Ever had a fascination for the supernatural? Do you look up to the acts of mediums and necromancers? Do you want to give your money to them, so they can give you a Ouija board to ask all these questions you always had? Well, maybe not that extreme, but let me tell you a little story:
I not too long ago went on a tour through Pike Place Market in Seattle at night, past closing, and heard of the paranormal sightings there, including the daughter of Chief Seattle and a boy with no eyes. A couple of storeowners even hired a psychic medium to contact one of the spirits who was causing mischief in their shop and learned to coexist with it by offering a shrine of toys. It’s a dangerous thing from my way of thinking to get in close contact with the other side, because thinking demons of the dead can be mastered is a fatal mistake, leading you to believe all sorts of lies. Why do I tell you this? Well, because I want to give you first a more realistic view of specters, not the fun slime-balls seen in Ghostbusters. Although it is admittedly a fun, awesome classic that is impossible to hate, as even I get a huge kick out of it whenever I watch it, there’s still the issues that’s worth addressing in this otherwise well-acted eighties gem.
The first issue I want to address, the haunts are hard to believe because they’re clearly all just puppets, it makes everything, human or not, much less authentic with gargoyles that look like Styrofoam. These visual effects make this movie show its age in a not-so-good way, just made all the cheaper looking with the grainy and noisy image. Not to mention a few special effects shots appear in scenes that probably could have been cut, such as one dream of a ghostly blow job.
The special effects shut off the intended feel for horror too, mainly when one of the two stop-motion demon dogs charge across the street against a traveling matte. That especially goes to the clouds of doom, they look awful: lighting all wrong and not in a supernatural sort of way, they just look like they were made specifically for a stand-up music video of the time. In the middle of the “chaos,” Gozer looks straight out of the disco, not how a god would want to look in that situation, which means this film is just about a feel-good experience without a point. In addition, the haunted places are not well designed, just not enough suggested backstory to motivate the three men sharing the lead roles.
Instead, the focus is on the performances. There is hilarious irony of how events play out, and while everybody has their moment to shine, the lunacy of Rick Moranis’ performance is the gut of it all to match the intended tone perfectly. He, like all the extras in the cast, is just brilliant in what he does in the background with his possessed hands; he’s like the contestant of a game show who will get no money from spinning a wheel of torture. Every little movement he makes is hilarious, even rubbing pizza on his cheek to the confusion of the “professionals” around him. These actors all contrast Rick’s nerdy-loser depiction with an eagerness to stand up to who knows what, almost like volunteer firefighters.
This mood is further uplifted by composing legend Elmer Bernstein, (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird) who makes you practically hear the ectoplasmic residue, going straight from slimy to goofy then back again. Besides the original score, the other songs chosen to accompany the sound mix, along with the awesome theme song, are chosen perfectly without sounding out of place. Adding to the audio’s aura, the spooky sounds match the active terror as books and paper fly behind a librarian’s back, it works further to justify the fear of the three scientists.
Not that it’s enough to make up for the lack of character development. Most blaring of all, Bill Murray’s character is somehow unchanged after all the chaos that happens to him, he’s just an archetype and nothing else. He’s the focused protagonist who lies to take advantage of younger women, such as his girlfriend, Dana, who’s just a sex object submitting to her boyfriend’s desires. She’s infinitely more appealing when possessed, as her not-possessed form has no personality. Then there’s Annie Potts’ completely useless character, who is just there to get in between the other actors and enhance the otherwise successful comedy on their end.
I know, I know, how dare I bash on a beloved classic? Well I’m afraid that’s just what my duty is as a critic, to tell the hard truth about the quality of film, even if it hurts. If I were taking off my critic’s cap, I would still be able to just casually laugh from the honestly intelligent humor of Ghostbusters, but even then, it’s good for us all to be aware of the negative qualities of this celebration of technology over spirituality. We particularly need to know that technology cannot top faith, as time on this film’s visual effects proves to us.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Ghostbusters. Columbia Pictures. Web. <http://www.ghostbusters.com/>.
“PMNA presents ‘Ghostbusters’ in Midwood Park.” Digital image. CLTure. Web. <https://clture.org/event/ghostbusters-in-midwood-park/>.