After the sugary fun of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Burton made this ingenious and witty horror comedy. Bristling with imagination, it brilliantly showcases the visual style that Burton would come to call his own with comic-gothic productions like Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman Returns.
Adam (Alex Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) play the recently deceased homeowners who are desperate to haunt yuppie couple Delia (Catherine O'Hara) and Charles (Jeffrey Jones) off their property. Adam and Barbara find a useful ally in depressive goth kid Lydia (Winona Ryder), before the titular 'Betelgeuse' (Michael Keaton) throws a spanner in the works.
In a way, it's a pity the film has been granted a 15 certificate because there's plenty here for kids to enjoy. Adam and Barbara's complete acceptance of their predicament (namely being dead) is a conceit usually reserved for children's films, and their ensuing antics play out like a kind of ghoulish Home Alone. But then Keaton's vile, swearing, swaggering Beetlejuice steps into shot. It's a hilarious performance, perhaps one that Jim Carrey might have a go at these days; and yet I doubt Carrey would be able to create such a magnificently obnoxious hick.
The production design and make-up is fantastic. The purgatory-style waiting room scenes, with all their shark attack victims and shrunken heads, perfectly house Burton's love for pantomime black humour. Some of the 'bigger' special effects, particularly in the desert netherworld that awaits Adam and Barbara outside their front door, look dated. But hey, no amount of CGI will look this charming after 20 years.