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Review: Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Directed by: Ivan Reitman

Premise: A group of paranormal investigators goes into business as a ghost elimination unit in New York City. As the their business takes off, the Ghostbusters uncover a growing threat that could destroy New York.

What Works: Ghostbusters is a successful combination of horror and comedy, mixing scares and thrills with gags and jokes. The casting of the film is perfect. Saturday Night Live alums Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray along with Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson star as the four Ghostbusters and the roles play to each man’s talents, with Aykroyd as a paranoid but good-natured paranormal enthusiast, Ramis as the straight faced brain behind the unit, Murray as the hustler who can sell their services, and Hudson as the blue collar everyman trying to cope with his new job. Among these four, Ghostbusters features some of Murray’s best work of his career, and he delivers some classic lines of comedic dialogue. As a film shot in New York, the picture is one of the best examples of a film using the cityscape to its advantage, including a lot of the local architecture and other landmarks. This grounds and sells the far out premise of the story by embedding the supernatural in the familiar and the real, and combined with the performances by the lead actors as well as the supporting performances, namely Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts, Ghostbusters melds fantasy and reality in a very convincing way. The film also combines its humor and its horror together, using jokes to deflate tension and set the audience up for new scares. While Ghostbusters may be considered primarily a comedy, it does not shy away from the more monstrous elements of the story. This gives the film a solid dramatic foundation that pits characters the audience cares about against a worthy and frightening threat, making the characters grow and change in ways that make Ghostbusters a terrific story about heroism.

What Doesn’t: Some of the special effects, namely the matte work, do not hold up as well decades after its original release. They are still effective and get the point across to the audience, but contemporary viewers may notice some of the forced perspectives.

DVD extras: The most recent release of Ghostbusters is the Double Feature Gift Set, packaged with Ghostbusters II, and includes a scrapbook, featurettes, deleted scenes, audio commentary, animated episodes, photos, storyboards, and multi-angle features.

Bottom Line: Ghostbusters is one of the most successful horror comedies of all time. It combines horror and humor in ways that enhance rather than cheapen the story and features some of the most quotable dialogue to come out of the 1980s.

Episode: #160 (October 8, 2007)