This review includes full spoilers. Proceed accordingly. For other movie reviews from me, click HERE:
Gozer: The Choice is made!
Dr. Dusty Reviews: Whoa! Ho! Ho! Whoa-oa!
Gozer: Ghostbusters must be reviewed!
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, and Ernie Hudson.
Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Release date: June 7, 1984
NOTE: Despite the PG rating, the 1980s were a wild time. In no way is this movie appropriate for small children. Among other things, it contains a lot of bad language, demonic possession, and some “adult situations” between the living and a ghost / a possessed person.
After Columbia University parapsychology professors Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Egon Spengler experience their first encounter with a ghost at the New York Public Library, the university dean dismisses the credibility of their paranormal-focused research and fires them. The trio responds by establishing “Ghostbusters”, a paranormal investigation and elimination service operating out of a disused firehouse. They develop high-tech nuclear-powered equipment to capture and contain ghosts, although business is initially slow.
After a paranormal encounter in her apartment, cellist Dana Barrett calls the Ghostbusters. She recounts witnessing a demonic dog-like creature in her refrigerator utter a single word: “Zuul”. Ray and Egon research Zuul and details of Dana’s building while Peter inspects her apartment and unsuccessfully attempts to seduce her. The Ghostbusters are hired to remove a gluttonous ghost, Slimer, from the Sedgewick Hotel. Having failed to properly test their equipment, Egon warns the group that crossing the energy streams of their proton pack weapons could cause a catastrophic explosion. They capture the ghost and deposit it in an ecto-containment unit under the firehouse. Supernatural activity rapidly increases across the city and the Ghostbusters become famous; they hire a fourth member, Winston Zeddemore, to cope with the growing demand.
Suspicious of the Ghostbusters, Environmental Protection Agency inspector Walter Peck asks to evaluate their equipment but Peter rebuffs him. Egon warns that the containment unit is nearing capacity and supernatural energy is surging across the city. Peter meets with Dana and informs her Zuul was a demigod worshipped as a servant to “Gozer the Gozerian”, a shapeshifting god of destruction. Upon returning home, she is possessed by Zuul; a similar entity possesses her neighbor, Louis Tully. Peter arrives and finds the possessed Dana/Zuul claiming to be “the Gatekeeper”. Louis is brought to Egon by police officers and claims he is “Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster”. The Ghostbusters agree to keep the pair separated.
Peck returns with law enforcement and city workers to have the Ghostbusters arrested and their containment unit deactivated, causing an explosion that releases the captured ghosts. Louis/Vinz escapes in the confusion and makes his way to the apartment building to join Dana/Zuul. In jail, Ray and Egon reveal Ivo Shandor, leader of a Gozer-worshipping cult, designed Dana’s building to function as an antenna to attract and concentrate spiritual energy to summon Gozer and bring about the apocalypse. Faced with supernatural chaos across the city, the Ghostbusters convince the mayor to release them.
The Ghostbusters travel to the apartment building roof as Dana/Zuul and Louis/Vinz open the gate between dimensions and transform into demonic dogs. Gozer appears as a woman and attacks the Ghostbusters then disappears when they attempt to retaliate. Her disembodied voice demands the Ghostbusters “choose the form of the destructor”. Ray inadvertently recalls a beloved corporate mascot from his childhood, and Gozer reappears as a gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that begins destroying the city. Against his earlier advice, Egon instructs the team to cross their proton energy streams at the dimensional gate. The resulting explosion destroys Gozer’s avatar, banishing it back to its dimension, and closes the gateway. The Ghostbusters rescue Dana and Louis from the wreckage and are welcomed on the street as heroes.
Ghostbusters is thirty-eight years old and it holds up relatively well. The special effects are very dated, but not distracting. The movie’s theme song by Ray Parker Jr. is timeless. I liked the quick pacing of the movie. Overall, the film – today at least – feels more like a thriller lightened a lot by comedy than a comedy about the supernatural. There were funny moments in the film but overall there was a lot more tension than laughs. Or, maybe the jokes just did not land with me. Either way, though, I enjoyed it as a not-too-spooky supernatural comedy thriller.
Dan Aykroyd wrote this movie, along with Harold Ramis, and I just want to declare that he is a weird dude. The same person that brought audiences a spoof on the elongated skulls phenomenon, Coneheads, also wrote this movie about a secret society that intentionally tried to end the world by conjuring a Sumerian Destroyer deity. How did he get into all of that stuff in the pre internet era? Never fear, I did the research for you.
Dan Aykroyd: “I am a Spiritualist, a proud wearer of the Spiritualist badge. Mediums and psychic research have gone on for many, many years … Loads of people have seen spirits, heard a voice, or felt the cold temperature. I believe that they are between here and there, that they exist between the fourth and fifth dimensions, and that they visit us frequently.” (April 18, 2009). “Psychic News”. Psychic News Issue #4001.
According to Wikipedia, Aykroyd’s great-grandfather, a dentist, was a mystic who corresponded with author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the subject of Spiritualism, and was a member of the Lily Dale Society.
On September 29, 2009, Peter Aykroyd Sr., Dan’s father, published a book entitled A History of Ghosts. This book chronicled the family’s historical involvement in the Spiritualist movement, to which Aykroyd readily refers.
So… ghosts, and all things strange, are an Aykroyd family tradition.
Speaking of “something strange in your neighborhood” type things, the movie contained a few that were pretty notable. After the ghost busting business started to boom, the movie featured a don’t-look-away-or-you’ll-miss-it scene of Ray having inferred sexual relations with a ghost.
I found an interview with Aykroyd about the scene HERE:
“Yes, I remember the woman who played that. Her name was Kym Herrin, and she was a Playboy Playmate. She played the ghost. Like, I wish they’d let that scene go a little longer,” he mentioned. He then defined why such occurrences aren’t farfetched.
“Sexual encounters with spirits are very, very common,” mentioned Aykroyd. “And there are some people that I know that have a house that have a presence and they don’t try to purge it. They say, You know what, I’m going to stay with it and I’ll live with it.”
As I said above, Aykroyd is a weird guy.
The scene of Dana’s kidnapping and subsequent possession is the scene from the movie where I decided smaller kids definitely could not watch it. Arms appear in her couch, cover her mouth, and then drag her screaming into a parallel dimension – nightmare fuel, for sure. When she returns, she is completely possessed by “Zuul” and wants nothing more than to have sex with Dr. Peter Venkman, who refuses her aggressive advances due almost exclusively to his awareness of the fact that she is currently being possessed. The scene is played in a light-hearted way, with Venkman under-reacting to what has happened to her, but the dark undercurrent is nonetheless present.
A lot of the comedy of Ghostbusters is of this nature. Their occasional lack of reaction, or their scientific approach to a situation (rather than a normal human fear), is the thing that is funny. Not all of it worked.
Dana, via Zuul, eventually does have sex (off screen) with her nerdy neighbor Louis Tully, who is himself possessed, and there is an intended element of comedy in this, also, because Tully has always wanted Dana in an unrequited way. He will have *had* her but with neither of them remembering once the ghosts are busted and demons exorcised. Rick Moranis played Tully and you could feel his involvement in this part of the script coming through in the movie.
The highlight of the movie, and a positive moment, is the final battle against Gozar – who has taken the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. They beat the bad guy by doing the one thing they are not supposed to do – crossing the streams – and the marshmallow man is roasted / exploded all over New York City. This is still a great moment, all these years later, and seeing marshmallow all over the New York City skyline was fun.
Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say “YES”!
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Dr. Raymond Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr. Raymond Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… MASS HYSTERIA!
Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!
Janine Melnitz: Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?
Winston Zeddemore: Ah, if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.
Dr. Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr. Raymond Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That’s bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What I’d really like to do is talk to Dana. Dana? It’s Peter.
Dana Barrett: There is no Dana, there is only Zuul.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Oh, Zuulie, you nut, now c’mon. Just relax, c’mon. I want to talk to Dana. Dana, Dana. Can I talk to Dana?
Dana Barrett: [in an inhuman demonic voice] There is no Dana, only Zuul!
Dr. Peter Venkman: What a lovely singing voice you must have.
This is worth a re-watch if you are feeling nostalgic and looking for something spooky yet light-hearted. As is the case with a lot of films from the 1980s, the PG rating means very little and I definitely do not recommend letting little kids watch with you.
If you have never seen the movie before, I think anyone who enjoys spookiness, but not hyper-realism, might enjoy the way that Ghostbusters treats the subject matter with seriousness but while keeping it at arms length.