Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Release Date: June 8, 1984
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts
Ghostbusters Cliff’s Notes
After having their tenure revoked, a group of college professors develop and implement a system for catching and holding spiritual phenomena. In other words, they use unlicensed nuclear accelerators to catch ghosts! Shenanigans follow!
Ghostbusters is, beyond a cultural phenomenon and the most successful comedy of the 80s, a great movie. The first two acts of this puppy are some of the finest comedy work ever committed to celluloid.
The dialogue and characterization are top notch and, combined with the fantastic cast, create a films that is slowly, surely diving into a kind of supernatural anarchy filled with an abundance of quotable lines and solid belly laughs.
What stands out after a repeat viewing is the quality and craftsmanship that dominates the film. Murray and his co-stars light up the flick with their stellar performances, but the work of the visual effects team can’t be understated. The baddies in this firehouse look amazing and present a visual spectacle of the paranormal.
Often, films like Ghostbusters can fall flat, destroyed by an overabundance of SFX that undermine the work of the director, actors, and writers. In other cases, the creative team has to work to overcome their limitations, be they budget or technical, in order to put out something solid. But here, the effects are so perfectly integrated that everything works like a well conducted symphony.
What’s surprising about the flick is the embrace of a few scenes of horror to really add to the movie. Venkman might play off his strange meeting with Dana in her apartment, but the change in the character adds a very different level to the film.
Tully getting chased through Central Park by the demon dog is reminiscent of any number of nightmares, though the joke that ends the scene releases the tension dramatically. But the horror gem in here is the chair attack, which follows a kind of dream logic that is, surprisingly, scary.
Ghostbusters is, without a doubt, the high point of horror comedy. While it focuses more on the comedy side of the equation –if you’re looking for a flick that hits the horror harder, my recommendation is Evil Dead 2 – Ghostbusters manages a little bit of horror and a ton of laughs.
Aykroyd and Ramis are perfect in their socially awkward scientist roles while Hudson is underused but a solid addition to the team.
Weaver takes her damsel character and, unsurprisingly, plays against type. Her Dana shows a level-headed strength that makes her eventual transformation more impressive.
Moranis and Potts nail their respective role while William Atherton rocks his dick role. Murray is in career form, not only driving the flick but also showing his comic genius. The cast is, by far, the biggest asset to Ghostbusters.
Reitman plays it safe by letting his actors carry the film and only steps in when things get a bit more plot-focused. Still, he manages a number of fun shots and his comedic work with the actors can’t but understated. He also manages to build a nice sense of tension in a few scenes, which really aid the horror aspect of the flick.
The dialogue here is top notch and really makes Ghostbusters. There’s not a scene that doesn’t include a verbal uppercut and, even as the plot takes over in the latter third, gives Ghostbusters an energy that’s often missing in films these days.
Furthermore, the first two thirds of this puppy move with such an effortless drive that the entire thing seems flawless. The last act does, just a touch, slow down as the plot takes over. Still, it brings the entire film to a nice conclusion, so it’s all good.
Sure, being made in 1984 does mean that some of the digital effects don’t hold up. However, the practical effects are fantastic. The demon dogs are wonderful and the ghost effects are top notch. The visual effects team earned their paychecks, and Oscar nom.
Anything that Venkman says.
I really could have used more of Hudson’s Zeddemore. I get the role was rewritten after Eddie Murphy passed on it, but still, he adds an awesome layer to the team.
Ghostbusters is, by far, the best of the horror comedies. It’s been imitated countless times in the last thirty some years, and its continuing awesomeness is a testament to the quality of the flick.