Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

There have been two movies in this series.

1. Ghostbusters US movie (1984). Columbia. Pr Ivan Reitman. Exec pr Bernie Brillstein. Dir Reitman. Spfx John Bruno, Richard Edlund, Chuck Gaspar, Mark Vargo. Screenplay Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis (1944-2014). Novelization Ghostbusters * (1985) by Richard Mueller. Starring William Atherton (Walter Peck), Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Ernie Hudson (Winston Zeddemore), Rick Moranis (Louis Tully), Bill Murray (Peter Venkman), Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), Ramis (Egon Spengler), Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett). 107 mins. Colour.

Three parapsychology researchers – Spengler, Stantz and Venkman – are fired from their cozy academic sinecure, and in desperation found Ghostbusters, a commercial company offering the spectral equivalent of vermin clearance: using an invention of Spengler's they can capture Ghosts electronically and imprison them in a containment system. As it happens, the city is suffering a plague of Ghosts; new employee Zeddemore believes this to be a sign of the imminence of the Last Judgement, and is proved approximately right: the building in which dwells their first customer, Barrett, proves an Edifice deliberately constructed as a sort of psychic nexus to facilitate the apocalyptic return of the Babylonian God Gozer. A mad bureaucrat, Peck, releases the contents of the Ghostbusters' containment system, and New York is ravaged. However, the Ghostbusters' technology proves in the end superior to the god, and all ends happily.

G was originally intended as an Aykroyd-John Belushi vehicle called Ghostsmashers, but Belushi died before shooting started; Murray was drafted in for the hastily rewritten movie, and stole it. Even so, the often witty dialogue (and excellent spfx) fail to disguise a flaccid plot: only in the final sequence, when Gozer presents him/herself, is there any true frisson of otherness. [JG]

2. Ghostbusters II US movie (1989). Columbia. Pr Ivan Reitman. Exec pr Bernie Brillstein, Michael C Gross, Joe Medjuck. Dir Reitman. Vfx Dennis Muren. Screenplay Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis (1944-2014). Novelizations Ghostbusters II * (1989) by Ed Naha and Ghostbusters II * (1989 chap) by B B Hiller. Starring Aykroyd, Hudson, Moranis, Murray, Potts, Ramis and Weaver as in 1, plus Kurt Fuller (Jack Cartermeyer), Peter MacNicol (Janosz/Vigo). 102 mins. Colour.

Five years after the events of 1, Barrett has married and divorced, and has an eight-month-old baby, Oscar. A psychic force is clearly assailing the child, and she calls in the Ghostbusters team – now on the verge of bankruptcy – to investigate. Soon they discover a river of pink slime infesting the sewers beneath New York: clearly a major spectral event is imminent – and in due course they realize the slime is a manifestation of the negative emotions of Manhattan's citizens. At the Manhattan Museum of Art (where Barrett is working temporarily) the Picture of sorcerer tyrant Vigo the Carpathian in fact contains Vigo's Soul. It seeks to re-enter and rule the world, but must find a child to possess (see Possession); it also inspires the slime. The Ghostbusters, to counter all this, energize the Statue of Liberty and march it to save Barrett and Oscar and banish Vigo's spirit back to Hell.

The spfx are better and the screenplay funnier and much more inventive, yet this failed to achieve anything like the popularity of 1. Although the way was left open for a GIII, and despite the continued success of the animated tv series, such a movie has failed to materialize. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.