Ghostbusters (1984): A Comedy That Proton Packs in a Ton of Fun (Spoilers)
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Just a reminder that this November, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” hits theaters after being delayed multiple times due to COVID-19. But we are not going to talk about that today, because today we’re going to be talking about the 1984 comedy “Ghostbusters.” This is the film that started it all. Enjoyed by critics and general audiences alike, “Ghostbusters” ended up being the second-highest grossing film of 1984, right below “Beverly Hills Cop.” It is one of the most recognized Sony properties as of today. The film recently celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2019 and just a few years prior, it was remade with women as the stars… Which really did not work out. If anything, it only made me appreciate the original a bit more. Speaking of which, let’s dive into my review for “Ghostbusters,” the first of two installments in my mini review series, “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife.” No, seriously. That’s how creative the title is…
“Ghostbusters” is directed by Ivan Reitman (Heavy Metal, Stripes) and stars Bill Murray (Stripes, Caddyshack), Dan Aykroyd (Trading Places, Blues Brothers), Harold Ramis (Heavy Metal, Stripes), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, The Year of Living Dangerously), and Rick Moranis (SCTV, Streets of Fire) in a film where a group of men are kicked out of their respective university. This trio of parapsychologists and a man who just wants a job join forces to exterminate ghosts wreaking havoc in New York City.
In 2016 I reviewed the woman-centered “Ghostbusters” remake. Every time I talk about that film since I saw it, I feel uneasy. Not just because I did not like it. And BOY I did not like it. But I also feel like I have to go above and beyond to justify my dislike for that film, because part of me assumes that people will think I just hate women. That film ended up being a 1/10, which was my first on this blog, not to mention my least favorite film of the 2010s. Before that, I watched the original with my dad for the first time (not counting one time where I fell asleep because it was super late). Prior to going in, I already knew about the film and some of the things in it. There was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the iconic Ray Parker Jr. song, and Slimer. I already knew some core elements of the film through the Internet, seeing merchandise, and weirdly enough, playing “LEGO Rock Band” on my Nintendo DS as a ten year old. Of all the songs they could put on that game, the “Ghostbusters” theme song was one of them.
Over the years and after multiple rewatches, including my recent one that I did for this review, I have grown quite fond of the original “Ghostbusters.” To put it short, it’s fun, action-packed, and has a style of comedy that is about as raw as it could get in this film’s environment. I see a lot of comedies nowadays and they often go for these over the top, extravagant attempts at humor, and some work, some don’t, but with “Ghostbusters,” every other moment in the film, despite having a fantastical vibe because there’s ghosts and demons, feel like they could happen in real life. There’s this subtlety between select characters that kept my attention. Characters like Peter and Egon. The two on the surface are not exactly over the top 100% of the time, but they also have their quirks.
Now don’t take that statement too seriously, because this film was made in 1984, and over my past couple rewatches, there are a couple effects-heavy scenes, such as the one where Rick Moranis is running away from Zuul, that occasionally look hilarious. Zuul is menacing. No doubt. His design is perhaps perfect for this world. He has this dirty, rugged feel to him. But there is this moment where Louis’s party goes a bit haywire, Louis flees, Zuul crashes through the wall of his apartment into the hallway and his head busts into the wall. I love a lot of things about this movie, including the scene where Zuul chases after Louis in the middle of the city, but this instance of effects being… so eighties, is hilarious. If I saw that today as a visual effects artist, I would consider it unfinished. Granted, this is a 1984 film we are talking about, so visual effects have come a long way since then, but it’s still kind of hilarious. It does not take away from the moments were we see Zuul in minimal motion, because that’s where he looks the most terrifying.
Let’s talk about the three parapsychologists: Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon (Harold Ramis). The best part about these people is that despite having such prestigious degrees, they feel like regular guys. Guys you can talk to, hang out with, have a beer with. Although I will say, part of me kind of relates to Egon the most… Even though on the surface, he may seem somewhat outgoing, I feel that on the inside, he’s a bit shy. He kind of reminds me of myself, and similar to me, I would not be surprised if one would put him on the autism spectrum. Just look at this conversation between him and Janine, the secretary in the film wonderfully portrayed by Annie Potts.
Janine Melnitz: You’re very handy, I can tell. I bet you like to read a lot, too.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Print is dead.
Janine Melnitz: Oh, that’s very fascinating to me. I read a lot myself. Some people think I’m too intellectual but I think it’s a fabulous way to spend your spare time. I also play raquetball. Do you have any hobbies?
Dr. Egon Spengler: I collect spores, molds, and fungus.
If you watch the movie and see this moment play out in real time, Egon’s mannerisms show a supposed indifference to the situation at hand. He’s brutally honest about the subject of reading, although at the same time, he’s making an effort to listen to what Janine has to say, and he exposes his unique hobbies. If I were at a certain age or state of mind, I would be telling people that in my spare time that I like to go outside and ride elevators. No, seriously. That’s one of my real hobbies. And one can wonder why I don’t have much of a social life.
As for Ray, I think he’s definitely the most hyperactive of the bunch. Every other line out of him has an upbeat tone to it, especially during the scene where he and the other busters try to catch Slimer. I think Dan Aykroyd has the most relatable personality out of everyone on the team. He’s not just there for the scientific research, not just for the money, but for the thrill of everything else that comes along. I could genuinely tell that in each moment of the film, there was at least one thing that he thought about, saw, or heard that sparked joy. This is especially true in the scene where the guys are looking at their potential living space, while Egon is blubbering about how he thinks the place should be condemned, Ray enthusiastically slides down a pole. While the other two parapsychologists clearly don’t give a crap, Ray’s running around like a little child, excited about this place. He has this child-like personality to him that puts a fun feel in a film with scary monsters.
Now I like Bill Murray in this film. His performance here is fantastic. He’s kind of got a con artist vibe, but the character of Peter Venkman is still admirable. Some of the lines his character has is great too. The scene between him and Dana where she’s possessed is nothing short of hilarious between Murray’s one-liners and Sigourney Weaver’s sensual yet disturbing presence. Although on that subject, I will say that there is one scene where I thought Murray was becoming a borderline creep, almost in the same the sense that I may describe Lewis from “Revenge of the Nerds,” but in defense of Peter Venkman, this movie is PG, allowing him to be less creepy. I bring this complaint up because I like both characters, but there are times where I feel like they are going after girls like clingy dogs. When Peter and Dana first meet, there are a couple lines out of Peter’s mouth that had me a little uneasy. Part of me thinks Venkman is a somewhat classy dude and of all the “Ghostbusters,” I would consider him to be the driest, allowing for some of the funniest lines of the film to appear.
Dr. Raymond Stantz : Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here.
Walter Peck : They caused an explosion!
Mayor : Is this true?
Dr. Peter Venkman : Yes it’s true. [pause] This man has no dick.
Walter Peck : Jeez! [Charges at Venkman]
Mayor : Break it up! Hey, break this up! Break it up!
Walter Peck : All right, all right, all right!
Dr. Peter Venkman : Well, that’s what I heard!
As much as I despise the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake, part of me could see why one would want to reimagine it because the film is very much from the perspective where guys think sex cures everything and makes everything else seem unimportant. Aside from the moment where Peter has to avoid the seductive nature of Dana in order to bust Zuul, there is a moment where Ray’s in bed, and a ghost is undoing his pants for him. The reason, I’ll leave it up to interpretation.
I also love the big climactic battle where all four Ghostbusters, including Ernie Hudson’s character of Winston, have to go up against Zuul and find out how exactly this beast could be conquered. There was not much of a quick pace to this fight that you might get in a modern blockbuster. Heck, the climax of “Ghostbusters” 2016 was as fast as a speeding bullet. But I think this movie did a great job at not only developing each character’s arc, both individually and collectively, but while building them, it showed the lack of experience these characters have with their craft, as they should. I mean, who else has ever used a ghost trap? The writing here is also stupendous between Zuul asking Ray if he’s a god, and the “chosen destructor” moment, which as Ray determines, is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. FLAT. OUT. GENIUS! If I were in this situation, I probably would have done something similar! Who would I want to destroy the world? Dark Lords of the Sith from “Star Wars?” Nah! BRING ON EVIL SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!
In the end, “Ghostbusters” makes me feel good. There are some flaws with the film. Some parts of it aged better than others, but by the standards of when it came out, the film was great. The characters are top notch from Venkman to Dana to Louis. Everybody is likable and quirky in their own way. The humor in this film feels rather dry, and I will admit, there are a few attempts that did not exactly hit me the way the filmmakers may have been going for, but there are also numerous times where I was laughing my ass off. If you like comedies, do yourself a favor and check this one out at least once. The film is definitely rewatchable. It’s not nightmarishly scary, but I don’t think that at the end of the day, that’s what everyone behind the film was going for. One last thing, the music in this film is great. And I’m not necessarily talking about the Ray Parker Jr. song, as iconic as it is, I’m talking about Elmer Bernstein’s score. It’s spooky, catchy, and weird. It matches the vibe this movie is going for. I’m going to give “Ghostbusters” a 7/10.
“Ghostbusters” is available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray, and is available to stream wherever you buy or rent digital movies.
Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for my next review, because we are going to be tackling the second and final installment of the Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife review series, “Ghostbusters II.” The film, like many sequels, is often considered to be inferior to the original, but I cannot say at this point, as I have not watched it once. But I will watch it this week and my review will be up next Sunday, November 7th! Stay tuned! If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ghostbusters?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite Ghostbuster? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!