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I Rewatched Beetlejuice For The First Time In Years And Why Was I Allowed To Watch This As A Kid?

 Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice
Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice

So, like… why was I able to watch Beetlejuice as a kid? Because I have some questions, I need to ask my parents.

Anyone who knows me has heard me go on and on for hours about horror. I love the best horror movies, whether from a company like Blumhouse Productions or the best A24 horror movies. I would consider the stop-motion film Coraline one of my first entries into the horror world, even if it's considered more of a kid's movie than a scary one.

However, upon reflecting on my past, I realized one day that Coraline technically wasn't my first foray into a film with scary tendencies, even though I remember it the most. Out of every movie I've seen, Beetlejuice was the first, the 1988 film starring Michael Keaton and directed by Tim Burton.


I saw this movie as a little kid – no more than seven, maybe six – and I'm genuinely wondering why my mom and dad let me watch this as a child. My adult mind can't process this – and I need to discuss it.

Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice
Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice Himself Is Pretty Scary For A Child

So obviously, the main man himself, Beetlejuice (played by Michael Keaton), isn't inherently horrifying. I don't look at Beetlejuice and think, 'Oh my god, he's going to slaughter me and eat me for breakfast.' That's never the intention of the character.

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Keaton portrays him in a comedic way. He's meant to be zany and crazy and pretty manipulative, as seen several times throughout the film. He's a sleazy ghost. And it makes sense for what Beetlejuice is – a horror comedy that aims more for laughs, not scares.

I wouldn't even say that Beetlejuice ranks high on the list of the best horror movie villains because he doesn't even really feel like a villain to me. He’s more like a thorn in the protagonists' side than an antagonizing monster at specific points.

However, Beetlejuice has his moments. We see him get angry, and worse than that, we see him look pretty freaking creepy and have genuine moments of fright throughout the film. He's a weird dude, and for a six-year-old, I'm not sure how I didn't get nightmares after seeing him. Like, come on, that scary snake scene would give any kid the heebie jeebies.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as corpse in Beetlejuice
Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as corpse in Beetlejuice

But Just The Idea Of The Film Itself Is Creepy

Okay, let me preface this by saying I grew up in a religious household. While I don't consider myself extremely religious now, I will say that I believe in God. That includes the belief in the afterlife just as much as demons and ghosts and everything else – and the very idea of what happens to Adam and Barbara, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, scares me even now.

It's like they're in this constant limbo after they are killed, stuck in their house forever. Even outside the home, it looks like a prison rather than anything remotely considered an afterlife.

And then we find out that the afterlife is just a bureaucracy filled with caseworkers where certain souls must wait a designated amount of years to escape their eternal prisons. I believe in purgatory, but I also think that time and space don't mean anything there because that's more of an earthly thing -- so the fact that they are given this amount of time that they must wait out before moving on sucks.

I don't know; consulting a "bio-exorcist" is also pretty strange and creepy, but I will say that it makes for an interesting concept. It's almost too much for my brain to handle, and I’m surprised my six-year-old brain was capable of just glossing over that part.

Catherine O'Hara in Beetlejuice.
Catherine O'Hara in Beetlejuice.

The Funnier Scenes Make Up For The Scarier Parts

However, Beetlejuice is a horror comedy at the end of the day. In most horror comedies I've seen, the movies look to make you laugh way more than make you scared, and Beetlejuice succeeds in that.

As a kid, the scary parts never registered in my head. The one thing I remembered from Beetlejuice for so long was the “Banana Boat song” sequence, where legendary actress Catherine O'Hara danced around the table with her dinner guests while the ghosts messed with them.

The funnier moments stick out more – and I suppose that's a good thing because I would rather those be what I remember from this film as a kid. And even now, years later, I still find myself laughing ridiculously hard.

Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice
Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice

And Lydia Is Just As Much Of A Scene-Stealer Now As She Was Back Then

Lydia was also someone that I cared deeply about as a kid. It was more because she was not only a nice break from the few scares that came around, but I related to her on a personal level. I was always considered the "weird girl" as a child, and seeing Lydia not care about what anyone else thought of her was almost liberating.

As a young woman now, I still feel that same way because it's that kind of courage that leads people to have extraordinary lives. Lydia is freaking brave to be going through what she's doing, and in every scene she's in, she steals the show. The fact that she can even see the ghost couple in the first place cements her as a fantastic character.

It could be that or that Winona Ryder is excellent at everything she does, but she's also been Lydia to me for a long time.

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice
Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice

I Still Think This Movie Is A Bit Much For A Child – But It’s Fun All The Same

So I've seen the movie as an adult, admired it, and thought about why my parents showed me this. And truthfully, this movie pushes the boundaries of kid-friendly just a little too much.

I tried to envision what my mother was thinking, most likely that the scares weren't that bad and that I had probably seen worse in my brother's video games or something. And truth be told, it's not like I ended up having nightmares as a kid from Beetlejuice. It most likely didn't affect me at all.

But I also wasn't like many other kids, and I wasn't affected that much by scary stuff, but other children might be. With that in mind, I'll throw out a hint of caution to the wind regarding Beetlejuice. 

Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice
Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice

That Being Said, You Better Believe I’ll Be In The Theaters For Beetlejuice 2

Even with my feelings towards Beetlejuice now, I'll openly say I will be there for Beetlejuice 2 – whenever it does come out.

They brought in not only Winona Ryder but Jenna Ortega, one of the newer scream queens and someone with so much buzz from recent projects like Wednesday and Scream. She's great. Plus, Michael Keaton will be back as Beetlejuice, so you can't beat that.

I doubt that by the time Beetlejuice 2 releases, I'll have a kid to bring to the theater, but maybe if I do have children down the line, I'll pass the tradition down of them watching the Beetlejuice movies – but maybe when they're tweens and not little kids. I think I'll feel a little more comfortable. Until then, we'll stick to creepy, stop-motion animated movies like Wendell & Wild.