1984 was a year far from the ominous warning George Orwell promised, at least not in the world of cinema, which enjoyed one of its most creatively expressive years ever. Featuring the likes of James Cameron’s Terminator, Joe Dante’s Gremlins and Steven Spielberg’s second Indiana Jones adventure, The Temple of Doom, the year marked the midpoint of a decade that would forever change the texture of the popular blockbuster, moving toward pulpy action-packed stories made with technical prowess and a genuine creative passion.
Typified by squidgy, tangible special effects that rooted themselves into the minds of young children, 1980s filmmaking brought with it a new approach to merchandising where suddenly anyone from Freddy Krueger, to The Terminator could be marketed to children. As censorship laws were relaxed, horror seeped from an American reality into mainstream filmmaking and cinema became spiked with a strange fleshy fear. Released as a PG in 1984, Ivan Reitman’s classic Ghostbusters is a film iconic of this time, finely riding the line between horror and family fun. Horrific enough that it will brand itself into a child’s mind, but not repulsive enough to appear out of place on a lunchbox.
The now-iconic white ghoul marked with a bright red ‘no entry sign that represents the headquarters of the titular ‘Ghostbusters’ has become a symbol of pop culture and a badge of honour among cinema’s most ardent fans. Its colourful, cartoonish design works well to reflect the films own fun, sarcastic nature, embracing the thrill of its own concept whilst synchronously accepting its own absurdity. Led by the powerhouse performance of a charismatic Bill Murray, along with Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters ends up as a bulked-out buddy comedy about a hopeless bunch of middle-aged men that happen to take down ghosts for a living.
Armed with weaponry straight from the mind of a hyperactive chocolate-induced child, the gang go about saving New York City from an inevitable supernatural apocalypse using proton packs, ghost traps and of course the Ecto-3 in order to do so. It’s a bombastic journey that weaves around several thrilling set-pieces, though is inevitably restricted to surface enjoyment due to a fairly basic plotline. Adventures with the gleefully annoying Rick Moranis for example, whilst tremendously enjoyable, feel like small expendable sketches, whilst Bill Murray holds the film together providing the story with its core beating identity. Ghostbusters is, at its heart, a self-deprecating adventure, one that acknowledges its own farce and satirically celebrates it, making Murray’s frenetic sarcasm the perfect vehicle for such comedy.
Murray described his time working on Ghostbusters as a phenomenon that would forever be his greatest accomplishment, and it’s really no wonder, as whilst Ramis, Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver provide memorable performances, none are more outstanding than Murray. In this strange supernatural whirlwind of sarcastic college humour and gooey action, silliness is taken extremely seriously.
As the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man destroys the city in the film’s final act, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman announces “This Mr. Stay-Puft isn’t so bad. He’s a sailor, he’s in New York; we get this guy laid, we won’t have any trouble!”. Sincerity with a wry smile, who you gonna call?