Beetlejuice Summary and Analysis of Part 3: Beetlejuice


After Juno leaves, Adam urges Barbara to come with him and figure out how to haunt the Deetzes. The camera zooms in on the diorama, and we hear the buzzing of an insect. Suddenly, we see a fly landing in the graveyard portion of the diorama. A hand pops out of the ground in the diorama and we hear Beetlejuice call to the fly. The hand then pulls out a chocolate bar—specifically, a Zagnut bar—and offers it to the fly. Having lured the fly over, Beetlejuice seems to capture it as the scene shifts to Charles on the phone. Charles speaks to a man who tells him that while he used to make a lot of money, there’s no business for him now that he lives in rural Connecticut. Charles tells the man, whose name is Max, that he wants to buy the whole town as an investment, and invites Max and his wife Sarah up to visit his home. Max tells him that he will try and come, but is very busy in New York. As they wrap up the conversation, Charles begins to hear a strange ghostly moaning.

Following the noise, Charles goes to open the door to his office and finds a figure with a sheet over its head. Believing it’s Lydia, Charles becomes impatient, and laments the fact that he just had “Maxie Deen” on the phone. “Dad’s found a way of making money while I relax, now would you scram?” Charles says, before closing the door abruptly. We then see Barbara and Adam with the sheets; they are attempting to haunt the Deetzes and scare them away. Barbara and Adam go into Delia’s room, moaning at the foot of her bed. Delia is asleep and cannot hear them. Next door, Lydia lies on her bed and can hear the moaning. She mistakes it for sexual noises and becomes exasperated. She bangs on the walls to try and get the noise to stop. Back in Delia’s room, Barbara complains to Adam that she feels stupid, and he tells her that they have to do it if they want the Deetzes to leave. They moan more and Delia sits up in bed half awake and clicks off the television.

When Barbara and Adam emerge from the bedroom in the sheets, Lydia is there and snaps a bunch of Polaroid photographs of them, mistaking the ghosts for her parents doing some kind of sexual role play. When she looks at the photos, she is startled to realize that the ghosts do not have feet. She looks back at Adam and Barbara suspiciously. Walking towards them, she asks them if they’re the ones hanging out in the attic. They tell her they’re ghosts, and Lydia becomes very curious, trying to remove their sheets. When they remove their sheets, Lydia is barely frightened at all, which disappoints the couple. “You can see us without the sheets,” Adam says to her, and she tells him, “I read through that Handbook for the Recently Deceased. It says, ‘Live people usually ignore the strange and unusual.’ I myself am strange and unusual.” She then reveals that Delia is her stepmother and tells Adam and Barbara that Delia took a Valium before bed, so is impossible to wake up.

In the attic, Adam and Barbara show Lydia their diorama. When Adam tells Lydia that they’re trying to scare her family away, she laughs and tells them, “My father bought this place, he never walks away from equity.” When she asks why they don’t leave themselves, Barbara tells her that they cannot, and Lydia becomes suddenly excited to be meeting actual dead people. Adam then tells Lydia to warn her parents about them in order to scare them away. The scene shifts to the kitchen the following day, Lydia telling her mother about the ghosts. As Delia chops vegetables, she tells Lydia that she is throwing a dinner party for some important guests that evening—Otho, her agent Bernard, and a woman who writes for Art in America—and that she doesn’t have time to think about ghosts. When Lydia says that she knew she wouldn’t scare Delia with talk of ghosts, Delia responds, “The only thing that scares me is being embarrassed in front of the few hip people I can get to set foot in this part of Connecticut!” Lydia leaves, discouraged, as Adam and Barbara listen from around a corner. They are upset that Delia didn’t take Lydia’s bait, and Adam suggests that they get in touch with Beetlejuice (misnaming him “Beetlemeyer”).

The scene shifts to Adam and Barbara sitting down next to their diorama in the attic. Suddenly, Barbara notices something in the diorama: she sees Beetlejuice. Here, she says the name, “Beetlejuice,” and Adam encourages her to say it again in order to conjure the bio-exorcist. When she says his name, the camera swings around them and suddenly she and Adam are transported onto the diorama itself. “I think we’re in the model,” Adam says, as he turns around to notice a sign that reads “Betelgeuse” and points towards a gravestone with an arrow pointing into the Earth. As two shovels fall down beside the grave, Adam realizes that they are meant to dig it up, which they do. Eventually they find a door that says “Betelgeuse,” which shakes and opens on its own. Beetlejuice pops out, a grotesque looking demon. When Barbara and Adam flee in fear, he follows them, grabbing Barbara and planting a kiss on her. She falls to the ground, wiping her mouth in disgust, as Beetlejuice approaches Adam and asks him if their relationship is solid and if he has a shot with Barbara.

Searching for a card in his pocket, Beetlejuice pulls out a rat instead and puts it in Barbara’s hand, which causes her to scream. “Who do I have to kill?” he asks them, but Barbara and Adam insist that they are just trying to get the Deetzes out of their house. Putting his arms around the couple, Beetlejuice relishes the fact that he is going to have to get to know both of them very well in order to help them out. Barbara and Adam are disgusted and ask Beetlejuice about his qualifications. He tells them, “I attended Juilliard, I’m a graduate of the Harvard Business School, I travel quite extensively, I lived through the Black Plague, and I had a pretty good time during that. I’ve seen The Exorcist about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it…not to mention the fact that you’re talking to a dead guy. Now what do you think? You think I’m qualified?” When Adam asks him if he can be scary, Beetlejuice makes a horrifying display of his magical powers, causing Adam and Barbara to scream. Barbara and Adam talk to each other privately—Barbara isn’t so convinced that they should work with Beetlejuice. When Adam tells Beetlejuice that they are leaving, he leaps onto Adam’s shoulders and begs them to stay. All of a sudden, Beetlejuice is wearing Adam’s shirt, and informs the couple that they are completely compatible. Suddenly, Beetlejuice’s head rotates around his neck, a la The Exorcist.

When Barbara says, “Home! Home! Home!” she and Adam are transported back into the attic. Beetlejuice looks around for the couple, but finds that they are gone and becomes angry, kicking over a tree near his grave. Barbara has made up her mind that they are not going to work with Beetlejuice, but Adam is worried that they are in an irrevocable situation, since they conjured him and he “seemed awfully pissed off.” Barbara pulls Adam aside to tell him her idea for how they can scare off the Deetzes themselves, as the scene shifts to Delia’s dinner party downstairs. Delia turns to her agent and asks him how he likes her sculptures. He looks over at them, an assortment of incredibly ugly objects, and says nothing. Otho begins to tell the guests of the party that he was one of New York City’s leading paranormal researchers when he was younger. A guest at the party makes a homophobic jab at Otho, to which he retorts, “Don’t mind her. She’s still mad because somebody dropped a house on her sister!” which makes Delia laugh awkwardly.

As Charles marvels at how good the meal looks, Lydia speaks up and tells everyone that she saw some ghosts. When Delia tries to pass off Lydia’s comment as a private joke, Lydia rolls her eyes. Delia then makes tense eye contact with Charles, urging him to make a toast. He abruptly raises his glass and says a few words. Otho asks Lydia about the ghosts, and Delia asks him to stop, but suddenly gets a strange look in her eye. Harry Belafonte’s song, “The Banana Boat Song” begins to play, with Delia lip-syncing perfectly along to it and throwing her hands up in a dance. She is, apparently, possessed and not in control of her actions. The other guests look confused as Delia continues to mouth along with “The Banana Boat Song,” unable to stop. At the other end of the table, Charles laughs at his wife, but soon begins to dance along against his will. “Otho, are you doing this?” Charles asks, before suddenly all the guests begin dancing along to the song. Lydia is delighted as all of the guests dance to the song. At one point they all take their seats at the table, and the shrimp dish on their plates becomes a hand, grabbing their faces. They scream and fall back in their chairs, as the song continues to play. We see Barbara and Adam run upstairs and delight in their effective haunting. They wait at the window to see the guests run away from the house screaming, but nothing happens.

There is a knock at the door. It is Lydia, who says that Delia wants them to come downstairs. The scene shifts and we see the dinner guests delighting in their unusual dance moment. They laugh and recall how much fun it was to be possessed with a dance. “Why didn’t you tell us about this before?” asks one of the guests, and Delia laughingly says they weren’t sure that they wanted to let their ghost secret out of the bag. Another guest tells them that The Enquirer is offering a large sum of money for proof of life after death. Charles holds up the photographs of the ghosts, delighted. Otho insists that now that they have proof of a haunting, they will be able to get Maxie Deen to visit them in the country. Delia’s agent stands, insisting that he will handle everything having to do with the ghost, but that he will have to see some proof first. Lydia descends the stairs and tells the guests that Barbara and Adam don’t want to come downstairs.


The comic proportions of the film are raised in this portion, as Adam and Barbara attempt in vain to begin haunting the house. Time and time again they prove themselves to be bad at ghosting. Indeed, they have hardly changed their form since dying—they are still an attractive, wholesome young couple—and so they must resort to pathetic performances with sheets over their heads. They are a pair of ghosts who don’t even seem to know how ghosts ought to behave. When they first haunt Charles, he mistakes them for Lydia playing a prank on him out of boredom. When they go to try and scare Delia, she has taken a Valium and is virtually catatonic, her eyes shut as she points the television remote control at them. Finally, when they approach Lydia, she is hardly surprised to see them, and even less surprised to realize that they are ghosts. When she first comes upon them, she simply asks them if they are the people squatting in the attic. When they reveal that they are ghosts, she is hardly shocked, and seems more curious than scared.

Because of her curiosity and straightforward interest in the couple, Lydia becomes Barbara and Adam’s primary ally in the house. She is a willing participant and is looking for an excuse to get involved in some mischief in her new house. In fact, the presence of ghosts excites Lydia, as she is always looking for a good way to torment her shallow and nasty stepmother, Delia. Lydia is a depressive and goth-inclined teenager; who better to strike up a friendship with the reluctant ghosts, Barbara and Adam, than Lydia? Barbara and Adam give Lydia a certain amount of direction in her life, as she struggles to acclimate to country living and getting along with her father’s new wife. Lydia is the bridge between the world of the dead and the human, and she plays this role willingly.

Beetlejuice continues to have a playfully irreverent tone, situated somewhere in between mythic fantasy and the garishly contemporary. This is partially shown in the contrast between the quaint New England setting and Delia Deetz’s over-the-top, outrageously modern tastes. While Barbara and Adam are depicted as setting up a beautiful and picturesque country lifestyle in their house on the hill, building dioramas and taking field trips down to the mom-and-pop hardware store, the Deetzes are their polar opposites. Delia Deetz invites her agent and a fancy journalist to stay, guts the house and replaces the charming New England fixtures with gaudy and chillingly impersonal design features. Charles says that he would like to enjoy country life and “just relax,” but is then shown talking on the telephone with a businessman in New York, claiming he will buy up the entire town as an investment. The incompatibilities between the urban, wealthy Deetz family and the modest, homey town (that Barbara and Adam seek to preserve) become a central point of conflict—often to comic proportions—in the film.

This section also marks the important arrival of the eponymous character, Beetlejuice. Desperate for courses of action, Barbara and Adam decide to conjure the strange character (even though Juno warned them against it), and he arrives in full grotesque style to help them drive the Deetzes out of their house. Throughout, reality and fantasy are merged, and this is particularly true in this portion of the film in which Beetlejuice is introduced. Tim Burton achieves this effect through unexpected visual cues. For instance, when Adam and Barbara are transported into the model of the town, the camera pans around them in a jerky and unsettling way, to show the ways in which they are being pulled into Beetlejuice’s off-color and crass world. Then, when they go to dig up his grave, the grass is rubber carpeting that they must pull up, and the dirt is painted cardboard. Hearkening back to the beginning of the film, when the tarantula climbs over the roof of the house in the model, Burton shows yet again that in the world of Beetlejuice, nothing is ever as it seems.

Beetlejuice is himself a strange combination of the worldly and the unworldly, at one moment exhibiting magical powers and the next behaving like a grotesque barfly, delivering one liners, planting nonconsensual kisses on Barbara, and pulling rats out of his pocket. He is a comic villain, an antiheroic demon who might be able to help Barbara and Adam get their house back, but is off-putting and disgusting all the while. A ghoul with comic timing, Beetlejuice imbues the film with comic energy and delightfully off-putting antics. His character mirrors the uncanny contrasts of the film. Tim Burton has set up a world in which the magical and the fantastical can carry with it a horrifying edge. A trip to the store can end in grisly death, a self-proclaimed “artist” can be a tasteless evil stepmother, and the afterlife is a strange and twisted funhouse, an unpredictable and often disgusting playground for the dead. Beetlejuice, the worm-eaten and rotten-toothed titular character, exemplifies the edginess that pervades the film.