12 – 105mins – 1984
‘BUSTING MAKES ME FEEL GOOD
“We’re ready to believe you!”
Much like the paranormal-investigating pest controllers themselves, Ivan Reitman’s mid-80s supernatural comedy perfectly straddles the divide. Okay, not between life and thereafter, but between yucks and shocks. Ghostbusters is never terrifying enough to scare away the kids, or cheesy enough to turn off their parents. It teases at the edges, sure, but it’s universal in its playfulness, delivering (for the first hour in particular) a relentless rattle-bang compendium of phenomenon-securing cinematic gold.
“Type something, will ya? We’re paying you for this stuff!”
From Elmer Bernstein’s teasingly chilling theramin-tinged opening orchestration to the introduction of gluttonous “ugly little spud” Slimer, via the shock of the library phantom’s sudden mood-swing, it is infectiously entertaining, iconic and endlessly quotable – even down to Ray Stantz’s (Dan Aykroyd) bizarrely incongruous mid-montage ethereal blow job!
“You don’t act much like a scientist… more like a gameshow host.”
Saturday Night Live alumni Aykroyd and co-writer/co-star Harold Ramis bring bountiful personality to their science-fiction screenplay. Their university-evicted spiritual scientists are down to earth and identifiable to such an extent that the belated addiction of advert-answering new recruit Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) is somewhat superfluous. Through Ray’s wide-eyed excitability (“You gotta try the pole!”), nerdy Egon’s (Ramis) inability to flirt with secretary Janine (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman’s (fellow SNL-er Bill Murray) facetious louche sarcasm (“back off man, I’m a scientist!”), we already have ample access to this high-concept Zuul-niverse.
“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”
As the proton-packed foursome find themselves rocketed to overnight success and lend their bumbling, fumbling ‘expertise’ to musician Dana Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) egg-popping, fridge-possessing doggy dilemma, their is a twenty minute period prior to the high-stakes roof-top finale which does switch down a gear. The plot becomes so invested in the coming together of the Gatekeeper and Keymaster and the possession of lovable loser Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) that smarmy antagonist Walter Peck (William Atherton) is almost lost in the mix – until the overzealous EPA agent makes a costly error of judgment which puts the whole city at risk…
“Dogs and cats, living together. Mass hysteria!”
But once our heroes are ‘busted out of jail by New York’s panic-stricken Mayor (David Marguiles), the red-hot quotes start tumbling again (“It’s true: this man has no dick”) as the action intensifies and the colourful effects fly into overdrive. The Claymation work on the statuesque demon dogs is a little obvious, while flat-topped femme demi-god Gozer is a tad underwhelming in human form (Slavitza Jovan), but all of this is forgiven when a 100foot marshmallow is summoned to stomp across the city, following a couple of subtle visual references teeing up Stay Puft’s appearance earlier in the film.
Even 32 years on, Ghostbusters still lends itself to endless repeat viewings – its spunky attitude and endearing characterisation overcoming any dated FX work and narrative lulls. I can’t imagine Paul Feig’s incoming reboot will quite manage to capture the imagination of its generation in quite the same all-conquering fashion, but provided GB ’16 can mine the spirit of Reitman’s original then it’s half way to success – provided it doesn’t cross the streams! I guess we’ll find out on Monday…
CR@B’s Claw Score: