*Dedicated to the 1980’s. I may not have lived through you but that hasn’t stopped you from giving me some of the best moments of my life*
The most spectacular thing about Ghostbusters is not it’s longevity, it’s that it even worked to begin with. The idea of a film about capturing ghosts starring 3 of the biggest names in comedy was laughable. They didn’t do themselves any favours by releasing the film on time, despite the effects being incomplete, yet audiences loved it anyway. It was Number 1 at the box Office for 7 consecutive weeks, beating out titles like Indiana Jones, and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins. It didn’t just do well, it was a certified phenomenon. It still is.
The plot follows scientists Pete Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler as they enter the business of capturing ghosts during an unprecedented spectral anomaly in New York City. Along the way they face off against Environmental Protection Agency member Walter Peck, and a 100 foot tall marshmallow man. Each of the 3 Ghostbusters bring something unique to the group dynamic and they bounce off each other perfectly. Venkman, portrayed by Bill Murray, acts more like a rockstar than a scientist, taking nothing seriously. It’s clear that he’s more interested in any women the publicity may bring him, but he remains likeable. His sarcasm and one-liners were one of the aspects that the critics praised most and it’s well deserved. Then we have Stantz, portrayed by Dan Ackroyd, who is really the heart of the Ghostbusters. He is infectiously optimistic and it’s his love for the paranormal, as well as the money from his mortgage, that drive the team forward. He has a childlike glee that balances out Venkman’s sarcastic nature, and it’s clear that the 2 characters have a life-long friendship. Thirdly is my personal favourite, Egon Spengler, portrayed by the dearly missed Harold Ramis. You could say that he’s “the adult” of the group, indeed he seems to take the possible explosion of his Ghostbusting equipment very seriously, but that doesn’t mean he’s boring. His dry wit and deadpan delivery heralds some of the films funniest moments. Finally, there’s Winston Zeddemore, portrayed by Ernie Hudson, who is a newcomer to the team. He acts as a semi stand-in for the audience, asking the questions we may wish to ask, but isn’t afraid to intervene when required. They say that two’s company an three’s a crowd, but four proves to be the perfect number for Ghostbusting.
Ghostbusters‘ comedy manages to work on every level. There are, of course, the one-liners which would go down as some of the best in movie history, but it also manages to work in some slapstick, Whether it’s Venkman dropping a book next to Egon’s head or objects falling over, the film isn’t afraid to use one of the oldest forms of comedy to its advantage. Then there’s the comedy stemming from each of the Ghostbusters’ reactions, be it in the foreground of the shot or not. Disbelief, exasperation, shock, and smugness all have their parts to play. It brings a sense of reality, preventing these performances from feeling like just performances. Finally there’s the absurdist humour of it all, because Ghostbusters is a totally absurd movie. 3 scientists, and Winston, fighting ghosts and a 100 foot marshmallow man in the centre of NYC is a straight up bonkers plot and Ghostbusters knows it. For me, that absurdity is never clearer than during the film’s climax where having obliterated the 100 foot marshmallow man, everything is covered in fluff…except for Venkman. Why? Because the cast thought it would be funny, and they were right. I never fail to pick up on another small nuance of humour when re-watching this film, and the humour that I already know is there doesn’t stop being funny.
I’d be remiss to discuss Ghostbusters without mentioning one of the most important elements- the special effects. Admittedly the CG of the Terror Dogs hasn’t held up to the scrutiny of time but, honestly, who cares? It makes up 3, very quick, shots and the Terror Dogs that they created to physically be on set more than make up for it. The only other CGI you’ll see comes in the form of proton blasts, ghost-trap lights and sky beams and they all hold up remarkably well. Every other effect, be it a ghost, explosion or 100 foot marshmallow man, are all practical. Sure they look like effects from the 1980’s, but that’s because they are. We simply should not scrutinise what was cutting edge at the time based on what is cutting edge now.
I think what surprises people the most is that up until 2011, Ghostbusters was rated PG. This film, with consistent smoking, drinking, swearing, extreme innuendo, and casual sexism was for children. The BBFC (British Board for Film Classification) has since tightened their guidelines and these things have all become less socially acceptable, yet Ghostbusters remains as popular with all ages as it always has. There have been sequels, spin-offs and television shows, all received with varying reviews, but the original Ghostbusters remains as beloved as ever. Perhaps it’s the pure love and joy that went into its creation. Perhaps its the palpable camaraderie of everyone involved. Perhaps it’s the 100 foot marshmallow man. We may never know
Until Next Time…