Now 35 years into his varied feature film career, director Tim Burton has cemented his legacy as one of the most distinctive and varied filmmakers working in Hollywood today. With his keen eye for an image that will haunt your dreams at night, the Daliesque surrealism that sticks in your mind, or the distinctive earworm score from regular collaborator Danny Elfman, Burton’s signature style becomes crystal clear in his second film. Now, for the first time, we get a 4K transfer of the 1988 release and dive into the wonderful world of the macabre and magnificent.
Beetlejuice was a labour of love for the one-time Disney animator and a film that Burton had been looking to get off the ground and finance for many years. The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) who after a bizarre drowning accident become ghosts haunting their former home, and a devious, potty-mouthed poltergeist named Betelgeuse portrayed by Michael Keaton try to scare away the new inhabitants (played by Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, and Winona Ryder) of their family home.
With the film now 32-years-old and with just about every film fan having seen it, this review won’t be looking at the plot, themes and other mechanics, but rather, how the 4K transfer works as a whole.
Immediately after the opening scene we transition from Norman Rockwell’s real world into a scale model of their town. It’s one constructed during the ’20s and ’30s, a place so plain and boring the inhabitants of this sleepy little town don’t know what’s about to hit them. The bird’s eye shot seamlessly transitions from reality to scale model to demonstrate the strength of the model work, as even in 4K it hides the invisible seam where potentially every little piece of Hollywood magic can potentially be exposed.
There is very much a choice made by Burton in his depiction of the ‘real world’ versus the ‘underworld’ and both are given a good clean up on this release. The grey mundanity of the real world feels just that bit more washed out, while the underworld (especially the waiting room scenes between Davis and Baldwin) with its washes of striking colour make the cast look altogether more deathly. The darks show up well, with the light holding its own in areas of contrast.
With Keaton not actually making an appearance in his own headlined film until the 40 minute mark, the make up and look of his character shows just how excellent it was for the time. From the green slime dripping from his head, to the black, decaying and rotten teeth in his mouth, the increased definition afforded by this 4K UHD transfer grosses you out just that little bit more. Model work and effects stand up well, also showing how much care and attention went into building the ‘fakery’ of Beetljuice’s lair.
Overall this is another excellent release from the team at Warner Bros, the native 4K UHD transfer is a massive leap in resolution from previous releases and the increased detail as a result brings an even more grotesque shine to Tim Burton’s creations. While some of the facial close shots suffer from a softness that might suggest an overly rigorous clean up of this master there is a marked increase in the detail in most other scenes – especially the dilapidated main house in it’s faded wood chip 20’s glory. With the wonderful world of the deceased popping with colour set against the drab grey of reality, this is yet another great release from the team at Warner Bros.
Animated episodes: 3 episodes from the quite frankly absurd 80s cartoon series.
Theatrical Trailer: Full film trailer in 4K.
Music Only Track: Danny Elfman’s music in all its glory.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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