Today's Pick: Ghostbusters (1984)
Let's start the month off correctly.
Ghostbusters is a flawless film. It's easily the most widely appreciated horror-comedy ever to hit the popular consciousness. In fact, the comedic appeal of this film often makes people forget that it even is a horror film. While most people latch onto the memories of the lovable Slimer and the goofy genius of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, there is an equal amount of outright scary stuff in this flick. The scene where Dana is captured by hands that come out of her chair still creeps me out to this day. There's an obvious respect given to the genuinely frightening material, and that fills the comedy with even more levity. It's a masterful balancing act.
It doesn't hurt that every single actor involved is pitch perfect. I discover new things I love about each character every time I rewatch this. While Bill Murray and his sardonic witticisms ostensibly steal the show, there's just as much hilarity and heart to be found in the entire ensemble. Dan Aykroyd is adorable as the excitable kid of the team (in a film overflowing with quotable lines, he might have my favorite: "Listen! Do you smell something?"), Harold Ramis defines the concept of "deadpan", Ernie Hudson's working class everyman responds to the insanity around him with some of the funniest lines in the movie, Sigourney Weaver gets to play simple, smart and salacious (when I saw this at a very young age, her Zuul-possessed self confirmed my heterosexuality), Annie Potts is outwardly cute but also encapsulates everything tough and strong about a New York woman, and Rick Moranis (cinema's greatest geek) threatens to take the show-stealing crown from Bill Murray once he's runs around town as the uproariously deranged Vince Clortho. It's hands-down one of the best casts ever assembled in a major motion picture.
But, this isn't a film where the players hold up a shaky or loose premise. The idea behind Ghostbusters is just as sharp as the actors and the characters they are playing. Making a movie about paranormal exterminators (and not making them stuffy scientists... even though they are scientists) seems so obvious now, but in 1984 it was gleefully original. The film follows a great "rise to success" story with the team establishing their business and finally making it big. It gets you to love these characters as simple guys who just want to make a living doing something they believe in. Well, all except Bill Murray, who just likes the prospect of being successful and rich. Still, there's a lot of affection and warmth built up throughout the course of the picture, which makes the big confrontations pay off in spades.
That's where most of the horror in Ghostbusters is mined: the main threat of Gozer and its minions. The demon dogs are disturbingly ugly in all the right ways, and the way they are slowly revealed over the course of the picture builds up the fright you feel towards them. There's some heavily Lovecraft-ian ideas at play here (Vince Clortho's monologue about Gozer's past reckonings is littered with tons of names and terminology that sounds like it belongs somewhere in the Cthulhu mythos) with an all-powerful and ancient deity that wants nothing more than to destroy everything in existence. For as grand as Ghostbusters is willing to get, it never loses that intimate feeling that the characters cultivate from the very beginning.
I had the privilege of seeing Ghostbusters in theaters for its 30th anniversary, and it was still as hilarious and horrifying as the first time I saw it on VHS almost twenty years ago. I laughed continuously throughout the running time, and still managed to experience parts of the film I'd never noticed before. Ghostbusters is a film that should be projected into the wombs of all expectant mothers. It's not only a masterpiece as a movie, but it's one of the greatest ways to get your kids into the jovial spirit of Halloween and horror in general.
Tomorrow, we'll keep the laughter going with a film where a mutilated specter asks for some toast. See you then!
31 Days of Drew (2013)