Ghostbusters

 

Ghostbusters was a film made in 1984 and was produced and directed by Ivan Reitman. Ghostbusters was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, and the film stars Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Pots and William Atherton. The film was a cultural and box office hit when it debuted and has gone on to maintain a cult following for over thirty years. The film takes place in New York City, during the period it was made, which was 1984. As soon as the film opens we are introduced to the paranormal, in the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue. The audience gets to follow an employee of the library down while she is shelving books, and Ivan Reitman shows books floating in the air behind her as she walks, then as she moves past the libraries dewy decimal system station, every drawer of note cards opens and they start shooting up and out faster than an automatic card shuffler in Las Vegas. The poor employee is then put face to face with the first ghost of the film, but this is off-screen; we only get her reaction to seeing the phenomena and then Reitman cuts to the introduction of the heroes of the story, the three scientists who will go on to become the Ghostbusters.

We are introduced to the three at Columbia University where they are all employed as scientists working in fields of psychology, parapsychology, engineering and other scientific fields. Bill Murray plays Dr. Peter Venkman, the first of the three we get introduced to who is administering an ESP experiment between two volunteers. A young man and a pretty young woman are trying to guess what shapes Dr. Venkman have on giant playing cards that he holds up. When the young man answers incorrectly the first couple times, he receives a small but painful electric shock to reinforce the negative reaction. The young woman also gets every card wrong but Dr. Venkman tells her she’s 5 for 5 and must be cheating, she’s clearly a psychic. When the last card is put up for the young man, Dr. Venkman puts his hand on the dial even before he can answer, causing him to panic; the young man guesses the shape correctly, wavy lines, but Venkman still shocks him and tells him he got it incorrect. He asks the young woman to come back later in the evening during a weeknight to have a one on one session over dinner. Reitman and Bill Murray clearly establish what type of character Venkman is from this very brief introduction; he’s a smartass, sarcastic playboy, who does not take his work very seriously.

Dan Aykroyd plays Dr. Raymond Stantz and Harold Ramis plays Dr. Egon Spengler. The three are called to the New York Public Library to conduct an investigation into the paranormal activity that has been reported. We learn through dialogue that Stantz and Spengler are very much true believers in the paranormal, while Venkman is a tad more skeptical than his partners. The dialogue between the three is very fun and the delivery is very sharp. There seems to be a lot of improvisation from Bill Murray especially, his tone is very dry and biting, and he is very much the one who the audience is going to connect with and see these events through in this story. The Ghostbusters encounter their first ghost in the library here, the dead librarian, who is still reading books and shushing them to keep quiet. Their inexperience is evident when they can’t come up with anything to do in regards of helping the Library rid the premises of this haunting ghost. Ray has the great idea of sneaking up on the dead librarian, while shouting “Get her!” This causes the ghost to transform from the ethereal little old librarian, to a demonic monster flying into their faces. We see them running out of the building, scared, while Venkman makes fun of Ray and his ‘big idea’ of “Get her? That was your whole plan huh? Get her! Very Scientific.”

The film is endless quotable and is really a pop cultural phenomena. It is being rebooted this year with an all-female main cast, led by Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. But the trailer for the new film has received an overwhelmingly negative response; seemingly it is focusing too much on special effects and slapstick comedy, rather than the original and its ability to poke fun at itself and the improvisational skills of its great comedic cast. There are interviews given by Harold Ramis before he passed away, along with Dan Aykroyd, that they did not write many lines for Bill Murray in the finished script, but would just put “Peter Venkman responds,” and would let Murray make up his own dialogue on the spot as he is such a great mind with improvised comedy and timing. If true, it worked wonders, he steals almost every scene he is in, and has some of the greatest quotes in this film that still get laughs 30 years later. When the three men first leave Columbia University after being fired, they start their new business as the Ghostbusters. With an abandoned fire station as their headquarters, with Raymond taking out 3 mortgages on the house his parents left him, and untested nuclear proton packs that Egon creates to help wrangle the ghosts, they receive their first call to catch a ghost.

The manager of the Sedgewick Hotel calls them in for their first gig, to catch the now infamous ‘Slimer’. Slimer has gone on to be the mascot of the Ghostbusters universe ever since this scene was created. He covers Venkman in slime, getting his name at this point as well, and then is seen devouring every item of food and drink in sight before being cornered in the ballroom of the hotel. This is where we see the proton packs being put to use successfully for the first time, and also where Egon tells the others not to cross the streams as it would be “very bad.” Very bad as in your whole existence would end. They capture Slimer in a ghost trap that Raymond built and as they bust through the ballroom doors, Venkman boasts “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” Quips and soundbites like this, along with the great chemistry between all the stars, is what makes the film so enjoyable and endlessly re-watchable.

Sigourney Weaver plays the female lead in Ghostbusters. She plays Dana, a concert cellist, who lives on Central Park West and experiences a paranormal phenomenon of her own. When she returns home one night from grocery shopping, she has a very strange experience in her kitchen. She places a carton of eggs and a bag of Stay-Puft Marshmallows on the counter. The eggs burst out of the shell on their own and start frying themselves on her kitchen countertop. Inside the refrigerator Dana sees a building with swirling smoke and flames and demonic dogs around a structure, and a very deep voice saying the name “Zuul.” After seeing a late night advertisement for the Ghostbusters on television, she goes into their offices to inquire about their services and tell them her story. Venkman is immediately attracted to Dana and does everything he can to keep her as a client, though he remains skeptical that she experienced anything, and also makes it a point to investigate her home alone with her, without the others.

The film builds up to a confrontation with this Zuul, who the Ghostbusters research and find out is a demigod, worshipped as a servant to Gozer the Gozerian who was a Sumerian shape-shifting god of destruction. This leads to the rooftop battle that is an iconic scene in cinema. The Ghostbusters are called in to save the city at this point. This is after they have been shut down by the EPA and their representative, Walter Peck, played to weasel like perfection by William Atherton. When the EPA shut down the Ghostbusters and their building which was housing all of their caught and trapped ghosts; all of those ghosts were released all at once into New York City, causing immediate mayhem and havoc. Dana and Louis, Rick Moranis’ character who lives down the hall from Dana and is a bit of a stalker of hers, are now possessed by demon dogs of Zuul, called the gatekeeper and key master, respectively. While incarcerated by Peck, the boys, now joined by Ernie Hudson’s newly employed Winston as the fourth Ghostbuster (the character is shoehorned into the plot, in the middle of the film), figure out that Dana’s building was built by a cult leader and followers of Gozer, designing the building as a gateway to summon Gozer and bring an end to the world.

The climax and final act of the film revolves around the confrontation between the arrival of Gozer and the Ghostbusters atop Dana’s building. When they challenge Gozer for the first time, Gozer, taking the form of a tall woman, asks Ray if he is a god. Ray says “No.” Gozer then blasts them almost off the roof telling them to die, afterwards Winston/Hudson has his best and longest line in the film: “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god…you say…YES!” They get up and seemingly blast Gozer with their proton packs and she has disappeared. But then they hear the voice of Gozer telling them to choose their destructor. Venkman figures out that whatever they think of, that is what will become the next form of Gozer instead of seeing it as the woman again, so he tells all of the other Ghostbusters to empty their minds. But, Gozer tells them that the choice has been made and destruction is coming. Everyone says they thought of nothing and made no choice, except for Raymond, who says he couldn’t help it, that it just popped into his head. He tried to think of the most innocent thing he could, something nice…and a 100 foot Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from hell starts beating down the streets of New York City.

The final “battle” is quick, they fry the giant marshmallow man, and Egon tells them all to cross their streams as they fire their proton packs at the door that Gozer passed through; which they do, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man explodes, dropping melted marshmallow over everyone on the roof and everyone on the streets below, including a huge pile onto the horrified face of Peck, the EPA weasel who shut them down and caused all of this. They save Dana and Louis who were trapped in the demonic dogs who were turned back into stone, and Venkman and Dana end the film in a romantic embrace while the entire population of New York City cheers on the team of the Ghostbusters.

The film works as a comedy, thrilling popcorn blockbuster, and at the time, a special effects driven spectacle. It holds up today 30 years later, due to the great comedy writing of Aykroyd and Ramis, the direction of Reitman is fantastic to get all these personalities clicking on-screen, and the skill of Bill Murray as a leading man at the time was at the pinnacle of his career for these types of films, where he was able to let loose and improvise.

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