After they die, Adam and Barbara's bodies become endlessly flexible and malleable, without any harm to them. They are already dead, after all. When they first try to scare the Deetzes, Adam actually removes his head and Barbara holds it in order to create a grotesque scene, but Otho, Charles, and Delia cannot see them. Then later, when they visit with Juno and she urges them to scare away the Deetzes, they pull apart their skin to create outrageous mask-like visages—they almost look like traditional Venetian masks—with eyeballs stuck to individual fingers and beak-like mouths. Then, when Otho causes their ghost bodies to age rapidly, their faces become old and have the appearance of melting. Finally, near the end of the film when they try to say Beetlejuice's name three times in order to exile him back into the miniature world of the model of the town, he casts various spells that alter their faces: he causes Adam's mouth to pop out of his face and begin crawling around the ground on its own, and he causes Barbara's mouth to turn into a zipper and then covers it with a metal strip. Adam and Barbara, the perfect image of the attractive young married couple, are turned into misshapen monsters time and time again. The sight gags in Beetlejuice are nearly constant, and often happen in the alterations to the couple's faces.
Another grotesque image throughout the film is the figure of Beetlejuice, a horrifying demonic hobo with disgusting splotches of green decomposition all over his neck, rotten teeth, a brittle mane of yellow hair, and cavernous circles under his eyes. He strikes an off-putting image, and all the characters are disgusted by his appearance. The nefariousness and crookedness of his personality are reflected in the way he looks, and his ugliness flags the ways that he is untrustworthy. His pockets are filled with rats and snakes and his voice has a froggy fry that can be either humorous or terrifying. He is a magical trickster, and his costuming and the makeup that actor Michael Keaton wears flags the character as a kind of demonic personification, a lusty, crass, and repulsive nightmare.
Tim Burton creates a memorable and truly unusual version of the afterlife into which Adam and Barbara must venture in order to find help. First they encounter the waiting room, complete with a green-skinned receptionist, a man with a shrunken head, and a number of other ghoulish companions. They then encounter a flattened man, who leads them to meet Juno. His entire body is flat like a pancake, and fits through a slim crack in the wall. The lost souls room, a horrifying hellish place where ghosts that have been exorcised go, shows the darker side of the afterlife. Then, finally, Juno, the cranky chain-smoking elderly consultant that advises Adam and Barbara, but doesn't seem to have time for anything, is a comic addition to the outrageous landscape. All these visual elements—their contradictions, incongruities, humorous undertones, and perversions—reveal a great deal about the afterlife's specific idiosyncrasies.
Haunted House Filled with Ugly Art
Situated on a hill in town, Adam and Barbara's house is the image of a New England antique house. It has its quirks, its creaky doors and its dusty attic, but no evidence of ghosts. When the Deetzes buy it, they immediately set to work refurbishing the house and eliminating any of its traditional charm. Delia has her ugly, tacky sculptures craned into the house and Otho, her supercilious interior decorator, sets to work turning the house into a marble-floored sleek black palace. The renovations are cold and impersonal, and make the house completely spooky, the perfect playground for the Maitland ghosts living in the attic. No wonder the Deetzes are unfazed by the presence of the supernatural and the ghostly; their aesthetic taste is downright spine-chilling. This is perhaps most evident when Delia's clawed sculptures literally come to life (at Beetlejuice's bidding) and begin crawling around the apartment, eventually trapping and imprisoning Charles and Delia.
Beetlejuice Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Beetlejuice is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.