I took in a midnight showing of Ghostbusters (1984) over the weekend. While I’ve seen every part of that movie tens of times since I first saw it, I hadn’t sat down and watched it from start to finish since I saw it in the theater when I was eight years old. The re-watch reminded me that Ghostbusters is an infinitely lovable movie with enduring charm.
Ghostbusters serves in sharp contrast to the state of movies today. There’s been such an emphasis in recent years on making blockbuster films darker and darker. Call it the Dark Knightification of the summer popcorn movie, where anyone can die and protagonists fight their inner demons. And you can forget about original source material. Thanks to this spectacular article, we can see that none of the top ten grossing films in 2011 were from original source material. They were all adaptations, sequels, and remakes. Don’t misunderstand me. I’ve enjoyed several of those darker films- adaptations, sequels, and remakes- quite a bit. But all of it makes Ghostbusters seem like a breath of fresh air. It was an original idea, and it was as fun as barrel of monkeys. There’s a lesson there for studios. You can make a fun, original film and still make loads of money.
Not that Ghostbusters needs any help seeming more likable via juxtaposition with cinema circa 2012. It’s a movie that gives everyone a little bit of everything. It is a comedy first and foremost. Even the most memorable moments are decorated with humor. The terrifying destructor that Ray chooses to bring about the end of the world is a 30-story tall, anthropomorphic marshmallow sporting a dopey perma-grin. Slimer’s assault on the hotel is crawling with visual humor and is punctuated by Peter’s classic one-liner, “He slimed me.” When Dana becomes possessed by the gatekeeper, we’re treated to a scene full of Peter hitting on an 8,000 year old demonic entity.
It also provides thrills. Granted, the effects haven’t held up so well. But I assure you, in 1984, Gozer, Zuul, Slimer, and the librarian were all sufficiently horrifying. While it never forgets that it’s a comedy, Ghostbusters meshes horror- goofy though it may be- seamlessly into the film. There’s also a (weaker) romantic subplot between Peter and Dana.
Add in Ray Parker, Jr.’s unforgettable tune and you have a movie that is fun in every way. It provides laughs, it provides thrills, it has romance (sort of), and it wouldn’t dream of taking itself too seriously. The film’s enduring charm is a testament to how fun it is. You can buy Stay Puft brand marshmallows, toy proton packs, and Ghostbuster-themed legos. There was even a Ghostbusters video game released… in 2009, 25 years after the movie was released. It is stuck in the zeitgeist well past its time, much like the ghosts living in the film’s universe, and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon. Ask anyone on the street how they feel about Ghostbusters and they’ll smile, laugh, and quote the movie. It’s almost impossible to find someone who dislikes this movie. Nearly thirty years later, we are all still Ghostbusters.