Beetlejuice (1988) Halloween Advent

Rating PG
Length 1h32
Release 19/08/1988
Director Tim Burton
About When the deceased couple Adam and Barbara are unsuccessful in scaring away a family that has moved into their old home, they seek the help of bio-exorcist Betelgeuse.
Moon: no moon sighting
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime


  • While having a PG rating, there are some elements that might give little ones too much of a scare. Beetlejuice himself was frightening to me as a child, and I still feel a little off kilter when it comes to the snake scene.


  • This is Burton at his best. It’s crafted beautifully, perfectly cast and a true timeless classic. From those opening bars of Danny Elfman to the happy-ever-after epilogue, this film doesn’t put a foot wrong.
  • You know you’re in safe hands from the opening scene. The audience learn a lot about Adam and Barb and their life before death in that opening 10 or so minutes. It’s economic, full of foreboding and most viewers will be invested.
  • The Burton Muses before Depp and Carter. Ryder and Keaton are incredible in what is a heavy hitter casting. Ryder is the perfect strange and unusual Lydia, Keaton is barely recognisable as the eco-exorcist.
  • The effects! While Burton was aiming for B-movie obviousness, in a world now overloaded with cheap CGI, this is a welcome palate cleanser. It works with the colour palate and homages to other creature features. There’s also what has now become the Burton trademark Claymation for the world beyond the house for Adam and Barb.
  • There’s always something new to spot. There is so much detail in this film, that you could watch it a hundred times and still have something new to learn. It was only in this recent watch that I noticed Catherine O’Hara’s Delia recycles her husband’s red jumper from an early scene and wears the knitwear as pants.

Final Thoughts

Burton before he overused Depp in roles really not meant for him, his work was not only watchable, but rewatchable. It’s a perfect treat for an October evening and almost gives pre-Christmas Panto vibes.

Red Heat (1988)

Rating 18
length 1h 44
Release 13.1.1989
Director Walter Hill

The Good

  • Controversial, but the MVP of this movie for me is James Belushi. He has that humour and ‘swagger’ that I’m more familiar in seeing on the amazing Bradley Whitford. This character of Art is my favourite type of archetype. Why? Fuck knows. But there it is.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is as on form as he always is. Not an Oscar winning performance, but lets face it, we wouldn’t want it any other way.
  • The pairing of Schwarzenegger and Belushi is what makes this a good buddy-cop movie. They’re chalk and cheese, but their differences don’t evolve into an offensive hatred. In fact, I’d say these two would have worked well as regular partners.

The Bad

  • Perhaps its watching the film out of the time in which it was made, but it wasn’t funny. The only times I did laugh, were mostly out of shock.
  • The partnership of Art and Gallagher doesn’t really work for me narratively. It’s almost as if the character of Art was designed for a younger actor and a probie cop. It’s a shame because it would have given an opportunity for much more character development that would see him becoming the lead in his own duo by the film’s end.

The Ugly

  • I lost a little interest about half way through. Around the time they question Gina Gershon’s Cat. I felt as if I missed something along the way and that it was a shoe-horned attempt at getting a female character some screen time.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t the film I was expecting and it is flawed, however it is a decent watch and, who’d have thought it, the duo of Schwarzenegger and Belushi really works.

They Live (1988)

Rating 18
Length 1h 34
Release 1h 34
Director John Carpenter
About Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world the way it truly is. As he walks the streets of Los Angeles, Nada notices that both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination. With this shocking discovery, Nada fights to free humanity from the mind-controlling aliens.

Available on Netflix now.

The Good

  • The music has a similar quality to The Thing. That tap, tap, tap… a rhythmic beat that gets completely under your skin.
  • It is a film that will resonate with many people today. The themes of consumerism, political and moral bankruptcy and class divide. Other than the blatant 80s feel of the whole thing, this could be set today and I would not question it.
  • Roddy Piper is that brilliant 80s lead. I did want for Thomas Hayden Church at moments, but in reality Piper is perfect.
  • Keith David marks a welcome reunion between himself and Carpenter. Man, I love that guy and this portrayal is no exception.
  • The use of the glasses and the first time Nada uses them is like Dorothy landing on Oz. The contrast of the colour and the monochrome is just as breath-taking and mind blowing as the yellow brick classic. The visuals of the “they” really are iconic. I just love the whole aesthetic.
  • What an ending. What a brave ending that ensures there’s no sequel. Its a stand alone movie that is akin to something like Get Carter. (Edit: there’s apparently are not one, but two, sequels in the works. I shit you not, the titles are “They Laugh” and “They Love”. I had to check the publication date THREE times to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.)
  • That fight sequence. Seriously, it’s such a beautifully crafted piece of cinema. Having a look online before today, it was the one thing I saw popping up time after time. I was a little sceptical and figured it was just fan boys. Nope, that sequence is a work of art. From the choreography, to the camera angles, everything works together.

The Bad

  • Meg Foster’s Holly was a little underused and underdeveloped. I’m not sure why Nada trusts her and I don’t think we’re given enough. The only thing that has me distrusting her is the fact that she’s Evil-lynn from Masters of the Universe, so that most definitely doesn’t count.

The Ugly

  • For how long it takes to set up, it really does race through to the ending. I feel like that once the fight between Nada and Frank the film is just a race to the finish line. I am happy with how it stands, but if I could change anything I would have a bit of a final show down.

Final Thoughts

I was absolutely blown away by this film and I cannot believe that I’d not seen this before. It cannot replace The Thing as Carpenter’s best outing for me, but it is certainly up there.

Twins (1988)

Rating: PG
Length: 1hr 47
Release: 17.3.1989
Dir: Ivan Reitman
About: A pair of twins emerges from an experiment wherein one twin is gnomish while the other is king-sized. Separated at birth, they only meet as adults when Julius comes looking for his much shorter twin.

The Good

  • The conceit of having Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger playing twins has always been the core joy of this film. There’s something about opposites that provides a solid basis for comedy. Laurel and Hardie are proof of this and its does feel like a riff off that basic premise.
  • At the heart of this film is the theme of family. Both Julius and Vincent are missing something in their lives and it’s through their journey they discover how important they are to each other. There are some brilliant moments between the two men that make this comedy so heartwarming.
  • How well does Arnie fit into a comedy role. There’s just something about his performance that has always made me smile. Then there’s the ‘twin’ behaviours both of them demonstrate; from having an itch to the way they eat. It’s the stuff that younger viewers will enjoy.
  • This film has everything. Mystery, crime, romance and even a road movie. It has something for everyone.

The Bad

  • I do not like the treatment of Vince when details of the ‘sperm milkshake’ come out and they are trying to find out why they got split up. ‘You’re the crap Vincent.’ Brings up so many questions, including nature versus. Yes, its easy to say he’s ‘the crap’ when you see his lifestyle. However, he was brought up believing he was unwanted could also lead to his lifestyle.
    Plus, it’s really shitty and saying you have to be Arnie to be a success! Well fuck that!

The Ugly

  • Yet another film that uses male rape as a punchline. Upon Julius’ arrival to LA he heads straight to the orphanage in which counterpart was placed and he’s told that once he’s ‘disgraced’ on of the convent sisters, Vincent ran away. This in itself had me prickled. It’s implied that the action that disgraced the sister was sex and the blame is firmly placed on Vince.
    We are brought back to this event when discussing the fact that Jules is a virgin while they’re on their road trip with the two love interests. Vincent explains that he lost his virginity at 12 and that it was to the same woman mentioned earlier.
    Okay, so Danny DeVito does a great job at exuding confidence that make it believable that he’s a Lothario. It also doesn’t really matter about the appeal of the character/actor. Mainly because at 12 years old, he was underage and the sister was an adult who took his virginity. It’s rape and an abuse of power. To have it in the movie at all, without commentary, is bad enough. To then imply the sister is the injured party is sickening and worryingly feels like a commentary of what was going in Hollywood with the young actors at the time.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t as funny as I remember it being, but its still as heartwarming by the final scene. A good Sunday night movie and one of my favourite performances of Schwarzenegger

Poltergeist iii (1988)

Rating 15

Length 1Hr 38

Release 23.9.1988

About Psychically attuned youngster Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) is sent to live in Chicago with her Uncle Bruce (Tom Skerritt) and Aunt Pat (Nancy Allen). But that doesn’t mean that she’s escaped the apparitions that have haunted her in the past. When she starts experiencing terrifying visions, her school psychologist believes that they’re figments of her imagination. But this becomes hard to believe when ghostly foes start inhabiting the mirrors in her relatives’ high-rise apartment.


  • The music is even more sinister than the other two movies. I found that this score fitted the franchise the best outside the reboot.
  • It has a feel of the novel High-Rise from 1975. Okay, so this has it isolated to the one family and minimal connected people, but the same atmosphere is developed.
  • Again, this film does more to retrospectively explain the franchise. While ordinarily this would be a trick, I like how it brings the whole thing together.
  • The use of mirrors is quite incredible and effective. It helps this edition stand out from the others.
  • While I hate the scene, the meat locker scene is undeniably well made and successfully creeped the crap out of me.


  • While I love Bruce as a character and how he reacts to the situation, does he really have to have such a similar job to Steven.
  • I don’t know how I feel about the fact that the husband, Bruce, shows more defection to Carole Ann that Pat, who is the girl’s aunt. Also, Pat… you clearly never watched Eastenders because there’s no way you’d be bitching about being called Trish.
  • Again with the rapey “He wants Carole Ann now, before she grows up.”
  • This has some of the worst acting out of the trilogy and unfortunately, Zelda’s Tangina is a little too hammed up to enjoy her presence. Well, its that and the fact that she spends most of the time rubbing the vulva necklace for its ‘power’.
  • While I’m on that necklace that Pat almost looses fifty million fucking times. Have you forgotten that you have a perfect fucking place to put it so you can use both fucking hands to fight off Pastor Kane?!
  • Finally, the plot doesn’t make any sense. You’ve lost your daughter to the Other Side on TWO occasions yet you’re going to pack her off to live with someone else. Even though you’ve been told its your love that protects her?! Fuck off!

Final Thoughts

A very interesting concept, but its execution is way off.

Christmas Film Advent – Scrooged (1988)

I’m gonna give you a little advice Claire. Scrape ’em off. You wanna save somebody? Save yourself.

Length: 1 Hr 41

Rating: PG

About: In this modern take on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is a wildly successful television executive whose cold ambition and curmudgeonly nature has driven away the love of his life, Claire Phillips (Karen Allen). But after firing a staff member, Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait), on Christmas Eve, Frank is visited by a series of ghosts who give him a chance to re-evaluate his actions and right the wrongs of his past.

First Thoughts

This version of Dickens’ classic has been in my life so long I couldn’t tell you when I’d first watched it. I’ve always been a fan of Bill Murray and love him even more when he’s playing the grump.

Part of my enjoyment of Bill Murray and his films, Ghostbusters in particular, is that he reminded me of my brother. Murray’s dry humour, confidence and what I’ve always considered faux grump are comparable to my brother’s charm.

The Naughty List

  • About the only thing I can really pull this up on is the uptight ‘Lady Censor’ who pulls a Weinstein in the final act when she jumps the tied up Brice. Hell, I get that some people will find it funny, but but them in the reverse and people would be up in arms. It doesn’t matter what way an assault goes, or how ‘small’ the act is; if society is going to pull some up, we need to pull them all up.
  • I also wish the film presented us a different look at the Ghost or Christmas Yet to Come. It had done so well with the others, Marley being one of the most creative, I’d have like to have seen something different. However, I did appreciate how more time was spent within this perspective and how much of an impact it has on Frank.

The Nice List

  • The biggest change to the story’s narrative is the film’s biggest strength. Always relegated to a sub plot, the relationship between the titular Scrooge (Bill Murray) and the woman he loved and lost (Karen Allen) is the focus of Scrooged and the key to Cross’ salvation. The romantic element is heart breaking and setup from the appearance of the Marley figure. It ensures that it’s not just a paint by numbers retelling. It does mean that the ghosts do focus much more on her impact in his life and, in some cases, his on hers. It’s not a sweet romance, but you can’t deny that it’s true.
  • Ghosts of Past and Present are wickedly good. In all of the versions I’ve watched, these two incarnations are my favourite. David Johansen is wonderful as the Ghost of Christmas Past who takes no shit from Murray’s excuse giving Cross. Then there is the ever glorious Carol Kane with her high pitched, high maintenance fairy-like Ghost of Christmas Present. As a child I giggled away at the physical comedy she brought to the section and it wasn’t much different watching today.
  • The role of Cratchit is played by Alfre Woodard. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the cast/gender changes of some of the characters is way ahead of its time and something to be commended. It’s a perfect example as to why you shouldn’t force artistic forms to conform to a politically correct tick box: this is organic and beautiful. The Cratchit family (named Cooley for this production) wouldn’t be complete without its Tiny Tim. Young Calvin has been rendered mute since his father died. It’s an interesting change and it’s understandable why it is something to worry about, but also is a better infliction to be cured than in previous versions. Calvin’s brave moment never fails to reduce me to tears before warming my heart.
  • Murray’s change of heart is powerful and his speech that goes out to all watching, ties up so many of the plots threads and, with a breaking of the 4th wall, brings the film to a musical end.

Final Thoughts

I was worried when I’d watch the 1951 version that this glorious 80s offering would pale in comparison. It’s been my favourite for so long that I wasn’t quite ready for it to be replaced.

It’s hard to compare the two side by side, as there are fundamental differences that make them both unique. It means that Scrooged currently, with a few days left to go, remains my all time favourite Christmas movie while it is fair to say the 1951 offering is the most true to the source material.