Beetlejuice – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Beetlejuice (1988)
Release Date: 2020
Runtime: 92 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 9/1/20
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Jeffrey Jones, Glenn Shadix, Robert Goulet, Dick Cavett, Sylvia Sidney, Susan Kellermann, Adelle Lutz
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Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“Beetlejuice” was a 1988 dark comedic film directed by Tim Burton. Burton is best known for directing such other films as “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” (1985), “Batman” (1989), “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Batman Returns” (1992), “Mars Attacks!” (1996), “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), and “Big Fish” (2003). The man is also known for producing the stop-motion animated films “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) and “James and the Giant Peach” (1996), which is fitting considering he came from a background in animation — specifically working at Disney before getting fired. The short film that got him fired, one of my personal favorites, was called “Frankenweenie” (1984) and it was actually remade by him (at Disney) in 2012 using the same title.
The original story to the film was co-written by Michael McDowell and Larry Wilson. The screenplay was then co-written by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren. McDowell, aside from this film, is best known for writing the adaptation (for Tim Burton’s original story) of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), as well as for writing episodes of TV shows like “Amazing Stories” (1985), “Tales from the Darkside” (1983), and “Tales from the Crypt” (1989). McDowell also co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of Stephen King’s “Thinner” (1996). Larry Wilson did his share of writing episodes for TV shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1985) and “Tales from the Crypt” (1989), as well as co-wrote the screenplay to the film adaptation of “The Addams Family” (1991). Finally, co-screenwriter Warren Skaaren is best known for his work co-writing the screenplays to such films as “Top Gun” (1986), “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987), and “Batman” (1989). So, it’s safe to say that these guys involved here in writing this film [Beetlejuice] had a good amount of experience prior to working on the film, and a few of them would go on to later collaborate with [the film’s director] Tim Burton again on other projects.
The story of Beetlejuice involves a happily married couple living in a beautiful old and elegant house in a very, very small New England town. The husband, we first are introduced to, “Adam” (Alec Baldwin) loves his hobby of building miniatures of their small idealistic little town. Adam’s lovely wife “Barbara” (Geena Davis) walks up to visit him in their upstairs attic where he keeps the large laid-out miniature reproduction of the small town. The day seems to be a special one, as they both exchange gifts, as we assume it to be their wedding anniversary. That’s a bit important to remember as we go forward in this story, as Adam and Brenda are married but don’t have children and seem fine with that. However, a pestering member of their family, and most importantly realtor, named “Jane Butterfield” (Annie McEnroe) insists on constantly trying to get the couple to put their large four-story home on the market and move into a smaller home — reminding them that they don’t have children.
The two protagonists here, obviously Adam and Barbara, laugh off Jane’s almost weekly ritual of trying to give them that whole proposal of putting their house up for sale and they have no intention of ever doing so. The two decide to make a short trip to the small town that they reside in, namely so Adam can get some supplies for his hobby. They go off on their way to town, and on their way back they just let’s say have an accident and well, they died. Yes, the couple has now passed on, and shortly after they (as ghosts) return to their home to find that out as they’re soaking wet, and decide to warm themselves by the fireplace that they have no memory of even ever lighting. Why would they light a fire and leave? They soon find a book on the table titled “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” and start to try to make sense of things. They’ll eventually get some help along the way when they take a little journey that I’ll just let you experience.
Meanwhile, as the married couple has passed on, their ever-annoying family member Jane has decided to finally put her real estate skills to some use and has sold the home to an uptight wealthy couple from the city with a teenage daughter. Enter the businessman husband “Charles” (Jeffrey Jones) and his art & decoration eccentric wife “Delia” (Catherine O’Hara), as well as their daughter “Lydia” (Winona Ryder). Lydia can sense something about the house, and it’s not just because she’s goth and feels like an outcast either. She just senses a presence from the very moment she arrives at her new home. Let’s just say that she may be able to see (or sense) ghosts. The parents aren’t upset by the idea and instead Delia decides to call in the help of their interior decorator and part-time exorcist “Otho” (Glenn Shadix) to perform a modern-day attempt at a seance.
But what about the married couple Adam and Barbara, what happens to them since they have passed on? Well, they decide to stay in their house and refuse to leave — as ghosts sometimes do. They don’t seem to have much luck at all making their attempts visible to the parents or their friends, but young Lydia is able to see them as I mentioned and she persists at trying to make contact. I’ll leave it at that to avoid dishing out and spoilers for those who have never seen this film. Speaking of which, if you have or haven’t you’re probably wondering when I’ll discuss the title character and main attraction to this whole shindig. Yes, there’s a guy who goes by the name of technically “Betelgeuse” (Michael Keaton) who can be summoned if you say his name three times. The only problem is, it’s pronounced ˈbē-tᵊl-ˌjüs — according to the film, him, and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I’ll let you get to meet “the ghost with the most” himself in the film, but his whole purpose here might just be to help the recently deceased couple.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Beetlejuice” arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray, in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range. The 1.85:1 aspect is the film’s OAR (original aspect ratio) and how it appeared originally in theaters, according to IMDb. The movie was shot on 35MM film using Panavision Panaflex cameras with spherical lenses, and it has (as of 2020) now received a 4K DI (digital intermediate) master for this specific home video release. Essentially, that means that it has received a new 4K remaster.
Next, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc itself here. This is using a BD-66 (66 gigabytes) disc, 54.67 gigabytes total, and 52.8 gigabytes for the film itself. In hindsight, the original Blu-ray release of the film only 20.36 gigabytes total, and then just 18.5 gigabytes for the film in 1080p HD. So, that’s an obvious improvement, with a filesize nearly three times larger for the film now in 4K.
Now, let’s look at some comparisons between this new 4K and the original Blu-ray release, for reasons I’ll be using to reference a tad bit further below.
SOURCES: 2020 4K UHD Blu-ray (left), 2010 Blu-ray (right)
As you can tell from the comparisons above, the film is finally correctly framed in the OAR (original aspect ratio) of 1.85:1 and you get the tiny black bars at the top & bottom as a result. That’s the most obvious difference, but there are some other things that changed this time around. Namely, the color timing has been altered here and as a result, we get more accurate flesh tones as well as more realistic colors all throughout. The black level seems to definitely be solid here, a lot more so than the original Blu-ray. The shadows and such feel way more realistic in 4K with HDR behind it, even if they do seem a bit darker to what you’ve become used to over the years. Brighter is not always better.
Further assessing this video presentation in 4K, there’s a great amount of detail to be found in all facial close-ups (see the image below), as well as just an improved amount of detail in general. The film grain has been preserved here in a tasteful manner and really stands out on some shots more than others. I don’t believe that DNR (digital noise reduction) was used or anything here, as it doesn’t feel smoothed over at all. This 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of Beetlejuice looks really, really impressive, and earns itself a perfect 5 rating for video quality. This is the best I’ve ever seen this film look and I’m happy that it got the right treatment from the folks over at Warner.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Beetlejuice” arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray in Dolby Atmos, with a Dolby True HD 7.1 core, for those who don’t have the proper equipment to fully decode the Atmos. It’s worth noting that the previous original 2010 Blu-ray included a lossless 5.1 mix in a different audio format: DTS-HD Master Audio. So, if you’re not on an Atmos capable system you might notice a difference here in the 7.1 or 5.1 mixes versus that original lossless surround mix on the original Blu-ray.
Wow, I never have heard this film ever sound this way and I grew up on this being on TV, VHS, and numerous other home video releases including the previous Blu-ray release, as mentioned. The 5.1 surround sound on that previous Blu-ray was always impressive, by my standards, but this time around on 4K UHD Blu-ray, in a Dolby Atmos configuration (7.1.2 or etc), you’ll get some added sense of being there and much more via the height channel additions. It will not take you very long to notice either, as the key highlight to the Dolby Atmos mix here is how it makes excellent use of Danny Elfman’s iconic original musical Score, all throughout the film. You’ll notice early on in the film when a radio is playing is one time that music only gets presented through the front channel speakers, to feel lo-fi as it is, but when the Danny Elfman music comes in you’ll be hearing that bounce off the ceiling.
The sound effects here get amazingly well delivered all throughout the front left & right channel speakers, the rear channels (when appropriate), the height channels, and last but certainly not least via the subwoofer. There’s a really impressive amount of bass found here in the film and some scenes just involving sound effects will manage you perhaps make you jump out of your seat, literally, even if you’ve seen the film before. Most importantly here, the dialogue is distinctly delivered through primarily the center channel speaker all through the film and at a perfect level, requiring not volume adjustments.
The film is just filled with absolute “demo material” in terms of showing off how it benefits from having a new Dolby Atmos sound mix. This is by far the best that I have ever heard or imagined hearing Tim Burton‘s film sound. “Beetlejuice” on 4K UHD Blu-ray with its Dolby Atmos mix earns every bit of a perfect 5 rating for audio quality.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film is included, via a physical paper insert with a redemption code, which is compatible with Movies Anywhere. That means you’ll get a 4K digital copy of the films on services like iTunes, VUDU, and Fandango Now.
The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes no bonus material, just the options to choose audio languages and toggle subtitles on/off as well as choose languages.
The Blu-ray Disc includes the bonus materials, which are presented in a variety of HD and SD (standard definition) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. These include the following:
- Three Episodes from the animated “Beetlejuice” TV Series: “Ah-Ha!” (12:15 – SD)
- “Skeletons in the Closet” (12:15- SD)
- “Spooky Boo-Tique” (12:15 – SD)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:27 – SD)
- Music Track Only is just an isolated musical presentation of Danny Elfman‘s beautiful score. This is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (@ 640kbps). It’s a shame it’s not a lossless surround mix. It’s also a shame this isn’t on the 4K disc.
Overall, the bonus materials here are pretty disappointing, honestly. You only get the original Blu-ray extras via the Disc included. Those only consisted of three (12-minute) episodes of the animated TV series, and then finally you get the trailer. The only positive side here is that you do get a 4K digital copy of the film this time around.
Bonus Materials Rating: 1.75 (out of 5)
“Beetlejuice” was one of my favorite films growing up, being a fan of Tim Burton, and it continues to be one of my favorites still to this very day. The movie has really held up well and still proves to be just as funny and unusually charming as it ever was. Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Catherine O’Hara, and Jeffrey Jones all deliver unforgettable performances here. Tim Burton‘s film here, done a year before he would become a household name directing the “Batman” (1989) film adaption, is still a dark comedic masterpiece and one of the many reasons he’s still a very important, influential, and truly unique director.
The video presentation here in the film’s debut to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format serves as one serious improvement over the previous HD (high def) 1080p presentation. Here in its 2160p 4K presentation, from a new remaster, it comes with the addition of HDR10 form of high dynamic range and that’s enough to make things all the more impressive. The amount of newfound detail here alone is enough to leave you simply taken back by this visually. That said, it’s safe to say that this delivers a perfect 5 video quality level of presentation in 4K.
Now, the audio presentation on the 4K debut is equally as impressive thanks to it being delivered in a Dolby Atmos mix. This new Atmos mix absolutely does Danny Elfman’s unforgettably beautiful musical Score complete justice from start to finish, making the most use of the height channels as possible in one very at times intense and enjoyable experience. The sound effects also come across a whole lot more intense as well this time around, in Atmos, and they’ll leave you impressed. The keyword here: impressed. Because this mix is just impressive and in my opinion worthy of earning it a perfect 5 audio quality rating.
Finally, the bonus materials include physically the original Blu-ray release and a digital copy of the film (in 4K on most platforms) and the original extras found on that aforementioned Blu-ray Disc. Those include 3 episodes from the “Beetlejuice” animated series TV some of you, like myself, might remember that ran from 1989 through 1991. There’s also the isolated score of Danny Elfman’s music, sadly in compressed AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and not found on the 4K disc, as well as the theatrical trailer. That’s really the weakest part of the 4K physical release here, undeniably, is the set of extras. It should be noted that there is an Amazon exclusive 4K UHD Blu-ray Giftset of this film available that includes collectible packaging and physical extras.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
1.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials