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Wayback Wednesday: Ghostbusters (1984)

The only acceptable answer to,” who ya gonna call?

There are some movies you can just tell that your parents – the ones who thrived in the 1980s – are dying to share with you once you’re old enough. Classic movies like, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Dirty Dancing (1987) and The Princess Bride (1987). By the way, check out my reviews for those movies, here, here and here. Of course, one movie that every child is absolutely guaranteed to be introduced to by their parents at some point is Ghostbusters (1984). The spooky comedy/adventure movie that is so fun, so iconic and so universally-loved that it transcends Halloween and is totally watchable during any time of the year. That list also includes Addams Family Values (1993) and The Mummy (1999) FYI. You guys, I cannot tell you how many times I watched this movie growing up. While my brother and I were initially introduced to it by our Bill-Murray-loving father, it has since become a favourite of ours that we will forever sing the praises of. Hell, we’re even low-key fans of the not so great sequel. 

Credit: / Columbia Pictures

Written by stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters follows Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Ray Stantz and Dr. Egon Spengler, three parapsychologists who set up a ghost removal business after they are fired from their university jobs. Together they rid New York City of unwanted spectres all the while helping Dana Barrett, a cellist whose apartment is being haunted by demonic forces. When the Ghostbusters discover that Dana’s haunting is more serious than they originally thought, they are called to save the city from an ancient evil. 

One thing that rocks about watching older movies is how quickly they establish both the tone and plot. So many movies nowadays take forever to set up what should be a simple story and suffer from frequent and bizarre shifts in tone that leave viewers confused as to wether to laugh or to cringe. But ahhh, the 80s ingenuity and charm of a well-thought out movie like Ghostbusters. Director Ivan Reitman dives right into the story and within the first 15 minutes of the movie the ghostbusters have already encountered a ghost and set up shop. Such streamlined storytelling helps draw you right into the movie and instantly become invested in the adventure that lies in store. From the get, these are characters that I want to see interacting with each other as much as with ghosts just to see what kind of shenanigans they’ll get into. And we haven’t even met the full cast yet! The power of strong writing and competent direction! The story flies by so quickly. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it so many times or maybe because everything is so well-paced and edited, but Ghostbusters seemed so much shorter to me during this viewing. It takes a strong cast, a solid script and a veteran director to create a compelling sense of intrigue and fun for a movie that is so short and Ghostbusters has more than enough to spare. 

Ghostbusters is a great movie for so many reasons but the thing I find most appealing about it is the masterful blend of comedy and horror. The movie is spooky and creepy throughout (as much as it can be when working with the effects that are just now, 37 years later, beginning to look dated) but at its core it always remains a silly and fun comedy that will have you smiling more often than screaming. This is a perfect choice to watch with someone who wants just a little bit of a fright but ultimately cares more about the comedy and charm more than anything. See also, Practical Magic (1998) or Hocus Pocus (1993). By the way, check out my reviews for those movies, here and here.

Ghostbusters is brilliant in its straightforward commitment to its premise and tone. It’s a comedy movie that just so happens to be about busting ghosts. Reitman expertly knows how to balance the comedy, creep and action, a skill that I sincerely hope his son Jason is able to apply to the upcoming sequel. Although I have a strong feeling that Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) is going to suffer from Hollywood’s recent insistence that every character in an action-comedy must be spitting out quips every few seconds. Speaking of the impending sequel, you know what’s funny about the original Ghostbusters? How ironic it is that a movie that had so much potential to be the beginning of a super beloved, entertaining, lucrative franchise has infamously spawned a lacklustre sequel, a poorly-received reboot and an unnecessarily asked for sequel that is released decades later and doesn’t focus on any of the original characters. Please Lord let their inevitable cameos be handled with more care and affection than in Ghostbusters (2016).

The cast of memorable characters in this movie are so much fun to watch interact with each other that honestly, I don’t even care whether they’re busting ghosts or not. Bill Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis have an undeniable chemistry together that is the heartbeat of Ghostbusters. They all play together really well in their scenes as a trio just as much as they do separately. Murray is the shining comedy star amongst them as Venkman and Ramis as Egon has always been a personal favourite of mine. Aykroyd is probably my least favourite character probably because Ray gets saddled with a lot of the movie’s science jargon. Even Egon, the stereotypical nerd character, seems to get more to do comedy-wise than Ray. And sigh…poor Ernie Hudson. I like him and his character Winston so damn much, but unfortunately he is always unnecessarily overlooked when it comes to discussing Ghostbusters. Justice for Winston! Of course, there’s simply no denying the incredible talents and charisma of Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis. They are the absolute best! In fact, the best thing about Ghostbusters II (1989) is that there is more of Moranis and his wonderful comedic timing. Good Lord, everyone in this movie is just so amazing. No wonder it’s so beloved!

I will not be seeing Ghostbusters: Afterlife when it comes out later this week. As much as I love the idea of Ghostbusters and want to see new generations of ghostbusting antics and adventures, I just don’t think I can bring myself to go see it. Especially after I was so greatly disappointed by the 2016 reboot. What can I say? I guess when it comes to ghostbusting movies I know exactly who I’m gonna call.

Are you a fan of Ghostbusters?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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