Ghostbusters Revisited

October 5, 2008

I was eight when Ghostbusters came out. It was the summer of 1984, and we piled into my mom’s brown van with all my cousins to see it at the Lafayette Square Mall. I loved it fiercely along with the Ray Parker Jr. Soundtrack that we had on LP.

Yesterday, after attending an afternoon fundraising concert in Syracuse called Barack around the Block, underdressed and shivering in the wet grass, I decided to come home and watch a movie. I don’t have a TV, so I opened Hulu.com, a site with loads of free TV shows and movies. The movie selection is strange: Starship Troopers, Bring it On, Weird Science…and Ghostbusters I and II. I hadn’t seen it since the 80s.

The script, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Dr. Peter Veckman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stanz (Dan Akroyd) and Egon (Harold Ramis) are paranormal psychologists working for a university that looks a lot like Columbia. They’re all very thin and healthy looking. Bill wasn’t nearly so morose back then. There’s a lot of gratuitous smoking, and apparently they’re all geniuses that understand nuclear physics. But this crew of eggheads is more interested in chasing ghosts.

I remembered the opening scene vividly. A librarian at the NYC Public Library is down in the stacks, and, all of a sudden, the cards from the card catalog (remember those?) start flying in the air. The librarian sees something scary and screams, but the audience doesn’t see what it is. I don’t quite remember why the “doctors” are called out there (they hadn’t formed the Ghostbusters yet), but after investigating the scene, they see a scary ghost lady and run out screaming. Bill Murray convinces Dan Akroyd to take a second mortgage on his home in order to launch a ghostbusting business. Pretty risky. But these were the booming Reagan 80s. And the American dream was still rooted in the powerful American dollar.

Enter Sigourney Weaver. She looks absolutely stunning in this movie. Somehow despite being a gorgeous cellist for the New York Philharmonic, living in a co-op overlooking central park, she’s still single. She has to brush off her nerdy neighbor Louis Tully, played by the inimitable Rick Moranis. Rick Moranis! Where did he go? Did he and Dan Aykroyd run back to Canada?

But one day, when she’s unloading her groceries, the eggs start popping out of the carton and frying on her countertop. Her fridge starts to growl and lights up mysteriously. When Sigourney opens it she sees a neo-gothic temple floating in a purple sky. She hears the name Zuel and it’s all pretty trippy.

She decides to call on the Ghostbusters, who had been advertising on TV. Bill Murray falls for her immediately, but Sigourney thinks he’s kind of a sleaze. Together they inspect her kitchen, which is now bereft of ghosts much to her embarrassment.

Suddenly, phantom spirits overrun NYC. Remember Slimer? He’s a fat, green ghost that can somehow eat hotdogs—lots of them. And the Ghostbusters, who trap these unfortunate creatures in little boxes with nuclear powered guns, become famous. We get a nice montage of all the Busters on the cover of USA Today, Time, even the The Atlantic Monthly (a nice shout-out to the liberal elite).

Then, things get really weird. Sigourney is attacked by a devilish dog-creature in her living room, and she’s possessed by “Satan”, although the evil spirit isn’t actually called that. It’s called Zuel. Now she’s the Gatekeeper in a gauzy red dress, hair wild, eyes lined with kohl, hypersexual and heaving. Her dress is nearly always slipping off, but it doesn’t because it’s a PG movie (by the way, I counted only one instance of profanity during the entire movie. It was “shit”.). So the sexy, possessed Sigourney is looking for her Keymaster. Turns out it’s Rick Moranis (he was also attacked by a devil-dog in Central Park). Rick is great in this role. Nobody plays nerdy and awkward quite like Rick Moranis. There’s such warmth in Moranis. I think back to his performance as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. He was so touching. But I digress.

Okay this is where it gets really complicated. In the 1920s, apparently some sorcerer guy designed the building where Sigourney now lives. He built it to attract ghosts—or as I understand it—the devil named Gozer the Gozerian—to come and destroy the world. It’s hazy. But I think the sorcerer/architect is returning as Gozer. But this time he’s taking the form of a sparkly, half-naked woman, who has hair like Grace Jones and demonic, red eyes. She’s a mean bitch. And she’s also heaving and hypersexual. So, I guess, if we’re going to get into metaphors or semiotics—in the 80s, we were afraid of strong, sexy women because they had evil powers. They had to be wiped from the face of the earth.

Then, the four Ghostbusters (Ernie Hudson joins the lineup at some point as the token black guy) destroy her with their big guns that shoot out long streams of white-hot heat, but she’s not really destroyed. Instead, she transforms into the Stay-Puft marshmallow man.

The Ghostbusters realize that the only way to “neutralize” Gozer is to cross their streams of white lightning (rendering them red)—a sort of a nuclear circle jerk that could potentially be very dangerous and blow up the entire city.

But, as we all know, the Ghostbusters pull it off in the end and are celebrated as heroes by the citizens of NYC, who are cheering and wearing Ghostbusters merchandise. Oh, Rick and Sigourney survive too. Sigourney is hot for Bill after he rescues her.

In the final scene, we see Slimer the glutton-ghost and we are poised for a sequel–the dreaded Ghostbusters Too.

For more Ghostbusters on Beet Salad click here.

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