Welcome, dear readers, to Substream’s 31 Days of Halloween. While every holiday captures the hearts and minds of the Substream staff, Halloween holds an especially important place in our hearts. Now that we’ve entered the month of October, it’s time for us to share our love for this holiday with you.
Every single day in October, our collection of spooky staff writers and ghoulish guest contributors will walk you through a horror or Halloween-themed movie they adore. The goal is to both celebrate the titans and icons of the season while also introducing you to new films and scares to fill your autumn nights. Lock your doors, check under your bed, and settle in as you join Substream for our 31 Days of Halloween.
Day 8: Beetlejuice (1988)
Beetlejuice is a terrifying, late 1980s character created by Tim Burton’s eerie imagery and is a disturbing and spooky, yet endearing, relic for those who have seen it. Although truly disgusting, Beetlejuice provokes a feeling that many of us can’t quite put our finger on, as the feeling is so unique to this Halloween-horror creation. Winning the Academy Award (1989) for Best Makeup and three Saturn Awards, Beetlejuice saw an 8 million dollar opening weekend box office success followed by a slew of pop-culture creations. Even with that success, the ’80s didn’t know that Michael Keaton’s hair-raising, yet dirty comedic character Betleguese is one that, even over three decades later, still can’t be dethroned.
(Weird fact: “Betlegeuse” is the correct spelling of Michael Keaton’s character–named after the brightest star in Orion–and is spelled that way within the film, yet the film is called ‘Beetlejuice’ and the title card is the only instance where a space is placed between the two words. No solid explanation for these discrepancies have ever been provided.)
From start to finish, Tim Burton sends the audience reeling with goosebumps from another incredible soundtrack featuring deep, bursting tuba tracks fit for any graveyard celebration by none other than Danny Elfman. Tim Burton’s classic creepiness contains stand-out features that you can’t find in any other films, like bold stripes, alien-like curled features, and plots that explore taboo topics like Beetlejuice does. The premise of Beetlejuice begins in a way that most movies end, with a scene of Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitland dying in a rather mundane car crash as they swerve to avoid a dog. Although this scene was originally written to be more intense and gory, it stills sends the plot into exploring the apparent whirlwind that is life after death. Upon returning home, discovering that they’re dead happens in a few interesting, yet simple ways, eventually leading the Maitlands to find a book they’ve never seen before sitting on their table: “Handbook for the Recently Deceased”. As the couple comes to terms with being dead, their vacant house is suddenly on the market and is purchased by an eclectic family, Charles (Jeffrey Jones), Delia (Catherine O’Hara), and the ultimate ’80s and ’90s horror queen Winona Ryder, who plays their goth daughter Lydia. Even in the afterlife there seem to be scam artists as our guy Betleguese (Michael Keaton) tricks the couple into soliciting his help, but for a price.
Already, Beetlejuice presents a legendary cast in the first 30 minutes, providing a film experience that you have to re-watch to fully grasp each character’s full development. While the couple Adam and Barbara play the main roles, rebellious and constantly annoyed Lydia slowly becomes a part of the couple’s own family as she more prefers hanging out with the dead (Relatable). Beetlejuice is absolutely bonkers for this slew of reasons but also because the film contains multiple, reggae musical scenes with Jamaican folk song “Day-O!” and Harry Belefonte’s “Shake Senora”, that many people only know because of the film itself.
Throughout the movie we also find quotes that helped to solidify Beetlejuice’s reign in the Halloween film section, such as Lydia’s “I myself am strange and unusual” or Betleguese’s “I’m the ghost with the most, babe” – quotes that even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve surely heard in pop culture references. Beetlejuice went far beyond providing quotes to make sure the film never left the minds of terrified children and adults. Just one year after the film hit the box office, Tim Burton developed and produced a Beetlejuice cartoon that ran on ABC for four seasons into the early ’90s, shooting the character even further into the hearts of the audience. To this day, stores across the globe bank on instant recognition of scary scenes from Beetlejuice like the sandworm or the handbook, and cities like Chicago host Beetlejuice pop-up bars, even in 2019. I still have nightmares about the sandworm and the dimension of nothingness where it lives.
If you have yet to see this Halloween Burton classic, I’m positive it will become one of your favorites once you do.