The 15 Best Characters from Beetlejuice
When Beetlejuice was first released over 30 years ago, in the spring of 1988, it was met with a lukewarm reception from critics. However, like a fine vintage wine, the film mellowed over the years, taking huge advantage of the VHS boom that led the film into peoples homes and hearts. Whilst there’s a good chance that Beetlejuice never decorated your lunchboxes, school notebooks, and undies, the film and character was still very much a huge part of pop-culture during the twilight years of the 80’s. Whilst he never conjured up a sequel, Beetlejuice has lived on in many other forms, including a carton TV series, a Universal Studios attractions and a recent stage play, the ghost with the most has never been too far from our field of spiritual vision. What makes the film so appealing is its huge cast of quirky characters that manage to get our imaginations spinning. In this spooky little article, we look at our top pick of characters that are make the film go bump. Here are The 15 Best Characters from Beetlejuice.
Beryl (Adelle Lutz)
Beryl is the nervous, twitchy, and pale looking guests at the Deetzes dinner party. Whilst she has very little to contribute, her life choices highlight one of the most important key elements of the film. Whilst we were all distracted by giant snake monsters and Calypso music, the film snuck in a tragic subplot, that people who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife. Otho teases the chain smoking artist about one of her “dreary suicide attempts” hinting that the poor lass is doomed for eternity to paper work and bureaucracy. Don’t do it Beryl… it REALLY isn’t worth it!
There’s an untold tragic story behind the death of Miss Argentina, a playful if not slightly indignant receptionist. Whilst we never learn about why the young beauty decided to slit her wrists, it seems she certainly regrets her actions. Deepening the subplot, we learn from the redhead administrator that it’s entirely possible to feel shame for your life decisions and to even hate your job. Yes, even in the afterlife, working sucks!
Witch Doctor and Harry the Hunter
One of Beetlejuice’s more fun elements is its inclusion of a laborious boring waiting room, where the recently dead wait to meet with a specialist to deal with their individual “problems”. At the end of the movie, we are introduced to two characters, the Witch Doctor and Harry the Hunter. It’s implied that the Witch Doctor, dressed like a Haitian Voodoo priest, had shrunk Harry’s head. It looks like Harry got of one good blast of his gun, killing the Witch Doctor, as he himself died. Beetlejuice antagonizes the duo, resulting in the Witch Doctor shrinking Beetlejuice’s noggin down to the size of a pear.
Char Man (Douglas Turner)
Time seems to move differently inside the waiting room, where mere hours inside the cramped room can translate into months in the real world. Let’s take a moment to think about how long that converts too for Char Man, a burnt husk of a corpse that spends almost the entire film waiting to see a specialist. The cheery chain smoker seems to have burnt to death in his bed, the result of a lit cigarette in bed, but that hasn’t stopped his habit carrying over to the afterlife.
The waiting room and offices reveals many crazy and quirky characters getting to grips with the afterlife, but one bunch of spooks are little confused to why they are there. The football players apparently died in a horrific vehicle accident that killed the majority of the team, but with low intelligence and a true dedication to the game, the newly departed players are convinced that they are just meeting up with a new coach. I guess the game must go on!
It’s tried and tested illusion that still manages to amaze even today. Dating back to the 1800’s, the “sawing a woman in half” trick sees a beautiful Magician’s Assistant placed inside a box and sawed in half. For the majority of assistant, the second part of the act sees the magician magically put the woman back together, but for the young starlet in the waiting room, something went horrible wrong, leaving her literally in bits. Two bits to be precise, top and bottom.
Road Kill Man (Carmen Filpi)
Here’s one businessman that traded one bum wrap for another. The Road Kill man appears in the afterlife as a postal worker, running petty errands and messages around the building. Considering that he’s been assigned to the civil service, it’s clear that he intentionally threw himself under a vehicle, maybe after a bad day at the office? He’s not lost his sense of humor though, even if he has lost pretty much everything else. Being as flat as a pancake, thanks to several vehicles going over his body, he is hoisted around with a system of pulley’s and even has easy access through small openings in the walls.
Juno (Sylvia Sidney)
Juno is an afterlife caseworker who is assigned to work with the Maitland’s to help them rid their house of Deetz. She might be small and smokey, but she sure has a bite. Like all afterlife civil servants, Juno committed suicide, slitting her own throat, which is shown via the huge gash in her neck.. She claimed to have had Betelgeuse as an assistant for a short time, meaning that Beetlejuice, much like herself, had committed suicide. Juno warns the Maitland’s not to summon the troublesome freelance spirit and scolds them when they do. Despite making a few minor suggestions, it seems that after-life bureaucracy does not work out for every spirit, as Juno’s help is pretty much useless and ultimately does nothing to aid the desperate couple. However, some of the blame could be shifted over to the amount of work she has. Juno seems to be very much in demand.
Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones)
Charles Deetz used to work in real estate in New York City before his nervous break down forced him to slow things down. Moving to the “the sticks” turned out to be more adventurous and stressful than he first thought, as the house he moves his family into is haunted by the Maitlands. With the help of Beetlejuice, the bio-exorcist, the Maitlands make lives a misery for Charles, his wife and daughter. However, he has a genuinely kind heart and only wants what is best for his family. Despite almost being killed by a giant snake monster, he finally comes around to the idea of the house being haunted, all in the name of harmony and an un-stressful life.
Delia Deetz (Catherine O’Hara)
Delia Deetz is by far one of the most complex characters in Beetlejuice. Being the wife of Charles and step-mother of Lydia, the family dynamic appears some-what strained as we first meet the family. Delia distracts herself with her need to be a social climber, whether that be in interior design, art or even paranormal activities. The highly emotional and overly dramatic woman always manages to make herself center of attention and constantly belittles her family, making her egotistical and self-centred. However, her social merits are not exactly met with celebration, with her guests clearly not being that impressed by her achievements. She fails to realise just how much her brash and abstract artwork and her interior design choices ruin the simple tranquility of the old Victorian home. This is the catalyst for the Maitland haunting. Through the supernatural events that take place, Delia uses her experiences to continue her love of making modern art.
Otho Fenlock (Glenn Shadix)
Otho is a friend of Delia, and much like his struggling socialite buddy, he has an egotistical and irrationally inflated view of himself and skills. The borderline narcissist claims to have a background in Interior Design, is skilled in chemistry and hair analysis (what ever that is?) and was also the leading Paranormal Researcher up until the 70’s. It’s fair to say that Otho is full of crap. He lies and manipulates to encourage acceptance, and panders to Delia’s request, believing her to be a higher social status than she really is. Otho ultimately seems blind to how much Delia is disliked by her friends, and this leads him down a slippery path of social exile himself.
Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis)
Barbara Maitland is the newly wed wife of Adam and the couple tragically lose their lives whilst on a home vacation. It is heavily implied that Barbara had been trying to have a baby before her death, but for some unmentioned reason the pregnancy had not gone very well. This maternal need is what pulls Barbara towards the lonely, depressed, daughter of Charles Deetz. Barbara is shown to be encouraging, fun and very creative.
Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin)
Adam is the husband of Barbara, before the couple drowned in a car accident, this polite young man owned and operates the Maitland Hardware Store in Winter River, Connecticut. Adam seems excited about his new life and is quick to realise how much fun it would be to be a ghost haunting their old home. The Deetz family are brash New Yorkers who clash quite considerably with Adam and Barbara’s sensibilities, and the haunting seems like a good way of getting rid of the family.
Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder)
Lydia is the daughter of Charles Deetz and the stepdaughter of Delia. Like most young angsty teens, Lydia feels isolated and misunderstood. This is highlighted through her use of goth styled dark cloths and makeup. Having lost her mother at a young age, Lydia feels as if she is missing a maternal influence in her life, something she does not get from her self-obsessed stepmother. She finds kinship in the Maitland’s and is unfazed by the revelation of them being ghosts. As she puts it “I too am strange and unusual!”. Lydia is befriended by Beetlejuice who convinces the young girl to marry him to save the afterlives of Maitlands. Luckily for Lydia, the Maitlands manage to send Beetlejuice back to the afterlife before the marriage ceremony ended. After the Maitland haunting, Lydia seems happily adjusted to a new life with family and her spirited friends.
Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton)
Beetlejuice (also known as Betelgeuse) is the mischievous bio-exorcist that is hired by the Maitland’s to help with their hauntings. He was once a former assistant to Juno, which means that Beetlejuice must have committed suicide in his former life. In the original script, he killed himself over a spurned lover and hung himself, but this was cut from the film. Little is known about his past, but he does mention that he’s around 600 years old, but this could be real world years rather than spiritual years. He boasts various achievements but many of them seem highly unlikely, such as the bold claim he attended Julliard and lived through the black plague.
It is clear that Beetlejuice is extraordinarily powerful for a ghost and has many traits which we do not see in other spirits. Unlike most ghosts that appear in the film, Beetlejuice can change his clothes at will and is not restricted by the clothes he died in. He can also morph his entire body into various shapes. More than anything, he can be seen by the living.
Whilst working with Juno, he was a troublemaker and trickster. It’s implied that Beetlejuice is a prisoner of sorts, and that he was placed in exile to stop him from getting into trouble. Shrunken down, his powers are strongly diminished and only by saying his name three times can he be summoned from his prison. However, even after being summoned, the “ghost with the most” is still subject to his certain rules, and he claims that marrying a living human can free him.
Beetlejuice is a crazy yet creative spirit that thrives on chaos and fear and is singular fixed on freeing himself from the shackles that keep him locked away from others. Say it once… say it twice… third times a charm!
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“Hello Horror Fans – My whole life is a dark room, one, big, dark, room. Or maybe I should spend less time in the basement. Beetlejuice was a cornerstone film from Burton and Keaton, that showed how diverse they both were. It’s a film that has stuck with me through out my life and it keeps getting funnier, every time I see it! Are you a massive Beetlejuice fan? Don’t be a stranger, jump on down to the comments below and lets shake some juice up!