Ghostbusters Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
I have no recollection of this memory, but my parents remind me of it from time to time. I think at first it was to “embarrass” me, but I look back on it as my much younger self being both a silly child and comedic genius. The story goes like this:
When I was 3 1/2 or 4 my parents took me shopping at a Macy’s-esque store called Gayfer’s and I somehow wandered away from them. By the time they discovered this, I was not in the immediate area. Instead, I had wandered off into the lingerie department (Hey Ladies!) and some of the girls there found me and wrangled me to their counter. They had to ask me my name, so they could call out for my parents over the PA system. Upon asking, I promptly and proudly responded, with adorable 4 year old cuteness/confidence I’m sure: “Peter Venkman.”
“Could Mr. and Mrs. Venkman please come to the lingerie department?”
My parents, having seen Ghostbusters a bunch because it was one of my three big childhood movies (the other two being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Short Circuit) picked up on this and started to head over. On the way my Mom mentioned they would have to explain my name really isn’t Peter Venkman and my Dad decided in order to avoid all the confusion… they would just say they were The Venkman’s. I would obviously recognize them and they’d save the hassle of explaining it all.
You can see why Gayfer’s is no longer a business, since they just hand out lost children to anyone who shows up claiming to be their parents.The Story: The Ghostbusters get rid of any paranormal problems you may be experiencing. They do so discreetly and professionally. Also, Gozer (He’s big in Sumeria) may or may not be trying to destroy our world.
If I had to choose what was more schocking to learn, that Santa isn’t real or Ghostbusters was an original story that later inspired cartoons and comics (instead of being based on them) I would choose Ghostbusters. Santa? Flying reindeer? Visiting everyone in one night? Sliding down a chimney? Leaving presents? Baby Jesus? C’mon… On the other hand, a movie with an original idea? Whoa, I don’t believe it. (Serious Aside: Actually, there’s plenty of good, original movies out there, you just have to know where to look.)What makes Ghostbusters good though isn’t just that it’s original, it’s that it features some of the best entertainers of 1984 firing on all cylinders, fueled by passion. Dan Aykroyd’s original script was a lot more paranormal-y. Director Ivan Reitman convinced him for budgetary reasons to scale it back. Harold Ramis joined Aykroyd for an extensive re-write and eventually took over as Egon. John Belushi died during writing, so Bill Murray brought his sleazeball but goodhearted charm to the story. Ernie Hudson’s role, although small, helped him break onto the big screen in a more prominent way. William Atherton and Rick Moranis are good spices in the mix. And Sigourney Weaver shows off her feminine funny.
What makes Ghostbusters work exceptionally well as a comedy? The characters are all well defined. Bill Murray gets a great intro where he is not only a confident horndog, but a sadistic asshole who gets pleasure in torturing a test subject. Aykroyd is hopelessly child-like in his pursuit of the unknown and Ramis is hopelessly obssesed with the scientific aspect. You’ve got the scientist, over grown man-child, and cool guy. Despite a bit of condescension by Murray from time to time they all work together and set each other up for jokes and punchlines.
More importantly though, is what makes Ghostbusters work as a film? First off, it takes its subject material seriously. Dan Aykroyd’s father, Peter Aykroyd, wrote a book on the subject of ghosts. Combine that with a realistic scientific approach and you’ve got Grade A world building. ‘Ectoplasm’ is a real paranormal word, ‘total protonic reversal’ sounds good enough to be bad (although I’m a bit fuzzy on good and bad), and Twinkies are used as deliciously horrific metaphors for the end of the world.Comedies aren’t innately cinematic. That’s not always a bad thing, but when someone comes along and shows us a good visual story while making us laugh, it should be recognized as a special talent. Ivan Reitman uses a lot of tools to help tell the story that aren’t always funny. Certain camera movements and reveals show he has a keen eye for visual flair. The effects team create some truly puzzling “How did they do that?” moments that amplify the humor. At first seeing a bunch of eggs rattle and pop, then cook themselves seems like a goofy idea. Using the Poltergeist method of making the ghosts playful to lure you in to the real terror, Ghostbusters has a few genuinely terrifying moments. There’s a bit of malevolence hidden in the playfulness, a bit of that unknown horror peeking through. Of course, they don’t waste the opportunity to use the Stay Puft Marshmallow man as the re-incarnation of a God who wants to start an apocalypse.
Why You Must See It At Midnight: Ghostbusters works for all the reasons mentioned above as well as the fact it is pretty simple, accessible, and quotable. You can have fun making your own Ghostbuster uniform and spouting some paranormal gibberish. It invites everyone to believe in something, work together, and tell a couple of jokes doing it. What better way to kick off the Summer Blockbuster line-up?
Oh, and don’t be surprised if you hear this:
“Paging Mr. and Mrs. Venkman to Music Box Theater at Midnight. You’re son is the most adorable comedic genius we’ve ever met. Yes he is, yes he is!”