Release Date: June 8th, 1984 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Ivan Reitman Actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson
t the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue, in a dimly lit corridor of bookshelves, strange things begin to occur: books float through the air, the card catalog catapults paper everywhere, and a poor employee (Alice Drummond) is maddeningly tormented. Meanwhile, at the Weaver Hall Department of Psychology, Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) administers a crooked ESP experiment, favoring a pretty young blonde woman over a male testee. But his flirtation is cut short when giddy Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) collects him to help in the probing of the telekinetic activity at the library. Also joined by Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), who takes his job far too seriously, they gather samples of ectoplasmic residue before encountering firsthand a hovering apparition of an elderly woman. Having never seen the real deal before, they’re unsure how to proceed. When the specter gets hostile, they flee the building in hysterics.
But the new readings compiled shed some light on the possibility of capturing and storing ghosts (a hi-tech laser ectocontainment system). Their rejoicing is temporarily put on hold when the university’s dean terminates their grant and evicts them from the premises. Never one to stay down, Venkman gets Stantz to take out a huge loan and rent an abandoned fire station to set up shop as professional paranormal investigators and eliminators – the Ghostbusters.
Their first client is Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who calls upon the team when she hears and sees a strange creature in her refrigerator, but she promptly reconsiders their aid when Pete’s romantic advances come off a bit too strong. With a stroke of luck, they gain another promising opportunity when a flying green blob haunts the 12th floor of a stately hotel. Their untested weaponry, capable of causing massive amounts of destruction (including the unthinkable total protonic reversal), is surprisingly effective against the Class 5 phantasm, which is successfully captured. After that, business booms, and recruit Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) is hired to help with the overload of extrasensory cases. But an overzealous EPA agent (William Atherton) and the return of Dana’s malevolent icebox demigod spirit spell trouble for the fledgling Ghostbusters.
“Back off man, I’m a scientist,” insists Venkman, though he’s the first to laugh off the idea of genuine spooks and acts more like a game show host than a learned technologist. Murray steals the show as the primary comic relief in a good-natured film that doesn’t forget to have a light romance, a touch of hair-raising excitement, and a playful approach toward standard horror movie elements – including haunting, demonic worship, uncanny glowing lights, and “The Exorcist”-like levitation and possession. Funnyman Rick Moranis has a supporting role as a nerdy neighbor and Annie Potts plays the cynical, fatigued secretary, but the additional characters can’t match the chemistry and charm of the main trio (even if Murray’s lead can’t always depend on Aykroyd and Ramis to competently complete a skit).
Regularly rockin’ music, a catchy theme song (an Oscar-nominated work by Ray Parker Jr.), grand sets, over-the-top heroism, an abundance of technological jargon (and plenty of inexplicable equipment that plays an integral part in the conclusion), and end-of-the-world fanaticism pop up throughout the film, masking the fact that the story is alternatingly nonsensical and contrived for the sake of pushing past jarring exposition or simply wrapping things up. It never offers up a justification for the happenings or the wild solution (and when it does, it only draws further questions). It also never misses an opportunity to joke around and make stabs at religion, politics, and governmental agencies, though some wisecracks lack energy and the pacing is occasionally slow to introduce the next phase of humorously supernatural domination.
Dated special effects frequent the picture, namely as lightning graphics and claymation, but the use of practical puppets for several sequences creates more satisfyingly timeless monstrosities. The finale is a prime example of enduring visuals, with the now iconic, gargantuan Mr. Stay Puft marshmallow man assuming the task of annihilating mankind. But more than the imagery, it’s the thrills of wraith combating, action-packed citywide devastation, and carefree attitudes that highlight the occult interdimensional adventures and gives it a strong sense of originality. It’s all in a day’s work for celebrity parapsychologists.
– Mike Massie