The leaves are falling and the air is finally turning crisp. It’s time to start watching the season’s best Halloween movies, and there’s quite an array of choices. If you’re like me, you visit your local library’s movie section to start the search. Experience leads you to the “H” section where you find “Haunted Mansion,” “Hocus Pocus” and “Halloweentown.” You optimistically keep looking, hoping to grab a few more titles for the seven-day rental period. Your eyes move further down and there it is, shining like a beautiful green star among the other titles in the “G” section. You grab the DVD before realizing in disappointment that this is not the one you wanted — but where is it? Right next to the gap you’ve created on the shelf lies the true treasure, even shinier than the last from an apparent lack of use: the 2016 “Ghostbusters” directed by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”).
The film focuses on four newly-turned ghostbusters on a journey to save New York from impending doom. The team is composed of comedic powerhouses Kristen Wiig (“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar”), Melissa McCarthy (“The Little Mermaid”), Kate McKinnon (“Barbie”) and Leslie Jones (“Coming 2 America”). Using cameos from the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” to reference the source material, the film takes creative liberties to keep the story as a reboot, not a sequel. The 2016 version often does its own thing, and as someone who never quite connected to the original, the film operates more smoothly on its individual path. The world was not ready to accept these new Ghostbusters, but they deserved a lot more love for how fun they were.
Feig’s “Ghostbusters” is certainly not perfect — the film throws heaps of jokes at the audience with the hopes that some will land, and many do not — but the online vitriol that plagues the movie is largely unwarranted. This isn’t to label all of the film’s critics trolls; the film’s many strengths and weaknesses are excellently highlighted in a review conveniently published by The Michigan Daily. Still, in this ghostly corner of the internet, I’m going to discuss why “Ghostbusters” is a guilty pleasure worthy of a place in your annual Halloween movie marathon.
Visiting haunted houses is another classic Halloween activity (I swear there’s a point related to “Ghostbusters” here). Afterward, you are so delirious from fear that you and your friends will say anything that comes to mind and laugh hysterically at your ridiculousness. You may recall this thinking: “Wow, that was hilarious, the haunted house workers probably thought me and my friends were funny.” Odds are, they did not. They were probably wondering when their shift ended. Watching “Ghostbusters” is similar to this experience; the audience can either embrace the group of unlikely heroes and experience the fear and hilarity with them, or we can sit there as the haunted house worker, wondering when our experience will end. A few of the bits might not land, but when you feel like you know these characters like the friends with whom you’d explore a haunted house, you don’t care because everything is hilarious.
Most Halloween movies are ridiculous, with a heart that keeps the story grounded. “Ghostbusters” leans into ridiculous aspects of a ghost-centric plot: There are a few ghouls that look like they just stepped out of a Mucinex commercial, Bill Murray (“Groundhog Day”) is thrown out of a window and a there’s a food delivery guy who can’t catch a break. Feig even gets creative with unique framing: When the characters get squashed under a giant marshmallow ghost, the audience experiences it as well through a personified camera angle.
With moments like these, one might expect the story to be sacrificed for comedy and camera tricks, but the film finds its heart in the leads’ bond. The cast balances the plot’s absurdity with laughs shared among the group and moments of vulnerability where the audience can see the characters’ respect for one another. They argue and bicker, but at the end of the day, they risk their lives for one another, which is exactly the kind of friendship everyone deserves.
If you’re still holding “Ghostbusters” in your hands, wondering whether you want to check it out or not, don’t be afraid to watch it. If you enter this ghoulish universe ready to experience it rather than wait for it to end, the characters will welcome you into the greatest friend group that the “G” shelf in the local library movie section has ever seen.
Daily Arts Contributor Gaby Cummings can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.