Top positive review
19 November 2018
A loved-up but unfortunate couple find their cherished former home in the hands of a family of utterly obnoxious yuppies. In a desperate bid to expel them and get their house back they end up hiring a "freelance bio-exorcist" named Betelgeuse – as in the star. In order to summon (or be rid of) the eponymous ‘human buster’, they are required to say his name three times – and this isn’t where the Rumplestiltskin comparisons end. Betelgeuse himself is a revolting zombie-like creature; if zombies could think and act on their thoughts that is. Looking like a malevolent Danny DeVito, this impish knave is just looking for a free lunch, and thinks he’s found one in the shape of Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin as the aforementioned couple. However, none of the trio have reckoned with proto-Goth Lydia (a young Winona Ryder) who can not only see them all due to her profoundly morbid aspect but has a few tricks of her own up her black, lacy sleeve.
I think it’s safe to say though, that Michael Keaton exhaustively steals the show here – a whirling dervish of a character, he leers and leches his way through the 88 minutes, giving it everything he’s got, and reminding us of his still-unmatched virtuosity; read it and weep Johnny Depp. Even when Betelgeuse comes unstuck you just know he’s going to bounce right back, and a brilliant ending sight-gag only reinforces this belief.
Not since 1984’s Ghostbusters had the movie world seen such paranormal humour par excellence; on top of Keaton’s brilliance there is loads to revel in: Ryder’s dark winsomeness – and Davis’ light likeness; Jeffrey Jones as a hassled but mulish entrepreneur; the late-lamented Glen Shadix as uber-camp interior designer Otho; Catherine O’Hara as a pretentious, tenacious sculptor, and oodles of nutty energy. Seen as a one-off back in 1988, we can now look at it as the blueprint for everything director Tim Burton has done since, and I’d like to think he’ll never top it.