Beetlejuice 2 Trailer Promises to Remember Michael Keaton Plays a Demonic Villain

The first full trailer for Beetlejuice Beetlejuice shows positive signs of an afterlife by leaning into the fact that Michael Keaton plays a demon.

It’s easy to be jaded in the year of our lord 2024 about legacy sequels. What once seemed like a novelty less than a decade ago—back when Harrison Ford said, “Chewie, we’re home”—has increasingly become a threat. Hollywood studios continue to be hellbent on dragging from the grave every 1980s and ‘90s pop culture relic. However, terms like “hellbent” and “the grave” have always befitted Tim Burton’s second, and in some circles still best, feature film: Beetlejuice.

Released in 1988 to a smattering of amused if confused critical notices, Beetlejuice’s dark comedy setup about a bland small town couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) discovering the afterlife is like if the DMV was designed by, well, Tim Burton, was a cultural oddity. It was a movie that juxtaposed mid-20th century Americana with stop-motion effects and claymation, creating sights as gnarly as Michael Keaton’s face on a giant snake hissing, “We’ve come for your daughter, Chuck.”

And oh yeah, that’s right: the title character played by Keaton was a serious creep—a self-described demon who practices “bio-exorcism,” but seems more interested in marrying the teenage daughter (Winona Ryder) of the new family who moved into Baldwin and Davis’ house. It’s a faintly twisted premise, which makes the fact Beetlejuice became the unlikely family favorite of parents with Goth kids everywhere all the more sweetly bizarre. Although we imagine the Beetlejuice animated series that premiered in 1989 had something to do with Beeltejuice’s domestication.

Ever since the cartoon show, Beetlejuice has existed in pop culture as a benign huckster; a goofball who’s just the wacky BFF of Ryder’s Lydia in animation and in various other subsequent reimaginings, including the 2019 Broadway musical that earned a devoted (if limited) cult following among Gen-Z TikTokers.

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All of which is to say, the first full trailer for the long-threatened Beetlejuice Beetlejuice legacy sequel shows signs of a promisingly sinister afterlife. Juno be praised. While we still know little of the actual plot and ultimate mechanics of the legacy sequel that brings back Keaton and Ryder—as well as Catherine O’Hara as Lydia’s flighty stepmother, Delia—one thing is clear: Beetlejuice coming back is a very, very bad thing.

After framing the trailer around the revelation that an adult Lydia has taken a bit after her old man and is now trying to sell a “preview” of coming attractions (perhaps this explains why she is again dressing like a Goth high schooler in her middle age?), we are reminded by her that Beetlejuice is more than just “the ghostest with the mostest,” who is here to offer silly adventures to either Lydia or now her own adolescent daughter, Astrid (Jenna Ortega).

“When I was a teenager, a trickster demon terrorized our entire family and tried to force me to marry him,” Lydia forebodingly warns. “Don’t ever say that name! If you say his name three times, he will appear.” And one act of youthful rebellion later, the Big B indeed returns.

Whether Beetlejuice Beetlejuice ultimately works remains to be seen. It’s certainly nice though to know that the film will be relying on stop-motion animation at least in part, with the sights of Beetlejuice’s famed sandworms of Saturn making a lovingly jerky appearance (and now before a wider audience who should recognize where Burton and company nicked the idea back in ’88). It’s also a pleasant surprise to see a cast of characters who are terrified of Our Man Beetle.

The movie also seems eager to spend a lot more time in the film’s idea of the afterlife, with the plot seeming to involve Beetlejuice kidnapping Lydia and still attempting to marry her. With both mother and daughter traveling further down into the rabbit hole of the film’s vision of death, Lydia finds herself once again clad in red and beholden to a character who is offering a lifetime of pure chaos—however long (or briefly) that may last.

If the film can maintain that energy and avoid the common inclination of softening a fan favorite character, or “redeeming” the popular villain from the last movie, it will go a long way to maintaining that strange mischievous juju that made the first Beeteljuice an unlikely classic. Let the ghostest with the mostest also be the grossest.

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Beetlejuice Beetlejuice opens on Sept. 6.