Making the Grades
In 1984 the stars of Saturday Night Live and S.C.T.V. reigned supreme in popular culture, and Ghostbusters was just one of many films that showcased their talent and humor. Walking a very fine line between comedy, horror and fantasy genres, the film follows three professors whose interests in parapsychology have pushed the university’s administrators too far. Booted out and cut off from their grant funding, they determine to setup a private company to rid residents of unwanted supernatural pests.
However, Drs. Venkman (Bill Murray), Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Spengler (Harold Ramis) don’t appear to be your average academic specialists. Spengler is the most immersed in the science of ghost hunting. Stantz offers the tenacity and brawn required to confront the most threatening specters. Meanwhile Venkman, who is easily distracted by women, seems more interested in catching the attention of any female than capturing spirits. He is particularly flirty with their first client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who has a phantom in her refrigerator.
At first the populous views the trio’s business plan as sheer nonsense, but when an outbreak of metaphysical activity hits the city, the Ghostbusters are suddenly rocketed into the limelight. While good for business, the attention also attracts the notice of government authorities. EPA inspector Walter Peck (William Atherton) insists the enterprise is in violation of several laws and forces the team to release the poltergeists they have captured. Once freed, the spirits place the city under siege. Desperate for help, who’s the mayor gonna call? Ghostbusters!
Created before the PG-13 rating existed in the US, parents may be surprised at the level of content this film presents. Even though the plot is primarily about laughs, many of the supernatural specters may frighten young children. Some are silly, but others appear as skeletons or large ravenous animals. (The special effects associated with these sequences did get the movie an Oscar nomination.) Beyond the goose bumps, sexual comments may also shock. These include a couple of fairly explicit references and a moment where a female ghost appears to be removing a man’s pants. Another scene depicts a possessed woman embracing a man, and sexual activity is implied. Language may be a concern as well, due to the use of a crude term for sex, some anatomical slang and a selection of other profanities. Finally, characters smoke cigarettes throughout the film.
Ghostbusters emerged as one of the more popular films from the early 1980s, and continues in the public eye thanks to the hit song by Ray Parker Jr. However, it may fall short of kid-friendly today, especially for those concerned about satanic depictions or other paranormal themes. As well, families may not appreciate the sexual remarks, scary scenes, or incessant smoking. While perhaps suitable for older teens, parents would do well to refresh their memory before calling in these banshee banishers.
Theatrical Release: 8 June 1984
Note: Sony Pictures celebrates the 30th anniversary of their hit film Ghostbusters with a limited theatrical re-release on August 29, 2014.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Ghostbusters.
After a scientist arrives at a woman’s apartment to help get rid of a ghost, his strange behavior (and obvious interest in her) leads her to say: “You don’t act like a scientist. You’re more like a game show host!” How does the use of humor change the tone of this scene? How is comedy used throughout the movie? Do you still find some scenes frightening?
What technologies are missing from the Ghost Buster’s 1984 arsenal? Are they limited in how they can communicate? How do they do their research? Where do they go to find information?