Ghostbusters (1984)


Director Ivan Reitman’s eighties classic has the advantage of being a film that can be appreciated in the context of its decade, and by literally anyone else. There’s something very relatable to the broader audiences who visit New York to follow four workaday ghost hunters battle a real foe in the form of an inter-dimensional demon. It also helps that “Ghostbusters” stars an ensemble of brilliant character actors, all of whom are perspective heavyweights in their own right.

The heroes of “Ghostbusters” aren’t flawless brooding men, but average Joes with paunches and flaws that make them absolutely relatable. It’s rare we can have a horror film with heroes who look like every day New Yorkers rather than the fit and virile young men that dominate the genre today. The four heroes in Reitman’s horror comedy are scientists and talk show guests who discuss paranormal beings and aren’t afraid to milk it for all the money they can get. But when an actual demonic entity is released within a lonely single woman’s house, the team of scientists becomes “The Ghostbusters.”

When all hell breaks loose, they go from local pariahs to immediate heroes and decide they must take it down the omnipotent monsters whether they like it or not. Sigourney Weaver (post-“Alien”) stars as Dana Barrett, a woman who literally discovers an alternate ghostly universe brewing in her refrigerator, and is possessed by the entity “Gozer the Gozerian.” The being is vicious and relentless. Through her, it plans to topple New York City within itself, and eventually dominate the world. Bill Murray is at his utter finest, channeling Bugs Bunny as the wise-cracking and hilarious Peter Venkman.

He’s the ham within the group who wants the fame and glory but won’t work for it. Harold Ramis is the leader who examines ghosts and their material form alongside friend Raymond Stantz who manages to help invent much of the ghostbuster technology including the “Phantom Zone”-esque vortex where all the captured ghosts are stored. He along with Dan Akroyd’s Ray Stantz perfect the team’s most popular devices, the proton guns which stun the ghosts, and their storage pod which can suck the ghosts for quick transfer. In spite of the great devices, the beauty lies in the mixture of horror and comedy in to a perfectly eccentric mold.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, probably the only religious member in a trio of pragmatists and scholars, who believes that the emergence of ghosts in New York is a sign of something very dire. While the group relish the increase in business, Wiston is hesitant to celebrate because he believes it to be an omen for a potential apocalypse. Hudson is an important member who also plays the role of the spectator for the audience, gazing at the awe inspiring but horrifying moments in the team’s battles, but standing alongside them courageously.

Director Reitman, along with crafty editing and top notch direction, is able to make magic off of the traditional green screen and puppetry effects. Case in point, the climax, which offers some of the best fantasy filmmaking ever, as the four finally face off against Gozer in the skyscraper, leading in to one the best filmed sequences of the genre. The writing, courtesy of Akroyd and Ramis really comes together with a perfect balance of terror and laughs that compile an exciting and fun genre hybrid rarely mastered.