Welcome one and all to Return to Cinema, where once a month (usually) I will be revisiting a past movie and telling you all about why you should… or in some cases, shouldn’t, watch a cult classic, modern marvel or complete flop. This month we bust GHOSTBUSTERS.
The original Ghostbusters movie is one of those cult classics that almost everyone who’s seen it agrees is good. Its catchphrases and one liners have joined the pop culture zeitgeist nd have been forever cemented in our minds due to staggering over-use. Not to mention the good old 80’s boom that saw almost everything get its own toy line, animated cartoon and mass merchandised run, Ghostbusters was no different.
But when all is said and done, is Ghostbusters as good as we remember, or should it be TOSSED on the trash heap? Should Ghostbusters deserve that 97% FRESH rating on Rotten Tomatoes? 30 million to make, over 300 million at the box office says so much more than just another box office blockbuster.
THE STORY THUS FAR
Bill Murray (Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Ray), Harold Ramis (Egon) and Ernie Hudson (Winston) star as a quartet of Manhattan-based “paranormal investigators”. When their government grants run out, the former three men go into business as The Ghostbusters after a run in with a real life ghost, later hiring Hudson on to assist after the work gets too demanding and help is needed. Armed with unlicensed nuclear accelerators, the team is spectacularly successful, ridding The Big Apple of ghosts and long-legged beasties.
Tight-lipped bureaucrat William (Dick) Atherton regards the Ghostbusters as a bunch of charlatans, but is forced to eat his words when New York is besieged by an army of unfriendly spirits he accidentally releases while trying to shut the ghostbusters down. His stupidity leads to a long-dead Babylonian demon coming forth to our dimension with help from the keymaster and gatekeeper “channeled” through beautiful cellist Sigourney Weaver and nerdish Rick Moranis.
The movie is a comedy sci-fi at its core being all about demonic cult paranormal sources lurking out of the shadows to claim back a world it once had a strangle hold on and is hinted to a repeating situation.
First up is the compelling “no serious arc” to the story. Venkman, Ray, Winston and Egon don’t change by the end of the film, don’t grow as characters and learn nothing from the story. Something we are used to from modern movies, showing the heroes progress to make you feel somehow attached. And that’s not a correct assumption, this movie certainly proved that.
Peter Venkman: Oh boy, where to start with this fraudster. The comedy hook is played almost exclusively by Bill Murray, his timing is impeccable and I believe that he wouldn’t be nearly as famous had it not been for this role. However, he is a sleaze. He is SO skeevy that re-watching the film his character feels like an undersexed womaniser with an ultimate goal of just getting laid.
Heck, our first introduction to his character is Venkman with a pretty blonde lady and a squirrely male conducting “psychic” evaluation tests by using blind cards (all the same or blank on one side and an image on the other), allowing the lady to cheat and not shock her for incorrect answers and shocking the poor fellow for incorrect guesses (even when he’s right). In the 80s this was “fine”, this was funny, right? Venkman being a sleaze was not meant in that way. At the end of the scene, he invites her to dinner because of course he does and you get the feeling he doesn’t think anything is totally legit, even when he sees a ghost in the opening of the movie with his own eyes.
He just wants to get laid through the whole movie and WHO BRING THORAZINE ON A DATE. There is a scene where Venkman goes to Sigourney’s house to pick her up for a date and she’s possessed, so he puts her to sleep with THORAZINE. In saying that, he also has some of the best lines in the film and I can’t overstate his delivery of a number of well-timed zingers that make you laugh out loud. Also this movie feels a lot like a vehicle for Bill Murray to just constantly say witty and sarcastic things.
Ray Stantz: Some men (like me…) never grow up, Ray seems to be that type of man. Lives in his parent’s home that they left him when they died and you get the feeling that Ray is very much, a trust fund kid. He’s fairly innocent and child-like, but he is portrayed at being a brilliant scientists and he plays to the socially awkward intellectual to a tea.
At one point, Ray says he worked in the Pirate Sector (and they expect results!) eluding to a history BEFORE he had a government grant at the university and we don’t find out much about that at all.
Egon Spengler: Egon actually describes himself better than I ever could. Spengler states that he collects “spores, molds, and fungus”, and claims that, as a child, the only toy he ever had was “part of a Slinky”, which he straightened out. Spengler implies he is also a sugar junkie, due to his affection for sweets and candy. In his interaction with secretary Janine and the others of the team, Spengler is extremely smart but amazingly socially awkward and stiff.
Winstone Zedmore: Whereas Peter, Ray and Egon are all scientists, Winston is a non-believer and is there to do his job and get a steady pay check. The great writing here shines through as he blatantly states this during his interview with Janine.
Louis Tully: Rick Moranis is a master comedian, he’s such a master that I can’t even think of any role he’s played where he doesn’t seem so damn natural. Even as a tax accountant nerd loser who seems to have no real friends and has very low social skills. Louis is Dana’s neighbor and he seems to very much want to get friendly with her, constantly inviting her to parties and harassing her in the hallway. She clearly seems him as no threat, but it is obvious he doesn’t take any hints that she isn’t interested.
Dana Barrett: Sigourney Weaver is one of, if not THE best actor of our time. Ghostbusters was her “comedy” movie, as she had been playing dramatic roles for a long time and wanted to show another side to her talent. Not only did that happen, we also got to see her play a possessed person and it is AMAZING. She plays the part so well, its hard to tell if she is playing the role or truly absorbed a spirit.
THIS FILM WASN’T FOR CHILDREN
Back in the time this came out, executives hadn’t yet come to grips that young adults and CHILDREN were the majority of cinema audiences, I know how that sounds but it was likely because those execs were too busy doing coke and driving Porche 911s. Yeah, that’s what I remember of the 80s.
And yet, we all think of this as a kids movie despite the theme of “monsters vs lasers”, but this movie was made as a big budget summer blockbuster that almost everyone thought would flop. It covers sex, GHOST sex (apparently there was a longer sex scene too), smoking, starting a business, dating legal troubles, red tape and holy crap this is SO not a kids movie. But it was an after-market bevvy of items aimed at us kids, the animated series and all that merch was squarely targeted at kids.
THE SCORE IS AMAZING. I didn’t really have a space for this in the review, but the music of Ghostbusters is simply an amazing mix of theater/movie score and pop music (WHO YA GONNA CALL! Maybe a number one hit record, right?) that remains amazing to this day.
BUT THERE ARE PROBLEMS THAT AGE THE FILM
The ghost blowjob dream is pretty funny, but it doesn’t fit the film and feels like some sort of hidden joke. Like Ray is fairly interested in kink, but wanting to hide it. Though that is only touched on in this one scene and it really didn’t need to be in here.
“Dickless”. The Walter Peck side plot is a red herring that is completely at odds with the theme of the film and throws in this petty tyrant just to road block the story so the heroes can “overcome” the obstacle. The fact that Peck works for the Environmental Protection Agency and is looking to just shut down The Ghostbusters (resulting in a complete apocalypse situation)
Venkman comes off as a misogynist womanising trashbag and given today’s climate of #MeToo and #ItsTime, this is problematic. This should have been problematic then, but it was looked at as “funny”, I’m not sure who Murray managed to play the role and make it feel some much not as creepy as it is. It’s REALLY creepy.
The stop-motion of the hell hounds is the worst and really takes you out of the film. It’s interesting that all the ghost scenes are so amazingly crafted and shot on the highest quality film to make them realistic, but then some idiot decides stop motion use is a good idea for the hell hounds. Maybe they should have just got some Henson puppets in, but I doubt that would have been cheap.
Looking back on the ghosts, it is never explained WHY there are both Human and Monster ghosts. Slimer himself seems to be some sort of blob ghost, but it’s never explained as to the hierarchy of this or the decision behind it.
With all that said and done, Ghostbusters is still a marvel, a romp, a work of genius that can never be re-captured. The comic timing is superb and the entire cast makes for one of the most captivating and fun comedy films ever made. Do yourself a favour, grab some soda, popcorn, a comfy couch and watch this movie.