The Test of Time: Ghostbusters (1984)

We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is whether of not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Akyroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Harold Ramis

There’s only a handful of movies that I would place under the label of “favorite.” It’s always annoyed the hell out of me when someone claims a movie released only the day before can suddenly declare it a favorite. How? For me, as cheese dick as it sounds, a film has to age with you, develop some rust around the edges, and feel like an old celluloid friend who you haven’t seen in a years but the conversation, although one sided, feels as fresh as ever.

In order for a movie to be a “favorite” it must meet certain qualifications: 1) It must hold nostalgia or take me back to my childhood. 2) It better be quotable. 3) It plays as good as ever even after 32 viewings. 4) It better still entertain. If a movie can meet those requirements, then you have yourself a favorite film. (This will date me a date, but the first VHS my parents ever purchased was Ghostbusters. And even though the tape doesn’t work I still have it).

So with the tragic news of Harold Ramis passing away from vasculitis (if you don’t know what it is you should look it up), it’s the perfect opportunity to honor the true king of the nerds to see if one of my true favorite belongs in a ghost trap or if it survives the Test of Time.

Under the examination: Ghostbusters.

Three men on a mission.

THE STORY: Three scientists have over stayed their welcome at a New York university as their attempt to define and study paranormal activity hasn’t exactly produced quantifiable results. Even when they do, the school wants nothing more to do with them. So out of the comfort of education, they band together to start a business…only to find that the ghost business is booming thanks to unspeakable evil known as Gozer whose bringing the spirit world with her. Enter Dana Barrett, a musician, and her goofy accountant neighbor Louis who unwittingly become pawns in evil’s game. It’s up to Drs. Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler (and Winston) to save the day and keep the land of the living from no longer living.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Well, a heck of a lot of this movie still holds as well as eternity itself.

The reason? Ghostbusters today still plays like a movie. I mean a real movie. Everything feels massive in scale (even if the budget wasn’t at $32 million) and it was designed for everyone. It’s funny, serious, dramatic, frightening all rolled together, which might sound like an easy feat, but nope...that's a unique combination as all elements exist in perfect harmony. When things are funny, they’re funny. When things get serious, you never doubt the drama. When there's a scare, it's still freaking scary.

Even though we have a lead in Dr. Venkman who takes virtually nothing serious (he’ll alter scientific research in order to get the girl), we still feel the weight of the opposition. In a lot of films that blend multiple genres (especially comedies), one genre always bitch slaps the others to maintain control. That doesn't happen in Ghostbusters

Hottest possession ever. 

The forces of the undead are against mankind, and somehow these guys seem like the right guys for the job. In fact, the three ghostbusters work perfectly together. Murray takes nothing seriously. Akyroyd has boyish enthusiasm for science, and Ramis plays the straight man between them. Stantz and Spengler rattle off fancy pants scientific terms as if they truly knew the shit, which they probably did thanks to the oddball brains of their real writer selves Akyroyd and Ramis. They pack in the scientific information, which never feels forced or false. I don't know how much of the discussion is bullshit or based in some sort of science fact, but I never question it. It all sounds right. 

Oh, and what makes this a favorite comes from the many great performances and memorable one-liners. It has as many as any great movie. Obviously, the three leads are perfect, but so is the rest of the cast. The roles of Winston (Ernie Hudson), Walter Peck (the perfect asshole name played 80s asshole icon William Atherton), Janine (Annie Potts), and of course Louis (80s nerd icon Rick Moranis) and the beautiful Dana Barrett (Weaver).

Some of my favorite movie lines still make me laugh: “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.” Or, “Listen. Do you smell something?” "That's a big Twinkie." "We came, we saw, we kick it's ass!" I could go on and on; It’s a flick that keeps on giving. “I collect spores, molds, and fungus.” (By the way, this is the only movie that made me want to smoke just so my cigarette could dangle from my bottom lip like Stantz when he first sees Slimer).

I'm sure the streams could look better now, but they've never not looked good. 

WHAT BLOWS NOW: This is rough because to me Ghostbusters is movie perfection. I’ve seen the thing so many times that this is like talking shit on an old friend. It’s just not nice. However, the Test of Time can’t avoid what's in front of it.

Thankfully, however, there’s not a lot to see. It’s easy to fault Ghostbusters for the dated elements, which at times this column has often damned other films for. With that said, some Ghostbusters elements truly look old (I’m looking at you, running-claymation-gargoyle), however, the rest of the effects play more like a product of the times versus just shitty workmanship. There is a difference. Beyond the claymation, there’s a lot of simple, practical effects that still play damn good, especially when Dana is pulled into her kitchen by way too many monster hands (it’s a terrifying scene). While the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man doesn’t look fantastic (especially in HD), it’s just fun.

And yeah, parts of the movie reek of 1984, but thankfully the ghostbusters wear matching uniforms and don’t sport any horrific haircuts, which helps to keep them timeless (the same can't be said for Dana). Besides that I don’t have anything negative to say about it. Not one thing.

Evil has never looked so bubbly. 

THE VERDICT: This is perhaps the easiest Test of Time yet. Ghostbusters is the kind of movie that’s impossible to recapture as much as Dan Akyroyd wants to. It was the perfect cast at the perfect time with the perfect script. And now that Harold Ramis’s proton pack will never be used again, I hope that leave this franchise where it is (which we all know they won’t…one way or another). If they do make more, it's fine because it'll never take away what Ghostbusters has. 



This scene is scary even behind the scenes. 



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