“Shorten your stream, Venkman…I don’t want my face burned off.”
After being tossed out of university for bilking funds with unproductive paranormal investigations, two nerds and a slacker (Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray) leverage a third mortgage to set up an actual ghost-busting business in New York City. Meanwhile, a decades-old plan to open a door into a dark dimension and invite a demigod into the Big Apple is just coming to fruition, and the Ghostbusters’ first client (Sigourney Weaver) is living in the corner penthouse of spook central. Can the boys-in-gray save the girl and stop the end of the world with their unlicensed nuclear accelerators, or are we all doomed to die beneath the feet of a demon-dog-loving hundred-foot marshmallow man?
What can you say about a paranormal action comedy that endures as one of the funniest and most entertaining films ever…even thirty years later? New fans are still discovering it every day, conventions are swarming with local Ghostbuster chapters of home-built costumes complete with lights and effects, and even Mattel toys has full-size exact-replica props straight from the film. The movie endures – the surest sign of a classic – and it’s impossible to utter even a single line of dialogue in a crowd without random strangers piling on the quotes. Thirty years later, there are still rumblings of making another sequel, but no one would dare suggest a reboot or re-imagining; Ghostbusters is perfect exactly as it is. (edit: so a reboot was suggested and did occur; you can read the Ghostbusters 2016 review here.)
Originally a darker, more realistic movie idea from Dan Aykroyd bordering on horror, Ghostbusters works due to a lack of slapstick; the ghosts are real, even at their most absurd, and the comedy is inspired by the least likely group of heroes Forrest-Gumping their way to saving the world. It’s a fantasy made real by science-fiction; all of the detectors and ghost-catching equipment appears homemade and plausible enough to work – an effect that was strained in the less-amusing sequel that couldn’t stop winking at the audience. Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Rick Moranis all provide character parts that audiences love while William Atherton’s Walter Peck provides the perfect straight man to endure Bill Murray’s smartass wrath. Throw in a modified 1950s Cadillac hearse as the definitive paranormal pursuit vehicle Ecto-1 and it’s no wonder fanmade films of Ghostbuster franchises continue to be uploaded to YouTube today.
One thing that hurt the inevitable sequel was the animated “Real Ghostbusters” that stylized the four heroes and told more serious stories, following the same formula of absurd-but-real that made the first film work. By the time Ghostbusters 2 hit the screen, there was such an expectation with the story that it couldn’t help but fall short. Home media has evolved from VCR to DVD and from Blu-ray to digital download, but Ghostbusters just keeps on going. Sure, there have been funny movies that have managed to make more money since, but that alone isn’t near enough to tarnish the crown of one of the greatest comedies of all time.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)