Study Guide

Beetlejuice Mortality

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ADAM: "Handbook for the Recently Diseased"

BARBARA: "Deceased"

ADAM: "Deceased."

BARBARA: I don't know where it came from. Look at that publisher.

ADAM: "Handbook for the Recently Deceased Press."

BARBARA: You know what? I don't think we survived the crash.

Yeah, when you see The Handbook for the Recently Deceased appear on your nightstand, this is a serious hint. The Maitlands first experience of the afterlife must seem pretty similar to their actual lives until they see the Handbook.

BARBARA: Can you give me the basics?

ADAM: Well, this book isn't arranged that way. What do you wanna know?

BARBARA: Well, why did you disappear when you stepped off the porch? Are we halfway to Heaven? Are we halfway to Hell? And how long is this gonna last?

ADAM: I don't see anything about Heaven or Hell. This book reads like stereo instructions. Listen to this: "Geographical and Temporal Perimeters: Functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation." Oh, this is going to take some time, honey.

What's hilarious about this scene is how unfazed and matter-of-fact the Maitlands seem about their situation. They're just trying to get some guidelines and wish the user manual was written in plain English.

ADAM: I wish I had a better view of the cemetery from here. I can't tell which is the best placement for us. Cabin fever, hon?

BARBARA: Well, I can't clean anything properly. The vacuum's out in the garage and we can't leave the house. Why don't they tell us something? Where are the other dead people in the world? Why is it just you and me?

ADAM: Maybe this is Heaven?

BARBARA: In Heaven there wouldn't be dust on everything.

Barbara keeps it real. In heaven, you wouldn't have to vacuum.

BARBARA: Can't see you, right?

ADAM: Uh-uh.

BARBARA: In the book: "Rule Number Two: the living usually won't see the dead."

ADAM: "Won't" or "can't"?

BARBARA: It just says, "won't." God, this book is so stupid. I can't understand anything in it.

ADAM: Barb, honey, we're dead. I don't think we have very much to worry about anymore.

You'd think that this is what death means, right? You die and your problems are over. But death is just the start of Adam and Barbara's troubles.

MISS ARGENTINA: You don't have an appointment, do you?

ADAM: Well, didn't know how to make one.

BARBARA: Appointment for what?

MISS ARGENTINA: What do you want?

BARBARA: We need some help.

MISS ARGENTINA: Ha! Already? Just bit the big one two months ago and you want help.

ADAM: Two months. What does that have to do with anything?

MISS ARGENTINA: You're gonna use up all your help vouchers: D-90s. You spend 125 years on earth actually in that house during which you get only three class-one D-90 intercessions with Juno. You probably haven't read through the manual completely yet. You'll have to wait if you don't have an appointment.

ADAM: An appointment with whom?

MISS ARGENTINA: For Juno, your caseworker.

This is one of the most depressing (and hilarious scenes) in the whole movie. The Maitlands arrive in the afterlife and find out that it's one big bureaucracy. Not so different from real life after all.

BARBARA: Adam, is this what happens when you die?

MISS ARGENTINA: This is what happens when you die. That is what happens when he dies. And that is what happens when they die. It's all very personal. And I'll tell you something—if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have had my little accident.

Miss Argentina probably would have wanted to die in a way she could still look glamorous. That makes us wonder—why don't Adam and Barbara look more like people who drowned? Shouldn't they be a little blue at least?

JUNO: What's wrong? 

BARBARA: We're very unhappy.

JUNO: What did you expect? You're dead. 

Another running joke: they're not so much unhappy about being dead as they are about the Deetzes remodeling their house.

LYDIA: They don't wanna come down.

DELIA: Charles...

OTHO: Why not?

LYDIA: I think the reason is, is that they were trying to scare you away, and you didn't get scared.

DELIA: Please, they're dead. It's a little late to be neurotic.

Why do you think Delia's so unfazed about ghosts in the house?

JUNO: You two have really screwed up! I received word that you allowed yourselves to be photographed. And you let Betelgeuse out and didn't put him back. And you let Otho get hold of The Handbook!

ADAM: The Handbook? When?

JUNO: Never trust the living! We cannot have a routine haunting like yours provide proof that there is existence beyond death.

If the powers that be over in the Death Bureaucracy are so worried about someone accidentally providing proof that there's life beyond death, then maybe they shouldn't leave so many new dead people alone to fend for themselves.

LYDIA: He told me that if I let him out he would take me to the other side to find you.

BARBARA: No, Lydia, we're dead.

LYDIA: I wanna be dead, too.

BARBARA: No! Lydia, being dead really doesn't make things any easier.

ADAM: Listen to her on this, Lydia. This is something we know a lot about.

Lydia really does hate her life. It's not a pose.

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