Monday, July 18, 2016

Flashback Review: GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) and GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (1989)

Once a thing becomes a crucial part of global pop culture, it's easy to dismiss it as a fun, silly, harmless piece of entertainment that we take for granted. But Ghostbusters (1984) deserves more credit than that. To my mind, it is still one of the riskiest, strangest, most original blockbusters ever made, with a story that is beyond categorizing, and a mood that is impossible to replicate. Basically the brainchild of Dan Aykroyd, one of the most eccentric comedians of the past century, Ghostbusters is part horror film, part comedy, and part special-effects extravaganza, which doesn't miss a beat. It has, surprisingly, aged very well. Yes, the effects are primitive by today's standards, but the jokes and the scares still work, while the undeniable chemistry between the entire cast is still magic on screen.

It is interesting to note that Ghostbusters was a film that was considered a huge risk by Columbia Pictures, since its mixture of horror and comedy had never been done that way before, and the producers worried that a cast of actors mostly known for their TV work (the cast is made up almost entirely of Saturday Night Live and Second City cast members), wouldn't prove to be box-office gold.

A sequel and hundreds of millions of dollars later, all doubters were proven wrong.


It was inevitable that, after the mega success of the original, a sequel was going to be made. Reportedly, all involved were reluctant to make a sequel, feeling that they wouldn't be able to top what they achieved with the original. But pressure from the studio and barrels of money thrown at them changed their minds, resulting in what many consider to be a disappointment.

Almost twenty years after it was made, and upon watching it for the first time in more than a decade, I found Ghostbusters II to be less of a disappointment than I remembered, but it still is a disappointment. It lacks the energy and the incomparable zaniness of the original, and Bill Murray seems a bit on auto-pilot this time around. But writers Aykroyd and Ramis still have many tricks up their sleeves, with the film having some terrifically inventive ideas and gags. The effects here are also better than in the original. Overall, Ghostbusters II holds up much better than I remembered, and is a worthy if flawed successor to the the groundbreaking original.

Text © Ahmed Khalifa. 2016.

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