'Ghostbusters': THR's 1984 Review
On June 8, 1984, America met the Ghostbusters. More than thirty years later, the franchise is revving up for a third film with a new cast. Read The Hollywood Reporter's original review below, which was headlined "'Ghostbusters' sure to scare up box office loot."
Columbia's Ghostbusters would seem to be just the right film for the silly season — a ghost story that combines action adventure with comedy and high-tech special effects. Although it reunites the comic talents of director Ivan Reitman, writer Harold Ramis and star Bill Murray, the team responsible for the Meatballs phenomenon, their style here is far more laid-back and relaxed. There are still plenty of laughs, but not of the frantic sledgehammer variety. In today's market, alas, this may not be an advantage.
The film introduces Murray, along with sidekicks Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, as a trio of university parapsychologists who are just too bright and aggressive for the academic life. Losing their research grant, they open their own business — Ghostbusters — and almost at once are summoned to investigate the strange happenings in Sigourney Weaver's Central Park West apartment. What they discover is that all Manhattan is being besieged by other worldly demons.
As might be expected, their freewheeling but effective extermination techniques are halted by bumbling bureaucracy in the person of health official William Atherton, who insists on shutting down the entire operation — whereupon their ectoplasmic population, in a fine pyrotechnical display, is released into New York's atmosphere where it rushes in pink streams toward an exotic temple on the roof of Weaver's apartment house.
Throughout the film the special effects people, headed by Richard Edlund, have obviously had a ball, transforming a little old lady in the New York public library into a howling Banshee, or wrecking the interior of a hotel ballroom with laser beams as the ghostbusters pursue a particularly voracious fuzz green phantom. But once the ghosts start raining on the roof, transforming Weaver herself into a sexy demon, it's all signals go for the effects crew.
The temple is swathed in a light show. Gargoyles come to life and pursue nerdy Rick Moranis, Weaver's neighbor, in Central Park. The street in front of the building heaves up spectacularly and masonry showers down on the crowd below. Our heroes' coordinated laser attack on the demon congregation provides a suitably showy finale.
The plotting may be primitive, but it's all carried off with far more style and finesse than one might expect from the creators of Animal House and Meatballs, with a special nod to editors Sheldon Kahn and David Blewitt for their sustained pacing of both the comedy and the action. Elmer Bernstein's score, augmented by half a dozen disco tracks, provides the necessary chills, but with an uptempo that underlines the essential comedy, just as Laszlo Kovacs' resourceful camerawork augments John De Cuir's often ingenious production design. — Arthur Knight