Beetlejuice Summary and Analysis of Part 4: A Center for Paranormal Activity


Otho and the others approach Lydia, who tells them that Barbara and Adam are disappointed because they wanted to drive them out of the house. Since the ghosts won’t come down and show themselves, the guests begin to leave, disappointed. Delia becomes defensive, insisting that they were not hallucinating, but experienced something real together. As he leaves, her agent says, “Delia, you are a flake. You have always been a flake. If you insist on frightening people, do it with your sculpture.” After the guests leave, Otho asks Lydia where Barbara and Adam are hiding out. When she tells them they are in the attic, Delia storms up the stairs, asking Lydia to take them to the ghosts.

At the attic door, Delia bangs on the door and threatens Adam and Barbara. “You have got to take the upper hand in situations, or people—dead or alive—will walk all over you,” Delia says. Once they get into the attic, they look around, Charles examining the model of the town, all lit up. Otho finds The Handbook for the Recently Deceased and begins to read it. Growing anxious, Delia says that they should all go back downstairs, and Otho pockets the book, unnoticed. They hurry downstairs, as the camera pans over to the window, revealing Barbara and Adam’s hands; they are hanging out the window. Beetlejuice calls up to them, laughing maniacally and teasing them about their inability to scare the Deetzes away. Adam and Barbara climb back into the attic as Delia, Charles, Otho, and Lydia go back downstairs. Charles is excited about the business opportunity that the presence of ghosts promises and talks about his plans to turn their house into a supernatural research center. They go back downstairs, when suddenly Delia touches the banister and notices that it is the scaly body of a snake.

Looking up, the group of living people see that Beetlejuice has turned himself into some kind of snake and begins chasing them around. Rattling and hissing, he eventually hits Otho with his rattler and knocks him down the stairs. He then takes ahold of Charles’s leg and dangles him off the balcony over the main foyer, finally dropping him. The snake form of Beetlejuice then starts to go after Lydia, but Barbara emerges and says, “Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!” which seems to make him stop. Upset, Lydia runs into the next room and Barbara goes back up to the attic. There, Adam and Barbara speak to Beetlejuice, who is back in miniature, living in the diorama. When he scolds them for interrupting him in the middle of his work, Barbara fires back that he went too far. Beetlejuice tells them that he doesn’t want to do business with them anymore, and that he would rather work with Lydia. Barbara grows angry, picking Beetlejuice up and warning him to stay away from Lydia. Beetlejuice releases a number of sword-like blades from his coat, pricking Barbara’s fingers and causing her to drop him. Beetlejuice cackles and complains about feeling anxious, before looking over at a miniature strip club/brothel in the model called “Dante’s.” He goes in, laughing lasciviously, and Barbara asks Adam why he built the miniature strip club. “I didn’t!” he insists.

The couple is magically transported back to Juno’s office, where they find her in the middle of paperwork. She angrily orders them to sit down, informing them that the brothel was her idea, because she wants Beetlejuice “out of the picture.” Juno then scolds Adam and Barbara for allowing themselves to be photographed, for letting Beetlejuice out of his lair, and for letting Otho take the handbook with him out of the attic. “Never trust the living! We cannot have a routine haunting like yours prove that there is life after death!” she yells, as a dead football player crouches down and asks her where the men’s room is. Fuming, she sends a large group of dead football players out of the room and tells Adam and Barbara that she will be right back.

The scene shifts to Charles and Delia, the next day. “I’m not sure that this is the right environment for Lydia,” Charles says, but they are interrupted by Otho, wearing a silk robe, who tells them that they have to focus on the fact that Maxie Deen is coming to visit them that night, and they need to show him the ghosts. “I know just as much about the supernatural as I do about interior design,” Otho tells them. Inside, mournful operatic music plays, as Lydia writes about her loneliness and wears black mourning clothes. “I am utterly alone. By the time you read this, I will be gone, having plummeted off the winter river bridge” she writes, clearly intending to commit suicide. The scene shifts to Barbara and Adam in Juno’s office. The old woman puffs on a cigarette and orders the couple to get the Deetzes out of the house. They nod and go to leave, but Juno wants to know what they plan to do, to “make sure it’s not just some silly parlor trick.” Adam demonstrates what he plans to do to scare away the Deetzes, pulling apart his skin into a strange mask, popping out his eyeballs and putting them on his fingers. “Not bad,” says Juno. Then Barbara demonstrates what she plans to do, rolling back her eyes and flicking them back down into her skull, pulling her face into a grotesque snout. Juno tells them that they look great, and orders them to go scare the Deetzes and get the handbook and the photographs of them back. The couple leaves.

Back at the house, Lydia goes into the attic with her suicide note looking for Barbara and Adam. They are nowhere to be found, and as she walks over to the model, she hears Beetlejuice calling to her, telling her that the Maitlands are gone. “You look like somebody I can relate to,” Beetlejuice says to Lydia, and asks her to help him get out of the model. Abruptly, he kills a roach and munches on it, while telling Lydia that he needs to get out of the model and go to the outside world. Beetlejuice tells her that she needs to say his name 3 times, but that he cannot tell her his name. They play charades and Beetlejuice urges her to look behind her, where she sees a talking beetle. “Beetle,” she says. Then Beetlejuice makes an image of a juice box materialize in the air, and Lydia eventually guesses the second part of his name. After saying his name twice, Lydia refuses to say it a third time, insisting that she wants to talk to Barbara. Beetlejuice is livid.

We see Adam and Barbara, with their horrific facial mutations, walking through the hallway of the afterlife office. Barbara expresses her hesitancy about scaring the Deetzes, telling Adam that she likes Lydia and doesn’t want to scare her. “We have to go through with this,” Adam tells her, but she pushes back, wanting to protect Lydia because she feels so much affection for her. They go back into the attic, where they find Lydia talking to Beetlejuice. At first, Lydia is terrified of them because of their altered faces, but Barbara shifts back to her normal face and asks Lydia what’s wrong. Lydia tells her that Beetlejuice offered to take her to the other side to find them, but Barbara tells her that that’s impossible because they are dead. “I want to be dead too,” Lydia says, but Barbara becomes firm and tells her, “Being dead really doesn’t make things any easier.” Barbara then tells Lydia that she and Adam have decided to invite the Deetzes to stay.

Suddenly Otho, Charles, and Delia burst into the attic. Charles crouches down beside the model and the trio carries the model downstairs. Barbara and Adam send Lydia to follow them and see what is going on. Downstairs, Charles points at a floor plan for a museum about the paranormal and gives a presentation to Maxie Deen, who leans against the fireplace and looks skeptical. Lydia approaches her father, who tells her that he just finished the initial presentation and that he wants to show Maxie the ghosts. “Charles, we’re here to see some ghosts,” Maxie says, but Lydia tells him that they aren’t there anymore, that they have agreed to let the Deetzes live there “if you agree not to tease them or make them do stupid tricks.” The adults look confused, and Delia turns to Otho, asking him if the ghosts are still there. “Oh they’re still here, they’re just hiding out,” he tells them. Holding up The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho tells them that he can find the ghosts. Delia abruptly excuses herself.


The unexpected irony, that Barbara and Adam are completely unable to scare away the Deetzes—that, in fact, the Deetzes treat them more like ornery tenants than ghosts—continues in this part of the film. While Adam and Barbara imagined that possessing the dinner guests and making them dance to Harry Belafonte would scare them away, it only enlivens the party. Otho even goes so far as to say that the presence of ghosts will make the snobby New York set want to visit their house in Connecticut more. Rather than drive the Deetzes from the house, Barbara and Adam’s ghostly presence only improves their social standing and makes them want to hunker down and stay.

The substance of Beetlejuice’s evil ways is left somewhat ambiguous at the start of the film. The viewer knows that he is a disgusting demon-like figure, but his character seems comical and not actually that threatening. In this section of the film, he proves to be far more nefarious than the viewer might originally have thought, equipped with the scare tactics that Barbara and Adam lack. While his most horrifying feature earlier on was his predatory advances towards Barbara, he emerges in this section of the film as a terrifying poltergeist, knocking people down the stairs and transforming himself into an evil snake-like creature.

When Barbara and Adam reject Beetlejuice’s services, he decides that he will instead seek the companionship of Lydia, and sets his sights on preying on her. It does not take long for the audience to realize why Juno warned Barbara and Adam against getting in contact with Beetlejuice. He is not only grotesque, but he reveals himself to be a true villain in this portion of the film, first by shape-shifting into a scary snake-like creature and then by becoming unsettlingly preoccupied with Lydia. He may be humorous and outrageous, but he is also evil, set on a course of destruction and chaos.

Circumstances leave Lydia even more depressed than she was at the beginning of the movie. We see her melodramatically writing in a journal as sad opera music plays, planning her own suicide. While the presence of ghosts in the house initially excited her, she now finds herself overwhelmed by the situation and lonely in the world of the living. It is unclear just what exactly has so upset her, whether it was the arrival of Beetlejuice, or the disappearance of Adam and Barbara, or her parental figures’ general idiocy, but Lydia is inconsolably, exaggeratedly depressed, donning mourning clothes and writing a suicide note in her room. Here we see that death is an enduring theme in the film; at times it is treated playfully, at times mournfully, but it is a thematic centerpiece of the film’s plot. Here, Lydia longs to be among the dead, imagining it to be a respite from the world of the living.

As Barbara and Adam assure Lydia, however, “being dead really doesn’t make things any easier.” In Burton’s fractured and unusual world, Lydia perceives death as a kind of relief from the pain of living. The trope of the angsty and depressive teen is adjusted to fit into the funhouse world of the movie. Lydia does not simply want the sweet relief of death because she is angsty, but because she has had some firsthand experience with the fractured world of the dead, and feels that it would be preferable to the misunderstandings and difficulties she faces in her family. Barbara and Adam know first hand that death is not a good alternative; indeed death proves to have more bureaucracy and hoops to jump through than the world of the living. While one would expect a film about teenaged suicide to take the approach that a teenager ought not to commit suicide because it ends their lives prematurely, Beetlejuice asserts that the reason not to commit suicide is because death isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The film takes an unexpected approach to the question of death, depicting it as a kind of Halloween funhouse, neither heavenly nor hellish, but fantastical and outrageous.