There was something so oddly appealing about the film Beetlejuice that made me want to watch it repeatedly as a youngster. I remember taping it on VHS so that I had my own copy to view over and over again. Thinking about it now, the film was probably a little too dark for a 10-year-old. Its premise about a dead married couple trying to maintain ownership of their home from the living while learning to adjust to the afterlife amongst all of the other dead, creepy, gothic and gruesome ghosts was a wee bit of a dark and twisted tale. Add to that a cantankerous, profane, crotch-scratching and appalling demon named Betelguese and it could have been the stuff of nightmares, but I remember appreciating it for its bizarre whimsy, creativity and fun.
One scene that I rewound and watched again and again is still one of my favourites. It’s one of the funniest and most visually humourous scenes in the film. Adam and Barbara Maitland are a married couple who live in a beautiful old house. One afternoon they die in a car accident. They’re both content to live out their afterlife at home until the Deetzes – the new (living) owners – move in. Adam and Barbara decide that they’ll scare the family into leaving. When the Deetzes host a dinner gathering at the house one night, Adam and Barbara take control of their bodies and force them, along with their dinner guests, into a wacky and riotously funny dance around the table to “The Banana Boat” song by Harry Belafonte.
The Deetzes, played exceptionally well by Katherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones, are simply hilarious. Initially they’re shocked and frightened and you can see it on their wide-eyed faces while they’re being forced to dance around the table singing “Day-O, Day-O, daylight come and me want to go home.” They display wonderful physical comedy too in the way they gyrate, shimmy and shake their butts to the beat of the calypso music and truly make it look as though they’ve got absolutely no control over their bodies. When the shrimp in their dinner bowls shoots up like a claw, grabs their faces and throws them backwards and off their chairs, Adam and Barbara are convinced that their little scare tactic worked. Much to their dismay, the Deetzes and their guests are tickled pink by the whole affair and laugh about it afterwards while remarking how much fun they had.