The 1988 movie Beetlejuice is a comedy horror film that has an interesting soundtrack and a scene that stands out the most to me is the one in which Harry Belafonte’s song “Day-O” is used. In the scene, everyone is gathered around the dinner table and they start questioning Lydia, who is the daughter of the couple who have recently moved into the house, about ghosts. The couple that owned the house before had an accident and died. They were then confined in their house as ghosts, but when they realize new people have moved into their house, they want them to leave. So they think the best way to get the people to leave is by scaring them. This scene deals with the ghosts trying to do just that; everything that occurs in that moment is controlled by the ghosts in order to scare the people away. I thought the whole scene was comical and the song, as well as the dance that went along with it, added irony to the movie. When the song starts, Lydia’s mother is the one who is singing, but a male voice is coming out of her mouth, which is funny. As she gets up to dance, the other people around the table also do the same thing. More amusingly, even though everyone is dancing, their facial expressions go against their actions, which indicates they are being possessed. From hearing this song, the audience may feel relaxed because the music is calming due to the beat and slow tempo, or people may laugh since the scene is humorous. The music is communicating the contradiction in the scene because the song does not evoke the feeling of horror, instead it creates humor, but the scene is supposed to be scary since the people are not in control of their bodies. The argument the song is making in the movie is convincing due to this. It seems as if the scene is making fun of the paranormal concept, because after the song and dance is over, instead of being fearful, the people want to know more about ghosts. They were excited about the house being haunted. This part is important because up to this point, no one except Lydia had known about the ghosts. This scene with the use of this music, causes the movie to progress forward, since now that everyone has experienced something supernatural, it foreshadows that there will be more interactions between the ghosts and the people.
The lyrics to this song seem out of place with the movie because the man that sings the song is talking about picking bananas for a living, which seems to have nothing to do with the scene. However, the song may be intentionally chosen to be out of place because it emphasizes the fact that this family does not belong in this house. Another thing that catches my attention are the lyrics “daylight come and me wanna go home” because to me it seems maybe the song is used to show these ghosts want their house back to themselves. Also, the lyrics “work all night” portray to me that the ghosts are trying really hard to achieve their goal. According to Louis Giannetti in Understanding Movies, “both words and music convey meanings, but each in a different manner” (213) and this can be seen in this movie.
Through the use of this song in the movie, the directors used pathos to get people to watch the film because if they enjoyed the song, then they might think they would enjoy this movie as well. According to Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters in Everything’s an Argument, “emotions” are important because they can be used “to connect with” (44) the audience. The directors also used ethos by that if people like Harry Belafonte and his music, and if they respect him, then people may associate that respect and amusement to the movie. So using music in a movie can have various functions, such as it can appeal to an audience, it can be used to create irony, or it can help the scene progress forward. This increases the audience’s overall “plain old likability” (Lunsford, Ruszkiewicz, and Walters, 59) for the movie, which can be observed in Beetlejuice.