Director: Tim Burton
Writer: Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis and Michael Keaton
This film starts off giving us the lay of the land for a small town in Connecticut. We then go to a big house where a married couple live, played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. They are currently taking a vacation at home for two weeks and today is the start of it. They are bothered by their friend, played by Annie McEnroe, who is a realtor and she is trying to get them to sell the house as it is too big for them. There is a touchy moment where Davis wants children; they just have not been able to have them yet.
They go into town to get some supplies for Baldwin’s model of the town, but on the way back they avoid hitting a dog and crash into the river. They return home, sopping wet. A fire has started in their fireplace on its own and they use it to warm up. As they do, Davis’ hand is caught on fire, but she doesn’t feel it. They learn that they are dead. There is a handbook entitled ‘Handbook for the Recently Deceased’ that appears in their house as well. Baldwin tries to read through it, but he states that it reads like stereo instructions. When he goes outside of the door, he is transported to a desert where there are these giant sand snakes patrolling.
We then get a quick cut to a man reading a newspaper, he is Michael Keaton. He goes to the obituary page which he calls the classifieds. He sees the welcoming to the afterlife for Baldwin and Davis.
They are planning on living a nice quiet life as dead people, when a family starts to move in. They are from New York with the father played by Jeffrey Jones. His wife is a sculptor and loves art, played by Catherine O’Hara. Jones’ daughter is odd and gothic, played by Winona Ryder. O’Hara’s friend also joins them, who is an interior decorator and later claims to be a paranormal expert played by Glenn Shadix. O’Hara and Shadix go about the rooms deciding what to do to it. They try to go into the attic, but are stopped by Baldwin and Davis. Throughout the two going through the house, the ghost couple tries to scare them, but they do not see them. The only one seems to be able to is Ryder.
Davis and Baldwin are locked in their attic. They learn about Keaton from a commercial he puts on. They are interested in what he has to say, but decide to get help from the handbook. They create a door and find out more about the afterlife. They go to meet with their case worker. She is played by Sylvia Sidney. It takes them months to see her and when they do, their house has changed a lot. Sidney tells them to read the handbook and use it to get rid of the family. She also warns them about Keaton and who he is.
Their next attempt to get the family out is to hide under sheets. It doesn’t work and they are ignored. Ryder takes pictures of them and they end up befriending each other. Ryder states she will try to help get her family out the house, but she doesn’t think it will work.
Jones gets the idea of buying up the town and updating it to make money; this is what he is known for. He moved out to the country to relax, but it seems he can’t. He calls his boss, played by Robert Goulet, who doesn’t seem to agree with him.
O’Hara throws a dinner party for her agent, played by Dick Cavett, his wife, played by Susan Kellermann and another friend, played by Adelle Lutz. Davis and Baldwin free Keaton and speak with him about getting the family out. Davis is disgusted by him and she decides they can do it themselves. They have the people do a dance and attacked by their shrimp, but it doesn’t work out as they plan. It actually gets them more excited and now they want to meet Davis and Baldwin. Keaton becomes a giant snake and attacks them, but is stopped by Davis.
What will Davis and Baldwin do? Shadix ends up with the handbook and thinks he can summon the ghosts. Will he be able to? Sidney is upset that proof of them has been found and wants the couple to get the family out as well as get the handbook back. She also wants Keaton put away. Keaton is set on getting out and he believes Ryder will help him. Will she? Can he be put away?
I have to say that growing up, I loved watching this film and it is still enjoyable for me today. There were a lot of jokes in this film that went over my head that now crack me up. This film was funny even for me now when I have watched it as much as I have. The acting is great across the board. I feel that director Tim Burton did a great job at combining the horror element with comedy. There are references to real things in this film as well as showing us what happens to those that die and where they go, depending on what they did.
The only negative I really have to say about this film is that I read about this was originally supposed to be a true horror film, but it decided to tone it down and go comedy with it. I am really interested in seeing what it would have been as a true horror film. I do admit that being a comedy lowers my overall rating due to it being serious most of the time. It does have some creepy parts though.
With that said, I would highly recommend seeing this film. It has good acting, a solid story and it is funny. Keaton doesn’t have much screen time, but when he does, he steals the show. This one is family friendly and can be seen multiple times as well. If you want a good blend of horror elements with a comedy, then I recommend seeing this film.
My Rating: 8 out of 10