but don't seem to notice.