“Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse!”
These were the three words that launched the straggly-haired, bad-humored demon Betelgeuse (pronounced “Beetlejuice”) into the land of the living, to terrorize those with warm blood still coursing in their veins. Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s darkly comic vision of the afterlife, included a “bio-exorcist,” menacing sandworms and a handbook for the recently deceased.
Barbara and Adam Maitland are a loving married couple who have the misfortune of being killed in a car accident. At first, they don’t even realize they’re dead, but a visit the offices of their undead social worker lets them know they must live in their New England dream house for the next one hundred and fifty-three years. To the Maitlands’ dismay, they come back home to find that their beloved home has been sold to an artsy New York family, the Deetzes.
Barbara and Adam try to get rid of their pesky intruders by haunting them, but they’re just too nice to actually scare anyone. The Deetzes, now aware of the supernatural presence in their new home, start making plans to turn it into a tourist attraction. Only the Deetzes’ sullen teenage daughter, Lydia, can communicate with the Maitlands, and the three of them become friends.
In despair, the couple turns to Betelgeuse, a troublemaking demon who specializes in getting rid of unwanted humans. By saying his name three times, Barbara and Adam launch him into the living world. But they realize too late that Betelgeuse is even more troublesome than the Deetzes, and also very dangerous. Complications and chaos ensue when Betelgeuse wants to marry Lydia and tries to stay in the world of the living forever.
Beetlejuice combined inventive special effects and Danny Elfman’s unique music into one of the most unusual movies of its time. Among the more memorable moments of the movie was a bizarre song-and-dance sequence, wherein the Deetzes and their guests were possessed and forced to sing “Day-O,” before their shrimp dinners jumped off their plates and latched onto their faces. Despite (or, more likely, because of) all the weirdness, Beetlejuice was a commercial success, earning an Oscar for Best Makeup and helping turn Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse himself) into a major star.
Burton created a strange world for the dead that seemed just as vibrant and alive as the world of the living, and from 1989 to 1991, that world lived on as an animated series, also titled Beetlejuice. In it, Lydia and Betelgeuse inexplicably became friends, taking part in adventures in the worlds of both the living and the dead.