Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Dec 122014

If the Ghostbusters theme song doesn’t give you an impression of what the movie is like, I don’t know what will.

In my undergraduate Monster Lit. class, we discussed how every type of monster found in serious horror literature/film inevitably ends up in a comedy. One of our biggest examples for that class was Shaun of the Dead. To me, Ghostbusters is the ghost/haunting equivalent of that movie–part parody, part homage, wrapped up in an entertaining story.

Ghostbusters takes everything we’ve looked at in this class and puts a comedic spin on it, and that’s where I think its true brilliance lies. Supernatural occurrences, paranormal investigations, spirit manifestations, and possession are all played for laughs. We’ve got a team trying to fight ghosts (taking a much more active approach than the groups in The Haunting of Hill House or Hell House), a building with a terrible secret, and I’ll even give Ghost Story some credit for a change by pointing out that the ultimate antagonist is a shape-shifting force of destruction. The setup works for a straight ghost story, if not for the jokes and general silliness.

Ghostbusters movie caseIt even shares some of the incredible, odds-defying optimism of Scrooge’s redemption in A Christmas Carol. Let’s face it, Venkman and his colleagues don’t exactly inspire confidence as potential saviors of the world. Venkman in particular comes off as a con artist half the time, likable though he may be. The Ghostbusters might have the technology they need, but when it comes to actual plans, they usually make it up as they go along.

Yet it works!

Even when everything seems to be against them, they pull through and come out victorious against the forces of darkness. Considering a majority of ghost stories end in tragedy, the happy ending alone makes Ghostbusters stand out as a lighter look at the genre. And it’s still a ghost story. Its ghosts are even credible threats to the protagonists and the people around them.

All right, but let’s assume you’re reading this not because you care how Ghostbusters fits into the grand tradition of ghost stories, but because you want to know if it’s a good movie. Yes! I love this movie! It’s got a little spookiness, a little adventure, and a lot of comedy. Re-watching it for this class made me laugh out loud a few times. The pacing felt a little off to me (I remembered the ending as being much shorter than it was), but it was still very enjoyable. And Sigourney Weaver is always great.

Now, after everything I’ve rambled about this semester, it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t get in another video game reference: what’s the video game equivalent of Ghostbusters? The original Luigi’s Mansion, of course! When that game first came out, I couldn’t get enough of it. I still love it (and lament what its sequel did). Until today, though, I never really thought of it as a Ghostbusters reference–but it is! While it serves as its own parody/homage to survival horror games, Luigi’s Mansion is filled with shout-outs to this movie.

The Ghostbusters prepare to fight in this scene from the movie
Luigi's Mansion combat is clearly inspired by Ghostbusters

Of course, horror and comedy are closely linked, so maybe it’s no surprise that everything ends up with a comedy version eventually. And it’s not like I can complain–not only do I love stories like Ghostbusters, but I even wrote my own zombie comedy (which you can get for free from now until January 1, remember) and… comedic Resident Evil and Silent Hill fanfiction…

To Ghostbusters fans, I’d also recommend Jonathan Stroud’s new YA series Lockwood & Co., which centers around a team of young ghost hunters who, like the Ghostbusters, defeat and capture ghosts through a series of disasters.

For that matter, if you’ve searched in vain for a humorous take on demons, where have you been? Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens!

Ghostbusters is a great, funny movie and a wonderful way to end this course. After so many stories about haunted houses, deadly spirits, and possession, it’s nice to end the semester on a positive note:

“I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

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  12 Responses to “Ghostbusters: The Inevitable Comedy”

  1. Even when doing a review of a classic movie like Ghostbusters, you find ways to make game references. It continues to amuse me that you are able to pull this off so consistently and flawlessly. Your game and book recommendations at the end are going to be quite useful, I’m sure, in order to provide more amusement. Though, I’ve only read Good Omens, and I thought that was definitely worth the tongue-in-cheek humor.

  2. ” Until today, though, I never really thought of it as a Ghostbusters reference–but it is! “


  3. Yep, I completely agree with you about Ghostbusters being part parody, part homage to the typical ghost story, and that’s why I loved that we ended the term with this movie. Genres evolve, and I think part of the evolution is that they get to a point where they can make fun of themselves. Yet Ghostbusters hit the balance perfectly–it poked fun without being silly.

  4. I really like that Ghostbusters was our last assignment for this class. It sort of mirrored the natural progression of genre. Parody/homage seems to be the last point in the popular fiction cycle for trends. If horror is about exercising and confronting our fears and demons, a parody like Ghostbusters is about conquering it (you know… Temporarily)

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