In 1984, when Ghostbusters became the biggest movie of the year (Beverly Hills Cop came out in December and made a majority of its gross in ’85), everybody was asking the question, “Who you gonna call?” At that time, it was answered by SNL alumni, Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, along with Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, in a film that expertly combined laughs, scares and cool special f/x. Now, that call has been answered once again (and again, by SNL cast members, both past and present), only this time, it’s the girls getting the ghosts. There may not have been a film that has been so bombarded with negative, hateful comments before ever seeing the darkness of a theater than this Ghostbusters reboot. We will tackle that later, but first, let’s get on with the film itself, as the Gore 4 has actually seen it, and loved it.
“No self-respecting scientist believes in the paranormal.”
It’s present day New York City, and there’s something strange in the neighborhood. Dr. Gilbert Yates (Kristen Wiig) is a teacher at Columbia University who is trying to hide her past endeavors in the ethereal as she hopes to achieve tenure. When a book she previously co-wrote with Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) resurfaces and threatens to undo all her academic progress, she reaches out to her former partner, who is continuing her pursuit of the paranormal, along with her engineer, Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Agreeing to investigate a poltergeist disturbance together, the three encounter an appalling apparition, and, along with MTA worker, Patty (Leslie Jones), who has seen a spirit herself, and their dim-witted receptionist, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), subsequently take residence above a Chinese residence and form a ghostbusting group to take on the ever-increasing spectral activity in the city. Little do they know, but someone is looking to open up the gates of hell and bring about an apocalypse that only they will be able to stop.
“We’re on the cusp of something here.”
Putting the original Ghostbusters aside, this new Ghostbusters is a thoroughly enjoyable romp from the first frame to the very last (as always, make sure to stay through all the credits, as they are very entertaining and contain some surprises as well). The plot is simple – ghostbusters battling ghosts – so the film’s success rests on the shoulders of its cast (yes, the one so maligned as soon as they were announced), and they more than live up to the task. All four leads are extremely likeable, and each are funny in their own way – the winsome Wiig, ever-earnest McCarthy, wild and wacky McKinnon, and loyal and loveable Jones. Hemsworth is also hilarious as the dumber-than dumb assistant, and while that may have been to further showcase the capabilities of the women, his ineffectiveness may have been pushed a little too far. An excellent supporting cast is also on hand, from Charles Dance and Andy Garcia, to another SNL alumnus, Cecily Strong, as a mayoral assistant, to the great Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire’s Omar, Boardwalk Empire’s Chalky) as a Homeland Security agent. Steve Higgins, Jimmy Fallon’s announcer and partner-in-crime on The Tonight Show, also has a riotous cameo. Indeed, Saturday Night Live continues to prove itself as THE spawning ground for comedic talent when it comes to movies and television. (Of course, Second City and the Groundlings are SNL‘s minor leagues.)
While Ghostbusters 2016 stands on its own two feet by making this a reboot and not a sequel, it still has a reverence for what came before as a majority of the original cast make cameos throughout the movie. It’s no secret that Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd show up (in keeping with the theme of this being a brand new reboot, no one plays their former character), as they’ve been featured in television spots, but a slew of others show up as well, including a nice homage to the late, great Harold Ramis early on for sharp-eyed fans. For those who hold that original cast up to such high regard, it is pure joy seeing them appear in this film. Their appearances and support for the film should convince those stubbornly adhering to the original to go and check this one out. Returning favorites also include those on the spectral side, like Slimer, who is just as gluttonous as ever. And that Ghostbusters theme is just as toe-tappingly appealing as when we first heard it and couldn’t get it out of our heads. Further bringing back some fond memories is a retro-Times Square, with the old RKO National Twin theater, Woolworths, the Pussycat and Castro Convertibles. The filmmakers are clearly aware of and enamored with the past just as much as the fans.
“Their skin is on the inside of their bodies because their organs are on the outside.”
Though Ghostsbusters is certainly a comedy, it works as a supernatural horror film too. The ghosts are all ghastly and horrific-looking, as they spew out ectoplasmic puke (which Wiig gets the brunt of), and are out to do harm at every turn. These aren’t bumbling, goofy ghosts, but malevolent spirits looking to bring about the apocalypse. The special effects which bring these deathly demons to life are top notch, and definitely a step up from the original from ’84. With today’s state-of-the-art CGI, showcasing the spirit world is where that form of f/x work is generally more effective than practical effects. The 3D, if you choose to see the film in that format, really lends itself here, as spirits and slime fly off the screen into the audience. (This must be extra lively experiencing it in 4D!)
Now, for all those naysayers who had attacked the film upon hearing that it would be women ghostbusters leading the way, the women show they are just as capable, if not more so, than the guys from the old films, and have a tremendous chemistry and friendship that propel them along. What’s refreshing, besides the fact that it’s women as the leads, is that there isn’t one of those falling outs in the 2nd act where everyone disagrees and falls apart only to come together in the third act. Instead, these women have each others’ backs throughout, and by working together, they are able to overcome some dire situations, a very empowering message to the young women out there. Writer/director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat), who co-wrote with Katie Dippold, has to be commended, not just for coming up with the idea of updating the franchise with a fresh female cast, but making a film that is so thoroughly fun, and showcases camaraderie, especially in a year where that is often forgotten in lieu of darkness and antagonism.
As for all the hateful, misogynistic, and even racist comments emanating throughout social media prior to the film’s release, it’s an indication of an underlying ugliness that exists in America. It is this hostility and anger which has given rise to a particular vile and vulgar candidate who has taken over the political party that has been paving the way for his ascent for decades. The film cleverly addresses all the negativity by showing online attackers writing, “these girls are lame,” and Melissa’s character at one point telling someone, “it’s real easy to sit there and be the naysayer when you don’t do anything.” For all those basement-dwelling, internet-trolling hacks who probably wouldn’t know what to say to a woman if they ever met one, and so felt threatened that their childhood was being taken away by four women who weren’t hurting anyone, but were just making a movie, they’ll probably never give the movie a chance. That’s their loss. Is the new movie as great as the original? No, but neither was Ghostbusters II. It’s a shame, though, that the cast had to put up with so much vitriol, especially the wonderful Leslie Jones, who a Conservative blogger encouraged vicious attacks against, leading to his ultimate banning from Twitter, along with other hatemongers. As Leslie explained on a recent visit to Late Night with Seth Meyers, in response to those proclaiming their 1st Amendment rights, “hate speech and freedom of speech, two different things.” On the plus side, Leslie received an outpouring of support from more positive, forward-thinking and open-minded individuals, both young and old, proclaiming their love for the movie and for her. So, while there is a definite undercurrent (that has become more transparent with the rise of he-who-shall-not-be-named) of disgusting hatefulness in America, there is a wave of progressiveness that is sweeping the nation as well. Women make up over half the population – they have a powerful voice, and are not just able to bust ghosts, but can lead a nation. For young girls in America, and throughout the world, the new Ghostbusters can serve as inspiration that they can do anything. For a movie to be able to do that, while being entertaining and funny at the same time, what more could you ask for.
— review by Brian de Castro