Ghostbusters (1984) Directed by Ivan Reitman. With Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts and William Atherton.
As blockbusters go, they don’t come more unusual than Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters. The brainchild of SNL alumni, Dan Ackroyd, and Harold Ramis, the film bubbles with a peculiar mix of horror-comedy flavours and racy adult-themed humour, brought about by a snappy script and a chemistry that courses throughout every aspect of what is a film that can be best described as lightning in a bottle.
Two paranormal investigators (Ackroyd and Ramis) and one fraud (Murray) experiment from the basement of Columbia University, Manhattan. Together, they chase spooks around NYC, leaving chaos in their wake. That’s the in-a-nutshell brief, however, the film is and has become so much more, earning its rightful place as one of the most iconic releases of the 1980’s.
As Peter Venkman, Bill Murray is the schlubby Han Solo of Ghostbusters. He’s the no faith guy with his own motives. He’s the sarcastic guy who rolls his eyes and mocks everything…he’s also the guy the guys want to be. Dare I say, he’s also a touch dated for our times. We meet him in sexual predator mode – abusing his position of power to woo a young attractive blonde woman, who happens to be one of his students. It’s also a set-up for how lame his approach is. Later in the story, Sigourney Weaver compares him to a “game-show host”. It’s not far wide of the mark, yet he remains so irresistibly ‘Bill Murray’. Rounding out the group are Ackroyd and Ramis, the former the excitable puppy, the latter the straight-man with a droll, dead-eye delivery.
There’s a mutual chemistry between the cast (even the supporting characters) that makes Ghostbusters stand tall. The character moments are what make it tick, but it’s imbued with such affection and newness, that, as a viewer, you can feel the throb of creative propulsion. There are wacky elements, but they all make sense, and, they’re offset by witty dialogue that is dialed in at a pin-perfect tone; Rick Moranis as the accountant nerd who lives across the hall from Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts as the no-bullshit, bored-of-it-all receptionist – “Ghostbusters whaddya want!?” is her telephone greeting. Simply put, everything clicks.
As well as ectoplasm, there’s romance too. Sigourney Weaver has never looked more beautiful and sexy than in Ghostbusters. But she’s also given fun dialogue and riffs well with Murray. Her possessed routine is one of the many memorable aspects of the film, as she goes full-throttle ‘exorcist’, vamping it up to number 11, caked in glam-rock makeup, dressed in an iridescent floaty number that makes her look like she’s just stepped out of a Van Halen music video.
The overall appeal is multifacted, and can’t be distilled down to one thing. It’s an underdog tale with adventurous visual effects design and a great soundtrack, both in sound design and Elmer Bernstein’s playful, humorous score. Oh, and lets not forget that Ray Parker Jr. title track. Ghostbusters is a broad achievement that covers both creepy (for kids) and comedic in one spell, yet it’s more fun than most mainstream films can dream to be. It’s shot on real New York City locations to give a sense of street vibe, adding to the conveyance of something repeatedly magical. It isn’t designed to be laugh-out-loud funny, but the consistency of the script never wavers, creating a swell of feel-good emotions that are emblematic of the best times you’ll have with a popcorn movie. 5/5