Look, Fridays have been proving slightly tricky for me lately. I know I have a list of movies to get through, and I promise they will all be seen and reviewed. Then it will be on to the next list, and so on until I wear my poor typing fingers down to nubs. But on Fridays I have a short window between dinner and when the old man that I live with’s ridiculous favorite television comes on, and it is not enough time to squeeze in a film. Plus, there have been WandaVision episodes premiering on Fridays, and I decided to check out Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit series. That last is quite good, and whenever the day comes when The Legionnaire starts reviewing such things I hope it gets a good recommendation. And man have I been wanting to play chess recently. I wonder why. . . . At any rate, these are all mere excuses in the face of a demanding public, so please accept this article on the 1984 classic Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters, with the film itself and in its cultural impact, addressed the question as to who you call when you hear things that go bump in the night. That is what happens practically right away when the film begins as there is a poltergeist patrolling the basement stacks of the New York City Public Library. Drs. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), two paranormal investigators, are called in to look into the strange happenings. They also bring along the maverick para-psychologist Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) to assist. They get more than they bargain for but their experience in dealing with the ghost convinces them that they have the makings of business in addressing hauntings. Thus is born the title group, complete with former fire station headquarters, a decommissioned hearse as transport, and the dry Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) as the no-nonsense secretary. Aided by a few successful but quite damaging to private property results, the Ghostbusters begin to make a name for themselves as the people you turn to when unexplained things occur in your home. So busy do they become that they decide to hire a fourth ‘buster, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), thus rounding out the classic four man team. The attention they begin to garner leads them to Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a cello player living in a fashionable apartment building off Central Park. A number of strange incidences take place in her residence, causing her to call the Ghostbusters to come and look into them. They send Venkman, who immediately begins to woo Dana. The other members of the team start looking into her actual building and discover that it was specifically designed as a magnet for the paranormal. Things become even more dire when Dana and one her neighbors—the well meaning but dorky accountant Louis Tully (Rick Moranis)—are possessed by beings meant to safeguard an ancient Sumerian god of evil known as Gozer (Slavitza Jovan, voiced by Paddi Edwards). Just as the Ghostbusters are on the cusp of figuring out this potential threat to the city, if not all of humanity, the Environmental Protection Agency steps in, led by Walter Peck (William Atherton). Citing potential pollution hazards, Peck forces the Ghostbusters to shut off the containment unit they had been using to store all their captured ghosts. When all four attempt to stop this from happening, they are thrown in jail. The resulting explosion of poltergeists wreaks havoc across the city, and brings about the coming of Gozer. Things get so out of hand that the mayor (David Marguiles) requests the Ghostbusters be released from their incarceration to combat this crisis. Thus given their freedom, they make their way to Dana’s apartment building, trek all the way up the stairs to the top floor, evaporate the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Ray accidentally conjures, and defeat Gozer. You know, all in a day’s work for these ghost exterminators.
I used that last word purposely at the end of my description of Ghostbusters‘ plot as that was how they were originally conceived. It should also be noted that while the film deals with some very harrowing subjects, they are always treated in a light-hearted manner. And there are some absolutely hilarious one-liners throughout the film. Those always get me laughing. However, what is not actually funny are spirits. The Catholic Church does not have an official stance on what we would recognize as ghosts in a movie like Ghostbusters. The dictionary definition, roughly speaking, for a ghost is the spirit of a deceased person that inhabits our existence in some form. The word “spirits” is useful for our purposes. Whether or not you believe in actual apparitions of the dead, there has never been definitive, scientific or otherwise, proof that they are really connected to anyone once living. Sure, you can watch any number of so-called reality shows about ghost hunters who will make the kinds of claims you are looking for if you want to accept such things. The Church, on the other hand, deals with what might broadly be labeled paranormal, and these are primarily possessions. Actually, the films that focus on such tragic occurrences do a pretty good job of speaking to the rigor Church officials put such cases through before saying that yes, in fact, a person is possessed by an evil spirit. Furthermore, they do not allow just anyone to combat these spirits because of the danger of succumbing to evil’s influence. On a grander scale, evil is everywhere, and it comes in both subtle and overt forms. Yet God does gives us the tools we need to resist its temptations. Yet, unfortunately for some this proves not enough, and that is why we have highly trained and skilled exorcists, priests whose specific duty is to free people from a spirit’s clutches. They may not carry proton packs, but their weapons of the Bible, Faith, and God are infinitely stronger.
If you have yet to see Ghostbusters, then I am not sure you are doing with your life. I am kidding. Still, it is one of those classic movies that should be seen because it is fun and humorous. A word of caution: as silly as it might seem, if this inspires an interest in the paranormal just leave it to institutions like the Catholic Church. The word “paranormal” should tell you everything you need to know. It deals with things that are beyond our “normal” senses and understanding, and against which we should guard ourselves. That does not mean you cannot enjoy a film like Ghostbusters. Just watch it and leave it, remembering instead the great performances of the actors.