beetlejuiceby Alicia Glass, contributing writer

What to do when the people in the house you’re haunting just won’t leave? Get the leading freelance bio-exorcist, call his name three times and he’ll make your life far too interesting: Beetlejuice!

This is, perhaps, Tim Burton’s quintessential Halloween masterpiece, at least as far as live-action goes (not claymation: The Nightmare Before Christmas wins that). Michael Keaton has long had a reputation for playing characters that were more than a little insane, though this ghostly character in the striped suit probably takes the trophy for best one-liners.

Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are our recently deceased couple, the Maitlands, who are stuck haunting their own house. They listen to Harry Belafonte music constantly and make miniature models of their entire town. Although they like spiders enough to let them live, they decide that the family moving into their beloved house are just too weird to handle.

The Deetzes are rather odd. Father Charles (Jeffrey Jones) moved them to the country to relax, not understanding that his women generally don’t do that sort of thing; Lydia (Winona Ryder) is the depressed and suicidal gothic teen daughter; and Delia (Catherine O’Hara) is the newer wife with grand Giger-inspired artistic aspirations and weird-ass design choices. The Maitlands worked very hard on their beloved house, and won’t let death stop them from getting the Deetzes to move out!

Navigating blindly in their new haunted world, the Maitlands try to contact anyone they can in the netherworld to get help, including the long-suffering neck-smoking Juno, their case worker, who instructs them to try an old-fashioned haunting of their own house. Which, given Delia’s odd nature, works about as well as trying to scare off a carnivore with cheese.

But it turns out, a certain “ghost with the most,” Beetlejuice, has been sleazing around the miniature cemetery that Adam built, and when Barbara calls his name three times, they dig up and unleash that insane ranting spirit that rattles the nerves off the Deetzes. Wanting to prove that there is life after death, of sorts, to those high-nosed friends of theirs (and hopefully make money in doing it), the Deetzes attempt to show off and command the ghosts of their house. Of course, they don’t realize that a deranged dead guy, far more powerful than their polite little house ghosts, is already there, just waiting to turn their miserable little lives into a dark, ironic carnival!

The film inspired a Fox cartoon series, which I watched and thought was adorable. For the zaniest, wackiest, most unpredictable story of a haunted house gone way weird and wild, have your Handbook for the Recently Deceased ready and call on him to put some new life into your afterlife: Beetlejuice!

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