The ghost with the most looks even more ghastly in 4K
What’s a couple of stay-at-home ghosts to do when their beloved home is taken over by trendy yuppies? They call on Beetlejuice, the afterlife’s freelance bio-exorcist to scare off the family — and everyone gets more than she, he or it bargains for! Tim Burton guides this PG-rated comedy monsterpiece whose stars include Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Winona Ryder. And Michael Keaton is Beetlejuice, the ghost with the most who flings one-liners, spins into grotesque forms, gobbles insects, and who just can’t leave the ladies (living or dead) alone. Ghoul love it!
It’s probably not a case as to whether you’ve seen Beetlejuice, rather how many times have you seen Beetlejuice. A staple of Halloween season and beyond, its cult status is indisputable. Even for Tim Burton, the tone is distinct, in a film brimming with ideas and creativity, launching from a screenplay by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren. A haunting, Gothic tale, coupled to a madcap comedy about, that for some, offered the first real foray of thinking about the afterlife. The film literally spans two worlds, the living and the dead. Barbara and Adam Maitland’s (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin)experience of death and purgatory mirrored by the experiences of Lydia (Winona Ryder), consumed by loneliness in her exile to the suburbs. Burton has plenty to say about the rules, expectations, and consequences in both worlds, balancing them in the same way he does the comedy and horror, delivering a solemnity that isn’t lost in the cartoonish absurdity.
Beyond Burton’s vision, the main standout here is Michael Keaton, who for decades now assuredly proven his craft, but with Beetlejuice he really cuts loose with an iconic creation. A sleazy supernatural car salesman, showing a childlike enthusiasm (and petulance) coupled to a genuinely unnerving malevolence. His full blooded embrace of this monster, effectively deployed in potent bursts, that ensure you are afforded the time to take in the various other characters (the supporting cast are superb) and creatures that litter the film. Most of these are realized thanks to the superb work of the makeup and special effects team truly that crafts some truly gnarly and imaginative works, ably assisted by an array of stop-motion, miniatures, and puppetry expertise. This creativity permeates all aspects of the film, from the costumes (Aggie Guerard Rodgers), to overall aesthetic from cinematographer from Thomas Ackerman, and the playfully sinister score from Danny Elfman (with an assist from Harry Belafonte) that perfectly reflects the titular character, as well as the whimsy of Burton himself.
While Tim Burton isn’t to everyone’s tastes, his approach and aesthetic is truly distinct. The weird inner voice in all of us who is drawn to darker things in human form. Beetlejuice fits perfectly into his oeuvre, and yet still feels like something unique. A deeply layered effort that for many is the first real foray into dealing with the afterlife, given deeper life (pardon the pun) thanks to a virtuoso performance from Keaton.
The big draw to this release is obviously the format. 4K has revelatory for some releases, especially newer films shot digitally, or those older features that have been treated to a quality scan and restoration. In some instances the higher resolution on offer shows up some of the shortcomings in a production, or skew the original aesthetic. Well breathe easy because in the case of Beetlejuice, the 4K release is an absolute treat.
Detail, texture, depth, and overall quality of image impresses. The image is pretty spotless, with no signs of artifacts or noise. Where the transfer really impresses is in it’s color palette, offering up vivid, bold colors that add a impressive pop to the memorable visuals. Extra features are entirely confined to the Blu-ray disc included in the package:
- Beetlejuice Cartoon Episodes : Three episodes form the (rather bonkers) animated series launced back in ’89. A-Ha!, Skeletons in the Closet, and Spooky Boo-Tique, all presented in standard definition (with no signs of cleanup) at a 4:3 ratio
- Music Only Audio Track: showcasing Danny Elfman’s score
- Theatrical Trailer:
- 4K, Blu-ray and digital versions of the film:
The Bottom Line
While this 4K transfer of Beetlejuice truly impresses, there is a disappointing lack of any meaty extra features, especially given it’s enduring cult status and the often spoke rumors of Keaton returning to the role over the last few years. Still, Beetlejuice is one of those films that is always a treat to dip into, even outside of Halloween season, and this release is now the best way to do so
Beetlejuice is available in a 4K, Blu-ray, Digital combo pack from September 1st