By Drew Turney
The film that put Tim Burton and Winona Ryder on the map, kicked off the Burton/Keaton collaboration that would continue to two Batman movies, confirmed Keaton as a comic actor on a par with Jim Carrey in his heyday, and gave us a thrilling new director in the vein of Terry Gilliam, just a bit more commercial.
In one of the most original premises for a film in years, a recently dead couple, Barbara and Adam (Davis and Baldwin) find themselves stuck in their house, unwittingly haunting it for the obnoxious family who move in; wannabe socialite Delia (O’Hara), henpecked, burnt out father Charles (Jones) and dark Goth chick daughter Lydia (a very early and quite beautiful Ryder).
Crafting an entire afterlife world of waiting rooms to eternity, a bureaucracy of death processing and shysters, they are contacted (via a TV commercial) by the afterlife’s leading bio-exorcist (who cleans out the living using various horrors), Betelgeuse (Keaton, in the manic performance of comic career).
However, when they unleash the mischievous spirit, he proves to be more trouble than help, and a fight among the dead ensues in the house as Adam and Barbara try to send Betelgeuse back where he came from and take care of the Deitz family themselves.
But as the paranormal happenings in the house get weirder, the Deitz’s, egged on by their uber-stylish decorator Otho (Shadix) start to think of it as an investment opportunity – the ultimate ghost theme park.
Burton kept his craftsmen close by for a long time, and you can often see the same names crop up in his projects, such as screenwriter Skaaren, who scripted Batman with Sam Hamm, and cast members Shadix (the Orang Utan statesman from Planet of the Apes) and Jones (Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood).
Trippy visuals and a comic storyline that’s both bright and black make it a well-targeted film.
Three episodes from the cartoon show. What!? And they call this an ‘Anniversary Edition’!!?