Is ‘Beetlejuice’ Essentially the Ultimate Property Renovation Parable?

Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice is a grasp course in established and character design it even gained an Academy Award for make-up. It’s loaded with creepy-crawlies, sight gags, and self-trimmed bangs tailor-created for the Bizarre Barbie crowd. But for all of its terrorizing intent, Beetlejuice is at heart a movie about the existential dread that accompanies house renovation—here’s why.

Barbara and Adam Maitland Are Mainly a Normcore Chip and Joanna Gaines

The plot is straightforward—to a stage. A young pair, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin), go away, leaving their choice Victorian-model pile on the current market. It falls into the hands of the overzealous and outrageously artsy Deetz clan (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara, with a youthful Winona Ryder in tow), who commence to renovate to deliver the interiors in line with Delia’s, ahem, unique preferences. “If you really don’t allow me gut this household and make it my personal, I will go crazy and I will choose you with me!” Delia Deetz yells.

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Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin star as Barbara and Adam Maitland.

PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Inventory Image

For Barbara, there is no increased horror than seeing as the Deetzes bulldoze the boonies appropriate out of her living area, swapping the couple’s place florals for colours like mauve and viridian with the help of Delia’s buddy Otho (Glenn Shadix), who presents decorative consult with and advert-hoc paranormal services.

From Barbara’s pre–Hill House Household nap dress, to Adam’s black-and-white gingham and khakis ensemble, this proto-normcore couple actually could not be a greater cinematic dupe for Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Decorating Selections Can Haunt You

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Glenn Shadix (centre) as Otho, the Deetzes’ decorator.

Cinematic / Alamy Stock Image

The Maitlands return from an accidental a few-month stint in the realm of the dead to find that the full house has been reimagined, courtesy of Otho, in a distinctly 1980s attractive vernacular we may possibly dub “Memphis Macabre.” They move forward to endeavor to haunt the Deetzes out of their house but, as the authentic New York Situations overview of the film smartly observed, “When the new entrepreneurs shriek, it is only above the deficiency of closet place.” Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) is virtually an afterthought.

A Appreciate of “Collectible Design” Will Maintain You Hostage

beetlejuice film director tim burton year 1988 stars jeffrey jones catherine ohara credit geffen filmwarner brothers album

Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara as Charles and Delia Deetz.

Album / Alamy Inventory Picture

The renovation is, for Delia, a perform of artwork in and of itself, which delivers us to our future position: What is collectible design if not a set of sculptural furnishings that appear to daily life and hold their house owners captive? The work of Delia’s try out-really hard artist continues to be a punch line right up until the finish of the movie, when we see that she has graced the protect of Artwork in America, clutching—what else?—a sculpture that bears a striking resemblance to Beetlejuice himself.

But a Dedication to Private Taste Is A single to Be Admired


Delia Deetz throws a memorable meal party for her metropolis buddies.

© Warner Brothers /courtesy Everett Collection

In a single of the movie’s most memorable scenes, Delia throws a evening meal celebration for her and Charles’s “city good friends,” who arrive in their finery only to obtain on their own possessed to dance to Harry Belafonte and attacked by bowls of shrimp.

The setup is supposed to illustrate the Deetzes’ garish flavor and social striving, but at the very least the rooms have their own stage of check out. Nancy Meyers–pilled audiences may well recoil in horror from the glass brick, black leather, and crimson lacquer, but in 2023 individuals specifics, although anachronistic, mirror an admirable dedication to private style. (Really do not get us mistaken, we love a Nancy Meyers kitchen area. But that’s the problem—all people loves a Nancy Meyers kitchen.)

When our sympathies towards the Maitlands are stoked in the course of the motion picture, the genuine Beetlejuice hero is not one manner of decoration about yet another (despite the fact that the residence does get restored to a bit of its country glory, in the conclusion). The true victor is marching to the defeat of your possess designer drum. Mauve, viridian, and micro-florals for all!

Headshot of Sean Santiago

Deputy Editor

Sean Santiago is ELLE Decor‘s Deputy Editor, covering information, tendencies and skills in interior design and style, hospitality, travel, and luxurious. He writes the So Courant! column for the journal and


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