Title: Ghostbusters (1984)
Release Date: June 8, 1984
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Ivan Reitman
Release Format: Theatrical
There sure is a ton of controversy going on regarding the new Ghostbusters reboot, isn’t there? As a result, reviewing that film is pretty much the reviewing equivalent to the Kobayashi Maru; you can’t win. If you say you hate it, you’re a sexist pig and if you say you like it, you’re a traitor to the fanbase. And for those of you saying it was just okay, well then you’re still a sexist pig for not loving it. This is the world we live in people; Congratulations Internet! Reviewing that film was something I was so grateful I didn’t have to do on this site. It saved me so much mental anguish. Incidentally, you can read Zachariah Swope’s review here. After seeing the reboot myself, I wholeheartedly agree with his final verdict.
However, seeing Sony’s reboot of the beloved classic only made me want to watch the beloved classic, as well as its sequel. So after coming home from the theater, trying to rack my brain around what I had just witnessed, I sat down and watched the original in the comfort of my own home. After doing so, I felt a lot better. So, since I didn’t do a review of the reboot for TheNerdStash.com, I decided I would just review the original two films instead. With that out of the way, let’s start by taking a look back at Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic, Ghostbusters.
From the opening scene, Ghostbusters lets us know that we are in for something unique. We see a librarian walking through a library as things begin moving behind her. When she realizes that something is wrong, she runs through the library until a bright light hits her. She screams and the film cuts to the Ghostbusters theme and logo. It is, quite literally, one of the best openings of any film in history. It makes the audience wonder, “Oh my god, what did she just see? What was chasing this woman?” It’s suspenseful, creepy and the lead-in to theme song only makes it more memorable. It’s made only better when the film introduces us to our three main characters.
Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), are all scientists working at a local university. Ray and Egon have been studying the paranormal, while Peter is more skeptical. From the get-go, the film shows us very clearly that Ray is the heart of the team, Egon is the brains and Peter is the smooth talker. The chemistry between these three is outstanding, which is no surprise considering their history together of SNL. Ramis had previously directed Bill Murray in Caddyshack and would direct and star alongside him in more films to come.
Anyway, the three of them discover that they’ve been fired from their local university. While their spirits are down at first, This prompts them to bet the farm (or, in this case, Ray’s house) and start their own business; Ghostbusters. After a string of paranormal events plagues the city, they are in business and trapping ghosts all over NY. However, when their first client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), is possessed by a supernatural entity, the team must band together to stop the all-powerful Gozer The Gozerian from entering our world and destroying mankind.
One criticism I’ve heard about this film as of late is that the Ghostbusters themselves don’t have much in terms of development. In the case of Peter Venkman, this is simply not true. At the beginning of the film, we see Venkman as sort of a womanizing jerk. However, through his relationship with Dana Barrett, he becomes more genuine and respectable. As a result, by the end, for the first time in his life, he actually has something to fight for. He goes from a jerk to respectable and also goes from skeptical to a full believer. Peter Venkman has the most development in the film.
However, in the case of Ray, Egon and the fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson), this is correct. There really isn’t much development for them. By the end of Ghostbusters, they’re pretty much the same characters they were in the beginning. That being said, they surprisingly didn’t need much development. Why? Because not all characters need an arc to be interesting. There isn’t development for half the characters in The Avengers and I don’t see anyone having a heart attack over that. That being said, in all fairness, that’s because what rings true for the characters in The Avengers, also rings true for many of the characters in Ghostbusters. They’re interesting, they’re funny, the chemistry between each of them is spot on and they all have their parts to play within the story.
None of them are sidelined, forgettable or overlooked in any way. These characters are perfect the way they are and there’s really no reason to change them. One thing I’ve always loved about Winston Zeddmore is that he’s not a scientist, nor is he much of a believer in the paranormal. He’s just a guy who needs a job. Now, isn’t that refreshing? Even side-characters like Dana Barrett, Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) and Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) are fun characters. Rick Moranis was a comedic genius in his day and Ghostbusters was no exception. His scenes are limited as a side character but, again, he has his part to play and he plays it well. He’s an over the top nerd who gets a ton of laughs and he isn’t stupid to the point of annoyance (I’m lookin’ at you, Chris Hemsworth).
The reason the comedy is so spot on between each performer is that even though the film contains these supernatural elements, each actor plays it completely straight as they would in any other comedy. It’s just a slew of comedic talents doing their thing and being themselves. Murray, Ackroyd, Ramis and Hudson all play this as if it’s just another day at the store for them. There is well- written and subtle humor in this film and none of the actors fall into any bad slapstick pratfalls or cheap running gags (*coughs* crappy reboot *coughs*). It’s just four guys who have a job to do and have loads of fun doing it. That’s all they needed.
What makes it even more fascinating is the fact that much of the comedy in Ghostbusters was improvised on the spot. Really think about this? Think about Ghostbusters and how many memorable lines it has. Let’s just list a few off, shall we;
- “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god you say YES!
- “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!
- “This Mr. Stay Puft isn’t so bad. He’s a sailor. He’s in New York. We get this guy laid and we won’t have any trouble.”
- “It’s true, your honor. This man has no dick.”
- “There is no Dana, only Zuul.”
- “You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance before she became a dog…”
- “Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.”
- “Nobody steps on a church in my town!”
- “Grab your stick. Heat em up. Make em hard. Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.”
- “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Nice shootin’, Tex!”
- “Dogs & cats living together… Mass Hysteria!”
- “If I’m wrong, nothing happens and we go to jail. Peacefully, quietly, we’ll enjoy it.”
Yeah, a bit hard to believe that the lines you’ve been quoting for over thirty years were improved by the actors. Then again, I guess it wasn’t a hard task given that Ramis and Ackroyd were the writers. Not only did they give us memorable lines but there are scenes in this film that will stick with you. The effects and images hold up incredibly well, despite it being a 32-year-old movie. The practical elements of this film are unbelievably good. I remember the scene of Zuul kidnapping Dana scaring the crap out of me as a kid. Be honest with yourself, you will never forget Gozer The Gozerian, Zuul, The Proton Packs, “Crossing The Streams” or the image of The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man walking down the streets of New York. Ray couldn’t help it; it just popped in there.
For those who don’t know, my favorite actress is and always shall be Sigourney Weaver. This woman can make any role work. I will gladly suffer through trite like The Village and Heartbreakers just because she is in them. In my opinion, this is one of her best performances and one of her more memorable characters. It would have been easy to only make her a love interest for Venkman with no personality. Unlike the college girl we saw in the beginning, Dana doesn’t immediately swoon over Venkman. In fact, she doesn’t like him at all at the beginning of the film, making him leave her apartment after his advances go too far.
That being said, it’s only as the film progresses that she sees a new side of him and warms up to him. Therefore, the relationship between these two is very believable. However, Dana is also an artist, a musician, part of an orchestra and she has the wit to play opposite a comedic powerhouse like Bill Murray perfectly. Furthermore, even when Dana becomes possessed by Zuul, Weaver is just so over the top and fun in the role. The same can be said for Annie Potts playing Janine Melnitz. She’s funny, she’s quirky, she doesn’t take crap from anyone and is actually treated like a valuable member of the team. That all being said, isn’t it just great how characters of the opposite sex are actually treated with dignity and respect. And yes, that was a dig at the reboot. I had to get a lick in there somewhere.
Finally, heroes are only as good as their villains. This is another thing Ghostbusters has fun with. The visuals for the ghosts are great but we also have Walter Peck (William Atherton) from the EPA trying to shut the Ghostbusters down. In addition to this, when you get down to it, Peck is actually on the right despite being an enemy of the heroes. The Ghostbusters are in violation of several environmental protection acts. As much as we love to hate Walter Peck, he’s not wrong, which actually helps make the humor more hilarious. Fun fact, William Atherton was so good at playing the wormy character that he claimed it “ruined his life”. Apparently, because he played the part so well, people who saw the film would actually treat him like crap on in public. Ouch!
As far as Gozer is concerned, there’s a great amount of lead-up to this character. However, one thing I will give the naysayers is that there’s really not much to the villain. Gozer is certainly visually interesting, with a threatening voice to match. She’s just not much of a character. People remember her more for what she does rather than who she is because she only appears in the end. People remember the Zuul Dogs and Mr. Stay Puft more than they remember Gozer. I think even Slimer was remembered more fondly and he was barely in the movie. However, as the rest of the villains stand on their own quite nicely, it’s really hard to complain.
Overall, what else can I say? Ghostbusters holds up incredibly well after 32 years. It’s a brilliant ensemble piece. It’s a hilarious comedy with tons of wit, heart, and charm to spare. There’s interesting characters, fun villains, an ingenious setup and effects that have stood the test of time. It’s always been a personal favorite of mine and for good reason. It’s fun, it’s funny and it’s entirely memorable from start to finish. You can make a sequel and you can reboot it all you want but, when all is said and done, you just can’t beat the original. Who ya gonna call?
So what are your thoughts on the original Ghostbusters? Please let us know in the comments and please stick around for more articles and reviews at TheNerdStash.com
- Brilliant Cast
- Well-Written & Subtle Comedy
- Great Effects That Stick With The Audience
- Fun & Memorable Characters
- One Of The Greatest Theme Songs Ever
- One Of The Most Quotable Comedies Of All Time
- Main Villain Is Visually Interesting But Not That Interesting As A Character
- ... That's Pretty Much It