Now that Groundhog Day has come and gone, I’d like to take a look back at the greatest film to ever feature the great Bill Murray. Of course I’m talking about the appropriately titled movie, “Ghostbusters.”
“Ghostbusters” came out in 1984 and was written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, who played the ever logical Dr. Egon Spengler and the enthusiastic, though somewhat childish, Dr. Ray Stanz. The movie, directed by Ivan Reitman, melded many genres including sci-fi, horror, comedy and even a touch of romance. Bill Murray played Dr. Peter Venkman, the smarmy smart aleck of the group. Ernie Hudson, who portrays the everyman Winston Zeddemore, joins the previously mentioned Ghostbusters later in the movie.
The film starts out with a paranormal disturbance in the New York Public Library, complete with levitating books and a card catalog that spews its cards all over, both accomplished with fantastic practical effects. Noticing these phenomena, a scared librarian runs like the dickens only to be terrified by what we’ll later come to know as the Library Ghost. Then, as the iconic Ghostbusters logo fills the screen and the Ghostbusters theme song fills our ears, we cut to an unnamed university. At the university, Peter is conducting an experiment on ESP, extrasensory perception, using ESP cards. This scene alone perfectly sets up Peter’s character as sort of an almost lecherous con man. Ray interrupts the test to tell Peter about the disturbance, and forces Peter to come with him. When they get there, their investigation comes with mixed success. As they get ectoplasmic samples and see the Library Ghost, they don’t have ghost traps or proton packs so their plan to “GET HER!” doesn’t go the way they hope, but it does make for a very funny scene.
When the boys get back to the university, they are shocked to find that they’ve been fired from their jobs, so Egon and Ray decide to go into business for themselves. Peter, Egon and Ray buy the iconic firehouse with money from Ray’s third mortgage.
We then cut to Dana Barrett, played by Sigourney Weaver, taking her groceries to her apartment and turning down the advances of the incredibly awkward Louis Tully , played by Rick Moranis. Once in the apartment, the eggs Dana bought jump out of their shells and cook on the kitchen counter, again making use of great practical effects. When Dana opens her fridge she finds a portal to another world, featuring a pyramid structure and a demonic dog creature that exclaims “Zuul!” Hard cut back to the firehouse where Ray brings in the car that will become the Ecto-1, Ghostbusters’ car, after a little work. Dana appears at the firehouse and recruits the Ghostbusters after seeing the commercial they put out. Peter goes with Dana to check out her apartment, but comes up with nothing, though he vows to help her however he can.
Later that night the guys are called in to the illustrious Sedgewick Hotel on their first bust. As secretary Janine Melnitz, portrayed by Annie Potts, sounds the alarm screaming “We got one!” Egon, Peter and Ray scramble into the Ecto- 1 and get to the Hotel. Once there, we get to the first use of the proton pack and ghost traps. They do eventually bust Slimer, the ghost they set out to catch, after causing a ton of property damage. The effects in this scene are great, Slimer and the proton pack streams interact very well and there’s no feeling of disconnect between the effects. It’s also in this scene that thanks to some exposition from Egon, we find out that crossing the stream of the proton packs would be very bad. After a montage showing the success of the Ghostbusters and cameos from radio hosts Larry King and Casey Kasem, we’re introduced to Winston, who is pretty much hired on the spot, as the Ghostbusters are so short staffed.
After a brief scene of Peter flirting with Dana and explaining that Zuul is a minion of Gozer, we’re introduced to Walter Peck, played by William Atherton, an EPA junior administrator who thinks that the containment unit where the Ghostbusters keep the busted ghosts could create toxic chemicals. Peter jerks him around a bit before sending him away without any answers. Downstairs, Egon tells the rest of the Ghostbusters that paranormal activity is on the rise using a very funny metaphor.
Cut back to the apartment building when eventually Dana and Louis get possessed by Zuul and Vinz Clortho, the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster. Should the two meet, they would summon Gozer the Gozerian, a cosmic entity bent on destroying the world. Cut back to the firehouse, where Peck has returned with a warrant. He shuts down the containment unit, causing a massive outburst of ghosts and an explosion in the firehouse, and arrests the Ghostbusters. In the chaos, the possessed Louis, who was being watched by the Ghostbusters, escapes to join the possessed Dana. Ray brings some blueprints of Dana’s apartment building and while they’re incarcerated, the guys realize Dana’s apartment building was built to channel ghosts by Ivo Shandor, the leader of a cult that was dedicated to Gozer.
With the city in crisis of biblical proportions and no better options available, the mayor of New York summons the Ghostbusters and recruits them. The boys head to Dana’s apartment and after a grueling climb to the top floor they finally meet Gozer. Things don’t go well, and due to Ray’s inability to control his own mind, a giant marshmallow man ends up stomping through the city. Egon theorizes that by crossing the streams and aiming for the portal Gozer used to enter the world, they could send it back from where it came. Lo and behold, Egon is right. Gozer is defeated and marshmallow rains down on New York. We find out Dana and Louis are okay and as the Ghostbusters theme starts up, the credits roll.
Overall, “Ghostbusters” is a masterpiece from beginning to end. This review is twice as long as any of my previous reviews and that’s because “Ghostbusters” has little to no filler. I couldn’t gloss over somethi ng unimportant, because every scene has a great joke, develops a character or ties into the plot further down the line. The music is fantastic, the script is brilliant and the acting is phenomenal. If you haven’t seen “Ghostbusters,” I pity you. You should rectify that situation immediately.