Full Circle Flashback/Showdown: ‘Ghostbusters’ Review
The writers and film lovers here at Full Circle Cinema know that opinions on films are divisive and can get pretty argumentative. But to encourage friendly and lively debate, we have Full Circle Showdown. This series involves an in-depth discussion and collaborative review from two writers who have different opinions and ways of seeing films. In preparation for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we have decided to do a retrospective on all the films in which ghosts get busted. And what better way to start this retrospective than with the one that started it all, 1984’s Ghostbusters?
Review #1: Katie Rentschler (Managing Critic)
Ghostbusters is one of the most iconic franchises to hit the nerds of old and young. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as the iconic Ghostbusters trio, this 1984 film directed by Ivan Reitman hasn’t aged as well as some older movies have.
Ghostbusters follows three eccentric parapsychologists, Peter Venkman (Murray), Ray Stantz (Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Ramis) as they start up a ghostbusting business. They develop technology unheard of for the 80s, and while business is slow at first, it picks up. They meet Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) who complains of paranormal activity in her apartment. Venkman doesn’t find anything in his sweep of the apartment other than a chance to flirt with Barrett, and they leave off.
Paranormal activity continues to increase across the city, and the Ghostbusters gain more notoriety. Barrett meets back up with Venkman and agrees to meet with him. But before she can, she’s possessed by Zuul, the Gatekeeper, while her obtuse neighbor Louis (Rick Moranis) is possessed by the Keymaster. While this happens, governmental employees come in to shut down the Ghostbusters, and in doing so releases every ghost they’ve captured. This leads to the best part of the film, with the least amount of talking by Venkman, and just a hysterical face-off between the Ghostbusters and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to save New York.
When I tell people Ghostbusters has never intrigued me, they always appear shocked. Despite my love for Supernatural, there are very few things paranormal-wise that I find love for in movies or in television. And this movie follows in that path. It has traditional 80s visual effects, with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man being a highlight. The designs are all decent, but it just doesn’t age well.
While this movie is from the 80s, where the portrayal of women was a lot different in film, I cannot stand it. Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) doesn’t feel like she belongs here at all. She’s the joke of the group, the most battered, and she hates the job. She’s only in it for Egon, but he barely notices her. Barrett is the most elegantly portrayed woman in the cast. But there’s never a moment for the directors to take Louis down a peg. Sure he’s good-natured, but why not have Barrett actually just tell him she’s not interested. It’s frustrating to see her sneak around her own apartment. She actually tells Venkman in a way she has no interest but he keeps on going and doesn’t stop. It’s frustrating.
Overall, Ghostbusters just doesn’t call my name. I get it’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s just not one for me. The plot wanders aimlessly, focusing more on Venkman’s pursuit of women much younger than him. The film just drags like a treadmill run with long walks, and some tiny sprints in the middle, and then a big sprint at the end to try and finish strong. Coming at it 37 years later, this is not a standout film. – Katie Rentschler
Review #2: Jacob Mauceri (Critic)
In my house, it was a tradition before Halloween to watch Ivan Reitman’s classic Ghostbusters. The cast, the soundtrack, and the overall mood compose one of the greatest sci-fi/junior horror experiences you can watch. It isn’t without its dated tropes, but as long as you acknowledge its dated nature, it’s a bustin’ good time!
To start, the cast is like a buffet of outstanding comedians. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis would make any comedy nut in the early 1980s lose it. Although Ernie Hudson’s career in comedy is relatively lighter than the aforementioned players, he also puts out a stellar performance. You have the smart one, the dumb one, the smart ass, the serious one, and the klutz. Each actor plays characters that hit different notes and in turn create an overtone of hilarity.
A stellar score by legendary composer Elmer Bernstein manages to engross the viewer in an environment and mood that wouldn’t have worked without it. Additionally, the legendary title song by Ray Parker Jr? The soundtrack was excellent then and still holds up to this day. A movie’s musical score should heighten the viewer’s emotional engagement and what we get with Ghostbusters is brilliant.
Ghostbusters expertly blends a horror tone with a comedic front allowing this movie to be accessible to all audiences. It’s not “scary” by any stretch, but there are some quality spooky moments that could put you on the edge of your seat. Additionally, the banter throughout the movie is well managed. From character to character, like a game of comedic hot potato. Now, some parts of this movie are considerably dated, and I won’t deny that it’s unacceptable. But, as long as you gauge yourself with that expectation it’s an otherwise complete comedic experience.
I can understand any hatred that this movie may get. My love for this movie largely comes from nostalgia. I mean I used to have the CD of the soundtrack in my car back in high school. But a movie that makes you nostalgic for a time you didn’t exist in is brilliant by my book!
Ghostbusters makes no apologies for being a product of its time. From its depiction of women to Venkman himself, there are moments where the comedy goes into uncomfortable territory. While both critics have different responses to this form of humor, there’s no denying that it exists. But if you can get past that – as Jacob has done – the film makes for a fun time. Not often do you see films that lean into horror and comedy not fall into an identity crisis. If anything, it has a level of confidence befitting a genre classic. – Katie Rentschler & Jacob Mauceri
Combined Rating: 6.5/10
Ghostbusters is available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.