25 reasons why we still love Beetlejuice

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Screenshot of official Beetlejuice trailer on warnerbros.com.

12. The Movie’s Three Visions of Hell

Beetlejuice is a movie about hell—or hells, rather. Since it’s a comedy, there is no perfect heaven here, only various ways stuff can go wrong after you’re dead.

First, there’s the hell-is-other-people afterworld, where the Maitlands are trapped with obnoxious mortals like the Deetzes, a sort of psychological hell that represents their loss of control over their lives, er, deaths.

Second, there’s the physically torturous and painful hell represented by the sandworms that live in the plane outside (beyond?) their earthly home, trapping them for their requisite 125 years on earth.

Third, there’s the worst sort of hell, one Adam and Barbara get a glimpse of on the way to their appointment with their caseworker Juno. There’s an open door in a hallway, and they see a black room with wisps of ghosts writhing inside, their faces contorted in pain and misery. This is the lost souls room, a janitor explains to them, the room of spirits that have been exorcised. “That’s death for the dead,” he says. It’s also the worst fate the Maitlands are presented with at the climax of the movie.

Interestingly, these three versions of hell in Beetlejuice represent many of our own fears of death: loss of control, pain, and oblivion.