Now, this isn't a review, really. I tried reviewing it once toward the beginning of my blogging career and it turned out as me basically bowing to the greatness of each person in the film. And that's not what The Haunted Drive-In is all about. Instead, allow me to reminisce a little.
Ghost stories are pretty much a staple in the horror genre, the haunted house being one of many sub-genres within it. We've all seen a movie about a haunted house at least once. Beetlejuice did something that I can honestly say I don't remember anyone doing before: A haunted house from the ghosts' perspectives. From the beginning of the movie, we got to know the original couple that owned the house, we saw them die, we followed their ghosts home, and we developed sympathy for them. We saw the devastation the ghosts felt when their home was being invaded and changed for another family. We wanted that family gone. And the ghosts became the heroes, even when ghosts are terrifying in other films. And certain ghosts are definitely terrifying in this film. Such as the film's namesake.
Beetlejuice is a menace, yes. The most he truly does is pester and humiliate a few people. The worst he does is almost kill one of the people living in the house by dropping him down a flight of stairs. However, the backstory of Beetlejuice is what makes him a terrifying ghost, in that we know absolutely nothing about him. We know he's a ghost. We know he's been banished to some kind of sub-dimension within the Netherworld. But we don't know why. What did Beetlejuice actually do to get himself banished? Why was the case worker terrified of what might happen if he were to get out? Why does he look so grotesque when all other ghosts just look as they did when they died? How does he have powers to appear to the living, morph himself into snakes and carnival games, and basically screw with reality? These questions, my fellow fiends, are what haunt this movie. Not the ghosts. The WHY of Beetlejuice. Ironically, the self-titled “ghost with the most” is the ghost with the least, which makes him all the more frightening.
One more thing that makes this movie scary is the knowledge of what might have been. Many of you may not know this, but before the movie was turned into a comedy, it had a much more serious take. A few notable differences would have been as such: a much more detailed and horrifying scene of the ghost couple... well, becoming a ghost couple, and Beetlejuice would have been a rapist and murderer. See, originally, Beetlejuice was a winged demon, who wanted to murder the family and rape their daughter. And while a rewrite completely changed the tone, it's still terrifying to think of Beetlejuice as a horrible demon who wants nothing more than to rape and kill.
On that chilling note, you may have noticed I've used no names other than Beetlejuice in this post. This is because I would like to test your knowledge. Without using the net, try to name the various characters. Everyone knows Egon, Ray, Venkman, and Winston. But how many of you truly remember this movie?
I would talk about the cartoon spin-off, but I'm afraid I've run out of time. The ghosts are rattling their chains outside my door. Perhaps I'll take a look at it later. For now, I leave you with the funniest possession scene this side of Limbo.