Monday, December 5, 2011

Ghostbusters: No Rhyme or Reason

This was such a fun assignment: watching good ol’ Ghostbusters starring Dan Aykroyd, Billy Murray, etc.  It had been a while since I last saw it, but it’s one of those movies I’ve seen many times throughout my life.  A classic, for sure.  This time around it was just as enjoyable as always, but after the readings and watching other movies in our class, I couldn’t help but notice the complete lack of “reason” for not only parts of the plot, but the ghosts themselves.
For example, the people of New York City are very skeptical of the Ghostbusters.  When they’re just starting out in the abandoned fire station, members of the public call them to ask if they’re business is serious or just a joke.  Not to mention the Ghostbusters slogan, “We believe you” (or something along those lines) goes to show how they’re the subject of scrutiny, if not mockery.  Then, after they catch the ghost Slimer, paranormal activity increases in the city and the Ghostbusters become very busy.  So busy they need to recruit another colleague and become city-wide celebrities.  Now, it could be just me, but what’s the reason for this major increase in paranormal activity in the city?  I don’t believe one is supplied (though correct me if I’m wrong; I could’ve missed it), and it doesn’t seem to be tied into the main story problem of the demon Gozer entering from 55 Central Park West.  I guess we’re supposed to just buy it.
Also tied to plot, there’s a point when all the ghosts are freed from the Ghostbusters’ captivity and wreak havoc on the city.  I think this was an attempt to make things worse, as is required of all stories (or at least makes them stronger).  But you never get a sense that things have really gotten bad, except for a couple seconds-worth of ghosts inhabiting the streets of the city, eating hot dogs (Slimer), etc.  It falls flat in my opinion, because the newly released spirits never pose another problem to the Ghostbusters or the town, so it feels contrived to me.  Perhaps if they tried to get in the way of the Ghostbusters trying to stop Gozer it would be more effective.
All of the ghosts look Halloweenish, too, with no reason for why they appear and are the way they are.  Take Slimer, for example.  What is that?  Who or what did it used to be?  It looks more like an overgrown toad than a spirit that used to be a human, and what does its slime have to do with anything?  In all the works we’ve read and seen, there’s some kind of explanation – like a vortex in The Grave’s End or the brutal murders that occurred in The Overlook in The Shining – for the hauntings and the spirits’ existence and nature.  But not in Ghostbusters.  No explanation is given for where Slimer came from nor why he is the way he is.  Of course, this is a comedy, and quite a whimsical one, so it didn’t bother me.  I can’t help but think Slimer was a pun of the green slime trope we’ve seen in horror stories, even in this course (most notably in The Amityville Horror where green slime drips down the walls).  Maybe it’s even mocking the stereotype, I dunno.
I was surprised, however, based on the whimsical nature of the movie, that a fairly in-depth explanation and backstory for Gozer was supplied.  In a nutshell, it was that a mad doctor built 55 Central Park West with the intent of summoning the Sumerian god of destruction Gozer in order to destroy humanity, which according to him (the mad doctor) is too sick to live.  So concerning the main plot, an effective reason (or at least a reason) was supplied compared to some of the other movie’s ghosts/spirits and plot points.
Lastly, I want to touch on the ending.  I think it’s impossible for anyone to forget the hilarious Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that attempts to destroy the city.  But how they bring down this terrible mound of marshmallow and the threat of Gozer felt like a cop-out to me – simply shoot the gate where Gozer entered with the energy streams of their proton packs.  Okay, I know that they “merged” the streams, which they weren’t supposed to do, but it still feels like a cop-out.  So they do it at their own risk, and – surprise, surprise – IT WORKS and everybody’s okay!!! Please…Would’ve been funnier if they found a lock on the gate and just turned it or something.  Then Billy Murray could make one of his dry, but always hilarious comments along the lines of: “That’s why you need the Ghostbusters for a job like this.”  Would’ve fit in with the whimsical nature of the movie, in my opinion.
Anyway, all in all I enjoyed the movie, mainly because it's built around the laughs.  The point of it is not to have a point, I think, which makes some of the plot holes and copouts a bit easier to bear.  At least for me.  And that’s also what made it fun, and funny, to watch after reading the books and watching the movies in this course where the reason for the hauntings are carefully developed and explained.  If making a horror story as realistic as possible contributes to making it scary, removing all the realistic factors and making it more whimsical certainly makes it funnier, which is obviously Ghostbusters’s intent.

3 comments:

Jennifer Loring said...

The reason for all the ghosts is explained in the scene where Ray and Winston are in the Ecto-1, talking about Judgment Day and how the dead will rise from their graves. Then, when the Ghostbusters are in jail, they talk about Ivo Shandor's cult and his idea that humanity is "too sick to survive," thus his building of 55 Central Park West as a conduit for Gozer's return which will bring about the apocalypse. The increase in spirit activity is due to the impending Judgment Day.

Kristina said...

I heard that Dan Akroyd's original screenplay was the sign of a phone book, and that Harold Ramis had to swoop in with Ivan Reitman to trim the fat a little. They said it was full of scientific and historical terminology--so maybe Dan Akroyd put the academic into the film, and that's why there's still traces of it (like in the backstory about GOzer, for example) in the movie, despite its overal goofiness. Good post! Got me thinking!

Kristina said...

size of a phone book, not sign of a phone book.

Guess who needs sleep?