Ghostbusters is heading back to the big screen

Why the 80s classic has never lost its appeal

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Get ready to charge up those proton packs: Ghostbusters, the supernatural spectacular that grossed $290 million on its original release, is returning to cinemas in time for Halloween in a digitally remastered print.

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Thirtysomethings will recall the promotional push that accompanied its original 1984 release, in particular the phantom-barring logo and Ray Parker Jr’s instantly accessible theme with its “Who ya gonna call?” chorus. But merchandising alone does not make a movie and the enduring appeal of this fantasy/comedy phenomenon is due to much more than canny marketing.

What separates Ghostbusters from the Men in Blacks that followed is the fact that it’s a very human blockbuster. OK, so there’s a possessed Sigourney Weaver levitating above a bed and a 112-foot marshmallow man rampaging through the streets of New York, but the guys on the ground dealing with the threat are unashamed boffins and ordinary Joe Schmos with unlicensed nuclear accelerators on their backs.

Peter Venkman is essentially a shyster, the mouth of the business who “never studied” but ended up with a doctorate in parapsychology. Making up the rest of the unit are its heart (childlike Ray), brains (academic Egon) and blue-collar smarts (late recruit Winston) – underdogs to be sure, but as the last bastion against Armageddon they prove difficult to beat. In a Hollywood landscape where rippling muscles are normally a prerequisite for taking down alien invaders, Ghostbusters unusually champions the wise guy and the geek.

What’s never forgotten, though, is that there’s also a need for spectacle. This is a story about spooks so there has to be scares: indeed the scene where client Dana Barrett is pinned to her armchair by an army of disembodied arms still feels strong for a PG-rated movie. But what Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’s screenplay gets absolutely right is its mix of shocks and comedy. There are saliva-drooling beasts but they live in the fridge. There’s a spectre roaming the corridors of a hotel but the worst it can do is slime its pursuer. Even after all these years, Ghostbusters’s skill for packaging frights in wildly imaginative gift-wrapping remains unequalled.

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To see it again on the big screen is sure to be an absolute thrill. Let’s hope that a fresh generation of children are inspired to dress up in boiler suits and quote lines like “back off man, I’m a scientist” and “listen, do you smell something?” Exciting times lie ahead, so just be thankful that the Ghostbusters are still “ready to believe you”.