Throw on your proton pack and get ready to bust some ghosts because June 8th is officially “Ghostbusters Day”! Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) was first released on this day back in 1984 and, since then, has become a majorpopculture franchise that includes comic books, a popular cartoon and line of action figures, and videogames and it is, easily, one of my favourite films and franchises from that era.
Released: 16 June 1989 Director: Ivan Reitman Distributor: Columbia Pictures Budget: $25 to 30 million Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Peter MacNicol, and Wilhelm von Homburg/Max von Sydow
The Plot: Five years after the events of the first film, the Ghostbusters are no more and are legally forbidden from conducting any ghostbusting or paranormal investigations. However, when a mood-altering slime is discovered beneath the city and the spirit of an ancient Carpathian warlord awakens, the four return to action to once again defend New York from malevolent spirits.
The Review: By the time I was old enough to really have any idea of what was going on in life, both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II had been out for some time. Consequently, as a kid, there was very little delay for me between seeing the first film and its often-maligned sequel, meaning that both were formative influences on my childhood. I’ve always held the two in equal regard as a result; yes, the first had the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man but the second had the mood slime and benefitted from a slightly brisker pace so I’ve always thought that Ghostbusters II did a pretty decent job of capturing the same spirit as the first film and building on its foundations with a natural continuation.
The film begins five years after the events of the first film to find our beloved characters in very different situations; after being sued out of business, the Ghostbusters have had to close their doors and have largely gone their separate ways. Only the heart of the team, Doctor Raymond Stantz (Ackroyd), and the “Everyman” of the group, Winston Zeddemore (Hudson), keep the brand alive by degrading themselves with appearances at children’s birthday parties. While Doctor Egon Spengler (Ramis) has returned to science and is busying himself testing the specifics of human emotions, Doctor Peter Venkman (Murray) has found minor success as a talk show host where he interviews eccentrics who claim to have psychic powers or other inexplicable tales, and Ray has also set up a small occult bookshop for himself. While the four remain on friendly terms, there is a clear sense of discontentment amongst most of them; Ray longs for their glory days as celebrities, Winston glibly remarks that their efforts went unappreciated by the masses, and even Peter, despite his celebrity status, seems unfulfilled, especially as he is widely (and accurately) regarded as being a fraud.
Since the last film, Dana Barrett (Weaver) has split up with Peter, birthed a son, Oscar (William T. and Hank J. Deutschendorf II), with her ex, and has moved away from the orchestra and into the art world. Cleaning paintings at a New York museum, Dana’s life is mired only by her quirky and overeager boss, Doctor Janosz Poha (played with glee by MacNicol), who, like Louis Tully (Moranis), harbours unrequited affections for her. When Oscar’s pram carriage suddenly becomes possessed and escapes from her in the street after she unknowingly rolls over a puddle of “mood slime”, Dana immediately turns to Egon for help and he and Ray investigate her apartment once again. Despite her attempts to keep Peter out of the loop, he forces himself into the investigation and the two reunite once more; despite them having split up over his childish antics, there’s still an attraction there and he laments that he missed the opportunity to be Oscar’s father, and the two eventually rekindle their romance as the film progresses.
The investigation quickly leads to Egon, Ray, and Peter tearing up the section of the street where Oscar’s possession occurred under the amusing guise of Consolidated Edison (ConEd) workmen; this leads to them discovering that the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system is literally flooded with writhing, pink mood slime that exhibits both paranormal and sentient behaviour. Since they were conducting paranormal investigations, the three are soon brought before a court and face prosecution for their actions (which caused a city-wide blackout); thankfully, however, the mood slime reacts violently to Judge Stephen Wexler’s (Harris Yulin) aggressive outburst and causes two ghosts to manifest in the courtroom and run riot, giving Wexler no choice but to rescind the mandate against the Ghostbusters and allow them to return to work. And just in time, too, as the build-up of the mood slime is no accident; it coincides with the awakening of the brutal and malevolent Vigo the Carpathian (von Homburg/von Sydow), a ruthless Carpathian dictator whose spirit is trapped in a painting in Janosz’s museum. Mustering all of his evil energy, Vigo desires to possess the body of a child in order to live again and easily manipulates Janosz into finding him a suitable host. In exchange for being with Dana, Janosz offers to bring the spirit Oscar so that the two of them can raise the would-be conqueror as their own, and the influx of mood slime causes a new wave of restless spirits to terrorise the city.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mayor Lenny Clotch’s (David Margulies) sleazeball assistant, Jack Hardemeyer (Kurt Fuller), dogs the Ghostbusters at every turn and ends up going behind the Mayor’s back to have them committed to keep them from threating Clotch’s election for Governor with their maniacal outbursts. Also returning from the first film are the aforementioned Luis and the Ghostbuster’s sharp-tongued receptionist, Janine Melnitz (Potts); while there were hints towards a romance between Janine and Egon in the first film, the focus shifts to the odd couple of Luis and Janine in the sequel and the two comically indulge their whims while babysitting for Dana when the Ghostbusters are briefly arrested. As in the first film, comedy is a large part of Ghostbusters II and is handled beautifully; the courtroom scene where Louis struggles though defending the Ghostbusters is a particular highlight and the Ghostbusters’ various pratfalls, childish antics, and witty retorts provide the same level of bickering entertainment as the first film. I’ve always had a lot of admiration for how these original Ghostbusters films handle the balance of romance, action, comedy, horror, and fantastical science-fiction and, for me, Ghostbusters II more than holds its own when compared to the first although I am still disappointed that the script doesn’t give Winston more to do (he literally disappears for big chunks of the film’s first act and, most notably, isn’t even with the other three when they dig up the street and end up in court).
The Nitty-Gritty: Thirty-five minutes into the film, the Ghostbusters are legally allowed to return to action and the film noticeably picks up as the foursome return to chasing down and trapping ghosts all over the city. This sees the team wear new versions of their traditional boiler suits, adopt a new logo and produce more (if equally cringey) television advertisements, and even upgrade Ecto-1. I can understand the argument that the film might have been better off had it picked up here, with the Ghostbusters at the height of their popularity and ability, and the film kind of glosses over how the city coped with its supernatural occurrences without the Ghostbusters (who, I feel, have been proven to not be frauds by this point) but I never really minded the narrative structure of the film as it not only echoed the first one but also gave the characters something to overcome and showcased different sides to their personalities by showing us what they get up to when not busting ghosts.
A central aspect of the movie is the mood slime; although ectoplasmic residue played only a minor role in the first film as a by-product of paranormal activity, here the slime is directly responsible for the resurgence in supernatural activity across the city. When Winston and Ray take an accidental dip in the slime, it immediately heightens their aggression and emotions and the two almost come to blows but, after investigating the substance, Egon discovers that the slime can be equally affected by positive emotions and finds a way to effectively weaponise it to their benefit. This becomes a prominent element of the film as the Ghostbusters must galvanise the positive feelings of the city to counteract the build-up of negative energy that threatens to bring about Vigo’s resurrection and gives them additional weapons to use alongside their traditional proton packs. Like the first movie, Ghostbusters II is bolstered by a number of truly frightening visuals; although the Terror Dogs are gone, Janosz’s glowing eyes in Dana’s hallway are pretty creepy, to say nothing of his ghastly ghostly form when he flies in to kidnap Oscar! Seriously, I remember that creeping me out so badly as a kid and, even now, it’s an uncomfortable scene that manages to be both chilling and amusing thanks to McNicol’s gloating expression. Oh, and did I mention the scene in the subway where a demonic voice calls to Winston and the guys are spooked by severed heads on pikes!? Absolutely crazy stuff that I was shocked to see and which work beautifully alongside the film’s new ghosts; once again rendered through traditional composite effects, animatronics, and practical filmmaking techniques; we get such apparitions as a ghostly jogger, a massive beast under the Washington Square Arch, a monstrous bathtub, a living fur coat, a brief cameo from Slimer, and even the Titanic showing up in the middle of the city!
This all culminates the film’s finale where, rather than having to fend off a gigantic apparition, the Ghostbusters use their positively-charged mood slime and a modified Nintendo Entertainment System Advantage control stick to take control of Lady Liberty! I’ve seen people complain about how the film doesn’t feature the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man but, honestly, that wouldn’t make any sense at all and by no means diminishes the impact of seeing the Statue of Liberty come to life and casually stroll through New York City. In many ways, the finale is actually better than the original since, rather than simply standing around and crossing the streams to win the day, the Ghostbusters have to rappel down into the museum to confront Vigo and Janosz and even have to content with a possessed version of Ray when Vigo briefly takes control of his body after his resurrection is interrupted. This time around, in order to save the city (and the entire world) from falling under Vigo’s influence, the Ghostbusters need more than just their proton packs; they need the combined goodwill of the city and a hefty hosing of their positive-charged mood slime in order to force Vigo back into his painting, end his threat, and presumably fully repair their reputation.
The Summary: Now, look…I get it. Ghostbusters II isn’t as good as the first film; honestly, Ghostbusters set a high bar that would be difficult for any sequel to reach but, for my money, Ghostbusters II does a really good job of continuing the story from the first film. While many of the story beats are similar, the film adds plenty of fun, scary new stuff to make it well worth your while, especially for fans of the first movie. Thanks to the immortal Max von Sydow’s booming tones, Vigo makes for a compelling and intimidating villain and the addition of the mood slime allows for some gruesome and comedic scenes. All of the characters are just as likeable and entertaining as in the first film, and even fleshed out a little more (sadly, with the exception of Winston…) by seeing their interests outside of work, and the balance of horror and comedy continues to be handled masterfully. I can understand why many were left disappointed by the film, to a degree, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Ghostbusters II and think it makes for a great companion piece to the first film; watch them both back-to-back and you have one pretty consistent and enjoyable story. I’ll always step up to defend this film when I see people talking shit about it because it’s a fun little romp that deserves more attention, and has a great message of positivity that we could all stand to learn from.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Are you a fan of GhostbustersII? Do you think it deserves the negativity it often gets? What did you think to the five year time jump and the plot of the Ghostbusters being barred from working? Were you a fan of Vigo and Janosz and what did you think to the overall plot? Which of the film’s ghosts and scares were your favourite? Perhaps you grew up with the cartoon and action figures; if so, what memories do you have of them? How are you celebrating Ghostbusters Day today? Whatever your thoughts and memories of Ghostbusters, drop a comment down below.
Released: 19 November 2021 Director: Jason Reitman Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing Budget: $75 million Stars: Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, and Paul Rudd
The Plot: After being evicted from their home, Callie (Coon) and her children Trevor (Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Grace) move to a decayed farmhouse ravaged by unexplained earthquakes. After discovering that their grandfather was Doctor Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) of Ghostbusters fame, the children reclaim the Ghostbusters’ equipment to battle the supernatural forces seeking to break forth into our world once more.
The Review: I’ve always been a big Ghostbusters fan; if you’ve read my review of the first film, you know that it’s one of the many formative movies and influences on my childhood. I had the toys, watched the cartoon, and even enjoyed the under-rated sequel, so to say that my anticipation was high to finally see a proper third entry in the franchise is a bit of an understatement. I was excited by the prospect of the trailers, which depicted a world that has moved past the need for the Ghostbusters and a new generation taking up their roles, and the only thing I was concerned about was that the film would retcon or out-right ignore the sequel. It was pretty clear from the trailers (and the younger cast) that the film was going for more of a Stranger Things (2016 to present) than being a straight-up sequel or requel of the original Ghostbusters, and this is pretty clear right from the beginning of the film with the focus squarely being on young Phoebe.
Phoebe is something of an outcast in her family; while Callie is a struggling working mother and Trevor is more mechanically minded (when he’s not being an angst-and-hormone-fuelled teenager), Phoebe is a shy, awkward scientist prodigy. She has no friends, struggles to make emotional connections with people, and is fascinated by science and logic; although Callie worries over Phoebe’s development and personality, the forced move to Summerville, Oklahoma actually turns out to be the best thing for Phoebe as she slowly discovers her late-grandfather’s Ghostbusters technology and finds a connection to him that is otherwise lacking with her family and in her life. She also makes an actual friend in the form of “Podcast” (Kim), an enthusiastic young boy with an obsession interest in unsolved mysteries and the supernatural, and who actually finds Phoebe’s awkward attempts at humour funny and fills in the backstory of Summerville by relating the ghost stories surrounding Ivo Shandor’s mining operation. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is Phoebe’s story, first and foremost, which I actually wasn’t expecting heading into it; however, she’s a sweet and compelling character who is just trying to find herself and realise her potential as a scientist. Easily the smartest person in every room, she has a kind of naïve enthusiasm for science and the Ghostbusters tech and is eager to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and redeem his reputation in the eyes of her mother, the entire town, and even his old team mates.
Comparatively, there isn’t that much for Trevor to do; he’s the typical moody teenager who despairs of their poor fortune and the backwater nature of Summerville, but he quickly finds a reason to stick around when he becomes infatuated with Lucky Domingo (O’Connor), a young girl who works as a roller-skating waitress. His awkward attempts to flirt with her do help to emphasise the importance of the mountain and the derelict mine, and he does fix up the Ecto-1 in this spare time, but he’s very much a supporting character next to Phoebe and both he and Lucky just seem to be here to make a new team of four would-be Ghostbusters. Trevor is far less intelligent than Phoebe, and also far less interested in figuring out why Summerville is routinely beset by unexplained tremors or uncovering the mystery of their grandfather. He comes into his own when driving Ecto-1, which makes for a fun-filled sequence where he and the others frantically chase a ravenous ghost through the town and cause all kinds of destruction, and it was interesting to see Finn Wolfhard take more of a backseat considering he’s the more prominent actor of the youngsters.
Similarly, Callie is far from the primary focus of the film; a struggling single mother, she’s forced to uproot her family and move to Summerville when they get evicted from their flat. She has a very bitter, cynical, and sarcastic outlook on life; she resents her father for abandoning her and her kids and becoming such a fanatical recluse, and dismisses him entirely because of her strong feelings of abandonment. Because her father chose his obsession and his scientific experiments over her and others, Callie is far from interested in science, which causes a rift between her and Phoebe; Callie advises Phoebe not to be herself so that she can make friends better, which is pretty terrible advice, and it’s implied that she might be heading towards alcoholism, but it’s also clear that she’s hanging on by a thread and has a huge emotional void in her heart where her father’s love should be. Phoebe does find another adult figure to relate to, though, in the form of Gary Grooberson (Rudd), a lackadaisical high school teacher, seismologist, and Ghostbusters fan; Gary encourages Phoebe’s scientific curiosity and aptitude and is excited at the chance to get his hand son some Ghostbusters tech. he brings the kids (and the unknowing audience) up to speed with the Ghostbusters and the days when ghosts used to roam around unhindered, which has been long forgotten due to the passage of time. He strikes up a bit of a romance with Callie, and is generally a supportive and enthusiastic and positive influence, but again doesn’t really factor too directly into the plot until the final act when things start ramping up.
The Nitty-Gritty: I think one thing to keep in mind going into Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it’s very different from the first two Ghostbusters films; for starters it’s set in a small town in the middle of nowhere rather than the busy streets of New York City. Second, it’s focused more on the kids and exploring their characters and reactions to their family lineage, especially Phoebe, who we see grow from an awkward young girl into a far more confident budding Ghostbuster thanks to applying her scientific acumen to her grandfather’s long-unused technology. And, finally, it’s much more concerned with slowly refamiliarizing us with the Ghostbusters world than actually depicting the frantic and fun-filled bustin’ of ghosts. It takes about an hour or so for Phoebe to fix up a proton pack, Trevor to repair the Eco-1, and the four characters to chase down and capture their first ghost and, although Summerville is literally sitting right on top of a tumultuous death pit full of ghosts just waiting to escape into the world, restless spirits that need snapping up aren’t really a focus of the film.
That’s not to say that there aren’t ghosts or ghouls to contend with; Ghostbusters: Afterlife circles back around to Ivo Shandor, a mysterious and fanatical figure briefly mentioned in the first film who was a devout follower of Gozer and built up a cult and temples in her/his honour. Shandor is responsible for building and founding the entire town and economy of Summerville, and his legacy is something of a local legend as his miners and workers spontaneously all committed suicide decades ago. Given Shandor’s devotion to Gozer, it’s little surprise to find that the mine hides a temple to the demented eldritch being, and as a result the film not only massively borrows from the original movie’s soundtrack and technology but also its monsters. Terror Dogs make a return in the film, hunting down two unwilling hosts in a bid to unite the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper and awaken their master, and Gary is attacked by one of these dogs and some adorable little “Mini Puffs” while in Wal-Mart. These miniature, mischievous versions of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man are used more for comedic purposes and cause trouble in Wal-Mart and by sabotaging a proton pack at a critical moment, and the main ghost of the film, the Muncher, is basically an altered version of the famous Slimer meaning that the looming threat of ghosts and Gozer’s potential return is more prevalent than the spirits themselves. It was, however, very much appreciated to see practical effects and animatronics used here and there, especially with the Terror Dogs, and I can’t fault the inclusion of the classic proton packs, jump suits, gadgets, and beat-up car.
Far more integral to the plot and the characters is the reputation of former Ghostbuster Egon Spengler; although Harold Ramis sadly passed before Bill Murray could get his shit together and sign off on a proper third film, a combination of darkness, a body double (Bob Gunton), and CGI allow his character to make a brief appearance at the beginning of the film, where we see he has exiled himself to a dilapidated farmhouse in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Gozer and prevent his/her return to the world. After learning of her true lineage, Phoebe is both enamoured by her grandfather’s genius and former heroics and curious to find out how he fell so far from grace; her curiosity leads her to contacting Ray Stanz (Dan Ackroyd), still working at Ray’s Occult Books, who bitterly reveals that work dried up soon after they took care of Gozer and that Egon left the team in financial ruin after stealing Ecto-1 and all of their equipment in service of his ravings about the building apocalypse. Although Ray expresses regret at Egon’s recent death, he bitterly reveals that the Ghostbusters parted ways after Egon left and that none of them believed his claims that Gozer was prophesised to return, which works in terms of setting up the overall plot but I found to be a little sad and out of character. I’m not sure why Ray, of all people, would ever doubt Egon’s intelligence, no matter how manic his personality became, and it’s disheartening to see so many characters mock or disregard Egon as simple a mad hermit. Thankfully, Phoebe retains her belief in her late grandfather and goes out of her way, even putting herself in repeated danger, to prove that he wasn’t some crazy old man.
This all comes to a head in the final act and the film’s finale; Phoebe and the others discover that Egon was perfectly on the money, and that the temple beneath Summerville houses a death pit full of restless spirits eager to burst forth and only held at bay by an intricate proton pack system setup by Egon. Essentially, Egon has been pushing back the apocalypse and preparing for Gozer’s return for about thirty years, but Gary’s enthusiasm for Phoebe’s ghost trap and the characters’ overall ignorance regarding the Ghostbusters results in the Terror Dogs possessing him and Callie and birthing the Keymaster and Gatekeeper once more. When Gozer (Olivia Wilde/Shohreh Aghdashloo/Emma Portner) finally returns, spirits briefly over-run Summerville but the focus is more on Phoebe completing Egon’s plan to lure the Gozerian to a dirt field lined with numerous ghost traps. Although Gozer is easily able to fend off the kids, they get some last-minute assistance from Ray, Doctor Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), who show up for the finale to confront their old foe. Thankfully, they’re just as bungling as ever and, rather than swooping in for a last second save, Gozer uncrosses their streams and is finally undone by the efforts of the new generation of Ghostbusters. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the finale is the incorporeal appearance of Egon, who makes an emotional appearance as a ghost to help Phoebe aim her proton stream and reconcile with his friends and family. It definitely tugs at the heartstrings but I can’t help but think that maybe the film lingers a little too long on Egon’s unnervingly silent ghostly form, and while its fantastic to see the original actors back in their iconic roles, they do end up just being gratuitous cameos. It’s definitely a triumphant moment and a great return to form, but it’s also undeniably the three going through their most famous motions and lines and, seemingly, passing the torch to the kids rather than adding something new beyond regret at how their relationship with Egon ended.
The Summary: Anticipation was high for Ghostbusters: Afterlife; when you are forced to wait decades for a third film in a franchise, it’s inevitable that you’ll be meeting a new generation of characters and potentially seeing a new direction for the series. Ghostbusters: Afterlife definitely falls into these categories, being primarily an entirely different beast than the previous two films and reintroducing the concept of the Ghostbusters to a new, younger audience through far younger characters. While there isn’t much for Trevor or Lucky to do, Podcast is a notable highlight and makes use of every scene he’s in to make an impression, and Phoebe absolutely carries the heart and emotion of the story on her back. She’s an interesting character, being curious and introverted and logical but still full of that wide-eyed, childish inquisitiveness to make her a compelling character and the clear highlight of the movie. By the time the third act rolls around, the call-backs and references to the first film become far more prominent, but the film still does enough things differently to stand on tis own two feet. The problem may be that perhaps it does a little too much differently, being a very different film to its predecessors and focusing far ore on characters and legacy and rediscovering the past rather than actually going out and bustin’ ghosts. It’s great seeing the returning score, technology, gadgets, and characters but I can’t help but feel maybe a little ore ghost action would have helped bolster the plot and the film’s pace and given characters like Trevor a bit more to do rather than just stumble along until they hook back up with the more plot-relevant Phoebe.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Have you seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife? What did you think to the new characters and which of the kids was your favourite? Which of the call-backs, references, and cameos was your favourite? Do you think a third Ghostbusters film would have worked better a few decades ago or was even necessary or was it worth the wait for you? Did you like that the film delved a little deeper into Ivo Shandor or would you have preferred a more unique antagonist for the finale? Would you like to see another film with the characters, maybe something a little more in line with a traditional Ghostbusters film? Whatever your thoughts on Ghostbusters: Afterlife, sign up to drop a comment down below or leave a comment on my social media.
Throw on your proton pack and get ready to bust some ghosts because June 8th is, officially, “Ghostbusters Day”! Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) was first released on this day back in 1984 and, since then, has become a majorpopculture franchise that includes comic books, a popular cartoon and line of action figures, and videogames and it is, easily, one of my favourite films and franchises from that era.
Released: 8 June 1984 Director: Ivan Reitman Distributor: Columbia Pictures Budget: $25 to 30 million Stars: Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and William Atherton
The Plot: After being fired from Columbia University, four bungling scientists put their research into the paranormal to use as supernatural exterminators of ghosts and ghouls across New York City. However, while a government official attempts to prove them frauds and shut them down, they soon discover that an ancient God of Destruction is gearing up to wreck havoc across the city…and the world!
The Background: Ghostbusters was the brainchild of actor Dan Aykroyd, who originally wrote the script (which also went through a number of slightly different titles) as a vehicle for himself, Eddie Murphy, and close friend John Belushi before the latter’s untimely passing. After Aykroyd settled on Ivan Reitman as the director, Reitman brought Harold Ramis onboard to star and rework the script into something they could realistically film, with the group casting Bill Murray soon after and specifically tailoring the script to the three actors’ strengths, characteristics, and ironing out the special effects sequences.
Despite concerns from Reitman regarding the film’s ridiculous finale, Ghostbusters tracked well with test audiences and, upon release, finished as the number one movie for the weekend and made nearly $230 million by the end of its release, an incredible achievement considering the comparatively minuscule budget. A subsequent re-release in 1985 saw the worldwide gross hit nearly $240 million and established Ghostbusters as the most successful comedy of the 1980s. Reviews were, accordingly, extremelypositive, with the film winning many awards and launching a multimedia enterprise that included an under-ratedsequel and numerous other projects.
The Review: Ghostbusters is a brisk, well-paced horror/comedy that immediately establishes its semi-realistic world right from the beginning before introducing us to our three main characters. The first of the Ghostbusters we meet is Doctor Peter Venkman (Murray), a lackadaisical scientist to say the least who uses his research as an excuse to get out of doing any real work and to try and impress women. He’s the sarcastic, cynical, loud-mouthed member of the team and, as Dana Barratt (Weaver) points out, is more of a con man than an actual scientist. At the same time, though, he’s the most socially conscious and capable of his fellow scientists, being much more street smart and handling a lot of the Ghostbusters’ press and advertising.
Of course, you can make the case that Venkman is little more than a womanising, egotistic prick; a creep who literally chases every pretty face he sees and who has, despite his many legitimate degrees, literally no idea of what he’s doing or how to work his equipment. He is, as his former dean states, “A poor scientist” and, as Dana astutely observes, more like a gameshow host than a paranormal expert. Still, despite my dislike for Murray and his attitude towards the franchise after the sequel, it’s hard to deny that Venkman is the breakout character of the group thanks to his greedy, outspoken, snarky personality; where the other Ghostbusters maintain a degree of professionalism and awkwardness, Venkman is loud, arrogant, and ballsy and the most candid of the group.
Doctor Ray Stanz (Akyroyd), meanwhile, is the overly enthusiastic heart of the group; without Ray, there would be no Ghostbusters since he’s the one who really drives their research and cause forward. Ray, however, is quite naïve and easily distracted by his passion for the paranormal; he is crushed when they are kicked out of the university but extremely excited to be putting their research into practise as the Ghostbusters and remains, despite the often dire nature of their situation, the general optimist. It is fitting, then, that since Ray is the heart of the Ghostbusters, it’s Ray who ultimately (accidentally) causes the Ghostbusters to face their ultimate threat as he’s unable to clear his mind when they’re forced to “choose the form of the Destructor”. Even knowing this, Ray attempts to think of the most harmless thing possible, a cherished memory from his childhood, and instead causes a hundred-foot-tall marshmallow man to rampage through downtown New York.
Doctor Egon Spengler (Ramis), meanwhile, is the pragmatist of the three; he’s the most clearly intellectual and rational of the Ghostbusters, rarely letting his emotions rule him, but he’s not just a mere stick in the mud. He is as excited as Ray about the presence of ghosts and the potential their organisation has and has many more subtle moments where he really shines, such as his love for Twinkies, snappy one-liners (“I looked at the trap, Ray!” and his cry of “Your mother!” always gets a chuckle out me me), and his sly indications to Venkman to up the charge for their services to the Sedgewick Hotel’s manager.
The Ghostbusters are (eventually) rounded out by Winston Zeddemore (Hudson); if you forgot about Winston, I wouldn’t blame you since Hudson’s name and image is missing from practically all of the film’s promotional materials and that’s a real shame since he’s my second favourite character after Ray. Winston isn’t a scientist; he’s just a normal, everyday working man who joins the team when they expand their operation and, through him, we get a relatable character who voices many of the concerns and questions we may have with an entertaining bluntness. Winston also brings a unique perspective to the group by being a religious man; he approaches their work not from a scientific perspective but as that of a man exorcising awakened spirits yet, when faced with claims of the Ghostbusters’ legitimacy, passionately advocates for the reality of their work with one of my favourite lines in the film: “I have seen shit that will turn you white!”
A prominent sub-plot in the film revolves around Dana, her encounters with Zuul’s minions, and Venkman’s subsequent attempts to flirt and impress her. Dana is a refreshingly strong and candid character; she doesn’t really believe in the supernatural, but the experience rattles her, forcing her to turn to the Ghostbusters, and she puts up with absolutely none of Venkman’s shit. She’s strong and independent, easily able to deter unwanted advances from the likes of Venkman and Louis Tulley (Moranis), and only ends up needing to be rescued because she gets possessed and, even then, this transforms her more into a secondary antagonist than a damsel in distress. Despite what is initially a purely superficial attraction to her, Venkman comes to respect Dana and more seriously, honestly pursue her; when he finds her possessed by the “Zuul, the Gatekeeper”, he sets aside his normally cavalier personality to subdue her and seems genuinely concerned for her wellbeing.
Despite dealing with an increasing number of ghosts and ghouls, the Ghostbusters also face the most dangerous threat of all: governmental red tape in the form of Walter Peck (Atherton), a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency. Peck is deeply sceptical of the Ghostbusters and their operation, believing them to be frauds and con artists but, to be fair, he only becomes an unbearable antagonistic character after Venkman gives him the run-around; had Venkman simply co-operated, things might have gone down a lot different and less disastrously. Still, it’s from Venkman’s rudeness that we see, arguably, Peck’s true nature as a slimy, rotten, manipulative little git who uses every resource at his disposal to shut down the Ghostbusters no matter what the consequences are despite the fact that he really doesn’t know anything about the Ghostbusters’ operation or equipment.
One of the main appealing aspects of Ghostbusters is the goofy humour; while this is largely embodied by the three main cast members, it is Louis who fills the primary role of comic relief thanks to his clumsy, ungainly personality. Mostly an annoyance to Dana, Louis is a perpetual loser who throws parties for his clients rather than friends and is like a hyperactive dog who doesn’t know when to quit and Moranis really brings a quirky hilarity to the character when Louis is possessed by “Vince Glortho, Keymaster of Gozer” and begins running around the city spouting nonsense and talking to horses. Similarly, Ray, Egon, and Peter sneaking around in the library bantering back and forth is highly entertaining, as is their panicked fleeing when the Librarian Ghost attacks them. It’s not all goofball humour, though; much of the comedy comes from simple line delivery, particularly from Venkman and Janine Melnitz (Potts) thanks to their dry delivery and snarky ab-libs. The cast all gel so well together that it’s easy to believe that they are long-term friends and colleagues who are more like a dysfunctional family; they’re bungling fools at times, often making stuff up as they go along and playing it by ear, but they’re not incompetent fools and there’s a difference. Like, for example, they might not have had a successful live field test of their unlicensed nuclear accelerators and are, in all likelihood, operating an extremely volatile operation in the middle of the city, but they’re still smart and capable enough to construct all of their equipment, to say nothing of fixing up the fire station and the frankly scrap-worthy hearse Ray secures as their vehicle.
The Nitty-Gritty: Ghostbusters immediately establishes its world with an effective opening sequence that shows that, yes, ghosts are real and they are infrequently haunting buildings throughout New York City. One thing that is, seemingly, often forgotten about Ghostbusters is the truly creepy and terrifying elements of the film amidst its humour and the Librarian Ghost is our first exposure to that but this is only escalated later in the film with more monstrous ghosts and creature designs.
Ghostbusters has a fantastic, timeless quality to it thanks to its masterful use of practical effects and traditional special effects work; ghosts are all unique and increasingly gruesome, being semi-transparent and slightly cartoony in their appearance but it works because they’re meant to be otherworldly spirits of a somewhat horrific nature. Similarly, the Ghostbuster’s equipment all looks suitably cobbled together and their proton streams are given an ethereal tangibility thanks to a combination of special and practical effects (sparks fly from the proton wand and explosions and scorch marks are left behind by the proton stream).
The score really helps towards emphasising the film’s more terrifying moments, most of them revolving around Dana, such as when eggs spontaneously begin to fry on her kitchen counter, her apartment is drenched in ectoplasm, and her various encounters with the Terror Dogs (with her abduction being particularly horrific). These monstrous Hellhounds are truly horrifying and are brought to life through a combination of (admittedly terrible) stop motion effects and practical animatronics. When a practical effect, the Terror Dogs are disturbingly scary, dripping with saliva and menace and help to place Ghostbusters as one of many films of the time to really push the boundaries of the PG rating.
Of course, the film’s most impressive effect is the absolutely ridiculous Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Up until the Stay-Puft’s appearance, the film plays its humour and concept mostly straight and realistic, but the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man flips that entirely on its head. It’s a hilarious sequence where the intended and much-feared “Destructor” is forced into the most absurd form possible and, as Mr. Stay-Puft stomps through the middle of New York City as only suits, camera trickery, and miniatures can deliver, it’s both comical and alarming to think that the end of human life could come from such a cute, ludicrous being.
The Summary: I grew up watching Ghostbusters; it was one of the quintessential movies of my childhood that helped shape my love for cinema and big, special effects sci-fi/horror productions. As such, I have a great deal of fondness, nostalgia, and respect for the film but, even with all that aside, Ghostbusters is an effortlessly entertaining piece of cinema that, honestly, has everything you could want from a film. It’s funny, scary, enjoyable, charming, and appealing on so many levels, with some amazing old school special effects, great cinematography, and a fun and varied soundtrack, with the film becoming instantly iconic for Ray Parker Jr’s award-winning theme song alone. What I love the most about Ghostbusters, despite the great effects and unique premise, is how naturally organic all of the humour is; the leads have a realistic and appealing banter with each other that makes them instantly likeable and they bicker and trade snarky barbs like old friends. Even better is the fact that, unlike the much-maligned 2016 reboot, almost none, if any, of the humour is gender-based; the only character who’s slightly deplorable is Venkman and neither the film, nor its humour, is geared towards one gender over another. Instead, the humour is largely simple banter that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone rather than always taking the lowest possible route and relying on crude toilet humour and gender-based insults. If anything, Ghostbusters is more an amusing commentary on politics and governmental bodies and even those aspects aren’t so explicit that they take over the film, making it a fun comedy/horror that appeals to everyone and remains highly recommended.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
What are your thoughts on Ghostbusters? Were you a fan of the film back in the day? Which of the four Ghostbusters was/is your favourite? What did you think to the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and the film’s premise? Perhaps you grew up with the cartoon and action figures; if so, what memories do you have of them? How are you celebrating Ghostbusters Day today? Whatever your thoughts and memories of Ghostbusters, drop a comment down below.
Released: March 2011 Developer: Behaviour Santiago Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox One
The Background: Ever since the release of Ghostbusters(Reitman, 1984), the concept of four somewhat-bumbling New York parapsychologists running around zapping and trapping troublesome spirits has seen some significant success as a franchise. We’ve had the under-ratedsequel, a reboot that was met with middling to less-than-favourable reviews, a couple of cartoons, a whole slew of action figures and comic books, and, of course, videogames. A few years after the release of Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009) was released, Atari made the…interesting decision to follow-up with a straight-to-digital twin-stick shooter rather than continue the adventures of the titular Ghostbusters after the decent reception of that aforementioned, semi-official continuation of the film franchise.
The Plot: Some time after the events of Ghostbusters II (Reitman, 1989), the Ghostbusters have been run ragged by an influx of supernatural occurrences through the city. Hiring in four new team members, the Ghostbusters send their rookies out to investigate a disturbance and, soon, the greenhorns stumble upon a plot to summon an ancient evil once more.
Gameplay: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is a one to four player, top down twin stick shooter reminiscent of the awesome old arcade game Smash TV (Williams, 1990); no matter which of the new Ghostbusters you choose to play as, or whether you’re playing alone or with friends, you’ll bust various ghosts and other supernatural entities in a constant team of four.
The controls of Sanctum of Slime couldn’t be simpler; you control your Ghostbuster with the left analogue stick, fire your Proton Pack with the right, and switch to your different Proton Streams with the Left and/or Right Trigger. When a team mate is downed by an attack, you can revive them by rapidly tapping A and they will do the same to you, with surprising speed and efficiency. Your computer-controlled allies are extremely capable and helpful, to be honest; they’ll constantly blasts ghosts with Proton Streams, resuscitate you and the others as a priority, and are generally much more comfortable at navigating the game’s limited areas than you will be. Technically, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the game’s controls or settings, there’s just not a lot to it; your character controls quite well, being just slippery enough to move at a decent speed but a dash function would have been appreciated.
You and each of your team mates come equipped with a life bar, unlimited lives, and unlimited continues; should you fall in battle and your fellow ‘Busters also be defeated before they can revive you, you can simply continue from the last autosave checkpoint. Unfortunately, these are often placed before gauntlets and boss battles, which can end up with you having to slog through some of the game’s more difficult and frustrating battles again and again as it seems your health can get drained in anywhere from three to one hits with little consistency. There are four playable characters in Sanctum of Slime but there is absolutely no difference between each of the new Ghostbusters other than cosmetic; why the developers felt the need to bring in four completely new characters is beyond me as their word balloon dialogue could easily have been taken up by the original foursome and it doesn’t really add that much to the plot or the lore to bring in four new faces. Even more disappointing is the fact that you can’t even unlock the original Ghostbusters as skins (or anything else for that matter) to play as.
As you explore the game’s familiar surroundings (we’re back at the Sedgewick Hotel again, a haunted graveyard, and other locations that were rendered far more impressively in Ghostbusters: The Video Game), you can destroy various aspects of the environment with your Proton Stream. Doing so adds to your score and you can gain additional points by reviving your team mates, destroying ghosts, capturing the bosses, and grabbing various power-ups. The score is merely for bragging rights, however, as the team’s performance is ranked (well…not exactly “ranked”…more tallied, I guess) at the end of each mission but you don’t get anything special for getting the highest score. There are no difficulty settings for Sanctum of Slime; the game gets progressively challenging as you venture along, throwing more and bigger ghosts at you and filling the screen with red, blue, and yellow spirits that force you to quickly switch between your three different Proton Streams extremely quickly. This isn’t so bad and things progress quite well until you reach the fittingly-named “Gates of Hell” mission, which sees you having to endure seemingly-endless waves of the game’s most difficult enemies, desperately trying to avoid damage and revive your team mates before you get wrecked and have to restart all over again. As if this wasn’t frustrating and annoying enough, my game crashed on me a few times during one of the more difficult of these gauntlets, which only added to the aggravation in this mission.
Graphics and Sound: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is pretty basic in terms of its presentation; each area is rendered quite well but there’s not much definition in the character models. This is to be expected considering the perspective the game employs and, clearly, the developers put more effort into rendering the game’s numerous colourful and unique spooks and spirits. Honestly, you’re not going to get the same level of graphical quality as in Ghostbusters: The Video Game or most double-to-triple-A titles and nowhere is this more evident in the fact that there are only a handful of environments to explore. You’ll revisit the same locations in the game’s later missions and maybe they’ve been altered a bit and you battle more difficult ghosts but while the game lacks much in the way of level or graphical variety, for a budget digital-only game, Sanctum of Slime does a decent enough job; you simply move from location to location, busting ghosts and trying to stay on your feet and the game’s pacing is fast and frantic enough where you won’t be stopping to examine the intricacies of the little details.
The game’s plot is told using comic book-like cutscenes that use word balloons and the very basics of animation to tell its story; this isn’t necessarily a problem, and you can skip through them (which is always welcome, though you need to watch them all to earn an Achievement), but their visual style clashes somewhat with the more semi-realistic aesthetic of the in-game graphics. Similarly, you’ll hear a bunch of familiar Ghostbusters tunes and sounds in Sanctum of Slime, all of which are ripped or heavily inspired from the first movie to, which adds to the game’s authenticity.
Enemies and Bosses: As you blast your way through the game’s twelve missions, you’ll come up against all kinds of ghosts, spirits, and supernatural entities. You’ve got the bog-standard flaming skulls, bellhops and chefs who throw luggage and knives at you, respectively, and a whole slew of different slime-born creatures ranging from spiders, to giant hands, to huge, mud-like monstrosities.
These basically act as mini bosses, of a sort, as they can decimate you and your team mates in no time at all; as if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re often accompanied by flying gargoyles that spit fireballs at you and a slew of other smaller, more generic spooks. When locked into an area, you’ll generally be tasked with clearing the immediate vicinity out of any ghosts present or enduring a frustrating gauntlet that can wipe you and your team mates out in seconds if you’re not careful.
You’ll also come up against some bigger bosses; like most of the other enemies, these have a health bar that must be whittled down with your Proton Streams but, unlike the other enemies, bosses have a far bigger bar and have numerous phases and methods of attack. Whether by coincidence or design, a few of the bosses are extremely reminiscent of those seen in Ghostbusters: The Video Game; you’ll once again find yourself in the kitchen of the Sedgewick battling a demonic chef and tackling demonic spider in a nest of webs, for example (though, to be fair, this latter boss at least looks significantly different).
There are some more original bosses to contend with, though, such as a monstrous, dragon-like possessed subway train and a massive stone gargoyle. However, Sanctum of Slime commits one of the cardinal sins of videogames but having you battle through all the bosses you previously bested before reaching the game’s final boss (which, as in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, involves battling a possessed avatar and the game’s principal antagonist, Dumazu the Destroyer). Ultimately, none of the bosses pose that much of a problem; you simply keep your distance, keep pouring on the heat, chipping away at their health until they are weak enough for you to toss a trap, and then all that’s left is for you to win a quick-time event and the boss is trapped forever. The final boss itself is large and intimidating and can swipe, incinerate, and crush you and your team mates with ease but, for the most part, its pretty simply to stay out of danger and cycle through your Proton Streams to whittle its health down to nothing.
Power-Ups and Bonuses: Every time you destroy an enemy, you’ll earn points; after clearing some areas of ghosts, you can pick various power-ups to increase your score (such as a cash bonus or cash multiplier) but what you really want are the full health and invincibility power-ups, which are few and far between and often dropped by blasting Slimer when he floats into the area.
When you start the game, you’re equipped only with the basic Proton Pack and a trap, which you can only use in boss battles. Once you reach the second mission, you’ll receive your first Proton Pack upgrade (the Fermion Shock) and, upon reaching the sewers (because Ghostbusters videogames love a good sewer level), you’ll get the third and final upgrade, the Plasma Inductor. Essentially, these are just different coloured beams or bolts for you to shoot out; the Proton Stream fires in an inexhaustible beam and is most effective against red-coloured ghosts, the Fermion Shock fires out in waves and damages yellows ghosts, and the Plasma Inductor fires blue bolts that rebound off walls and are best used against blue-coloured ghosts.
You can’t upgrade any of these or spend your points/cash on anything to increase your performance, meaning you’ve pretty much seen everything the game has on offer by the fourth mission. To break up the monotony of the constant ghostbusting, a fifth rookie comes and picks your team up in the ECTO-4WD, a jeep-like vehicle that you have absolutely no control over; you simply sit in the back and blast at ghosts as the vehicle races at break-neck speed through a questionably-rendered New York City.
Additional Features: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime comes with a handful of Achievements for you to earn; honestly, the amount of offer is quite disappointing and the developers simply opted for having you earn them by doing mundane tasks such as beating the first level, the entire game, reviving team mates twenty times, or making it through online with three other players. Yes, the game supports both couch and online co-op and is probably a lot more fun with a few more friends to play alongside. Considering one of my gripes with Ghostbusters: The Video Game was that it foolishly didn’t include a co-op mode for the main campaign so it’s good to see that corrected here but, unfortunately, the game isn’t anywhere near as much fun. Scattered throughout each mission (with the exception of the racing missions and certain boss battles) are a number of collectables; unlike in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, these are all little Stay Puft Marshmallow Men and all you get for collecting them all is an Achievement. They don’t unlock any concept art or skins and the only way to expand upon the main game is to purchase the downloadable content, which consists of a bunch of items for your Xbox avatar and a Challenge Pack that offers you the chance to play completely alone or with a limited number of lives through the game’s more challenging missions.
The Summary: Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime is simple, frantic fun; it’s a cheap, digital-only title so you can’t really expect too much from it but, having said that, I have played similar games that have a lot more going for them. Dead Nation (Housemarque/Climax Studios, 2010), for example, is strikingly similar in its execution and presentation but has far more depth to it; in comparison, Sanctum of Slime seems like it was rushed out by Atari simply to maintain the Ghostbusters licence. While there is a lot of arcade style fun to have with Sanctum of Slime, there are a lot of missed opportunities; just adding skins for the original characters or their animated counterparts would have been nice (or, you know, using those familiar characters in the first place) but there also could have been an actual upgrade system or some reason for you to get all those points and collectables. Instead, you’re left with a short, relatively inoffensive little game that is good for a few hours of mindless action but you’re unlikely to come back to it again unless you can find a few other people to play alongside.
Rating: 1 out of 5.
What did you think of Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime? Which of the original Ghostbusters and the lame new ones introduced in this game is your favourite? Which Ghostbusters videogame do you have fond, or bad, memories of? Do you think it’s time for a new co-op Ghostbusters videogame? Whatever you think about this game, or Ghostbusters in general, drop a comment below.
Released: 4 October 2019 (Hey! That’s my birthday!) Originally Released: 16 June 2009 Developer: Saber Interactive Original Developer: Terminal Reality / Red Fly Studio Also Available For: Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, and Xbox 360
The Background: Ghostbusters, as a franchise, has always had a bit of a chaotic history; the original Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984) went through numerous rewrites and changes of concept to get the project off the ground, the under-rated sequel, Ghostbusters II (ibid, 1989), failed to match the critical or financial success of its predecessor and has been largely (unfairly) written off by cast, crew, and fans, and the difficulties stars and writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had in getting a long-awaited third film into development eventually led to an all-female reboot in 2016, whose scathing reception finally led to an official continuation being green lit for release at some point next year. Personally, I blame a lot of this on star Bill Murray; Aykroyd and Ramis fought to produce a true third film for years, turning in all kinds of different scripts and concepts, only for Murray to balk at every suggestion and hold production back.
Somewhere in that void, though, Atari announced that they were working on a new Ghostbusters videogame, one that would revisit a lot of the undeveloped ideas for the unproduced Ghostbusters III and even, after some back and forth with Murray (obviously), managed to reunite the four main characters of the movies for what is largely considered to be the third Ghostbusters movie…but in videogame form! I first played Ghostbusters: The Video Game on the PlayStation 3 and remembered enjoying it for its fidelity to the original movies; having the four main cast members back, featuring the same locations, music, and aesthetics, all gave the game a sheen of quality largely missing from other similar videogame tie-ins. Yet, for whatever reason, I got rid of the game shortly after completing it and always regretted that decision so, when the remastered version was announced for Xbox One, I jumped at the chance to revisit the game and try to figure out what it was that kept me from keeping the game in my library the first go around.
The Plot: Some time after the events of Ghostbusters II, the Ghostbusters are universally lauded and have an official contract with New York City to conduct their business. However, when a supernatural energy pulse emanates from the Gozer exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, ghosts begin to increase in frequency and, alongside a new recruit, the titular Ghostbusters find themselves facing off Ivo Shandor, who seeks to merge the Ghostworld with the real world.
Gameplay: Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is a third-person shooter, of sorts, in which the player takes control of an unnamed new Ghostbusters (generally referred to simply as “Rookie” or some variation). The Rookie is given the…honour?…of lugging around the Ghostbusters’ new experimental tech, doing all the team’s heavy lifting, and generally being sent in to investigate disturbances first to reduce the risks faced by the team. As you might expect, given the nature of the franchise, your primary goal is to use the Ghostbusters’ patented Proton Pack to fire a stream of nuclear-charged protonic energy at various ghosts, whittling their health down until they are ready to be trapped in a small mechanical box.
When ensnaring a ghost, you have to keep an eye on the steadily rising bar on your Proton Pack; if you simply hold down the R trigger with reckless abandon, your Proton Pack will overheat and you’ll be left vulnerable while you wait for it to recharge. Therefore, it’s advisable to press the R button to vent the pack and keep your Proton Stream going strong; basically, it’s like a reload function in a shooter. Once the ghost is worn down and in your Proton Stream, you can slam it to weaken it further or force it into a trap but you need to be careful that you don’t cross your stream with those of the other Ghostbusters as you’ll get blown on your ass. Once you successfully trap the ghost, you’ll earn in-game currency that is used to buy new upgrades for your Proton Pack to make catching and trapping ghosts slightly easier. I say “slightly” because the main issue with trapping ghosts is that the game doesn’t have an auto-lock on or any kind of lock-on feature, basically meaning your Proton Stream goes flying all over the place and can be extremely difficult to aim and keep trained on a ghost, especially as the fly around the game’s locations.
When you’re not trapping ghosts, you’re tasked with exploring your surroundings, many of which are extremely faithful recreations from the first Ghostbusters movie. You can do this in third-person mode, where you’re able to sprint and blast at a whole host of destructible items, or switch to a first-person mode, equipping both the Psychokinetic Energy Meter (P.K.E. Meter) and the Ecto Goggles in the process. In this mode, you’ll scan your environment; when the P.K.E. Meter turns red, a ghost is nearby and you can hold the R trigger to scan it and learn its weaknesses to aid you. When the meter turns blue, it means you’re close to one of the game’s many Cursed Artefacts, which can be collected to add bonus items to the Ghostbusters’ firehouse and earn you a couple of Achievements. This mode is very similar to the forced first-person perspective of Resident Evil: Revelations (Capcom, 2012) or the detective vision from the Batman: Arkham series (Various, 2009 to present) in that, since it’s your only real indication of where you need to go thanks to the game lacking a traditional map, you’ll be spending a great deal of your time either in scan mode or flipping in and out of it to scan every ghost you encounter. Personally, I feel the developers could have incorporated the P.K.E. Meter function into the game’s heads-up display, placing it in the bottom left corner and having it light up whenever something of interest was near so that you spend more of your time in third-person mode but, once you’ve scanned everything you need to scan and know where you need to go, you’ll probably not be switching to this mode in future playthroughs.
The Rookie is portrayed as fairly clumsy in the game’s charming cutscenes but, in-game, he’s generally quite competent; his health is measured on the side of the Proton Pack and, whenever you start to take too much damage, the screen will flash and turn red, so it’s best to use the B button to awkwardly hop out of harm’s way or find some cover until your health replenishes. If you or any of your Ghostbuster allies take too much damage, you’ll need to be revived or revive them yourself, respectively; if you’re all incapacitated, the mission is failed and you’ll have to reload your last checkpoint. There are a couple of drawbacks to this: one quite crucial one is the your character can sometimes be incapacitated in just one or two hits, leaving you at the mercy of your computer-controlled allies, and another is that there is never an onscreen indicator of when the game is auto-saving so, when you die, you could be sent all the way back to the start of the mission or you could be sent back to right outside the last door you entered. It’s also doubly frustrating that the game has such long loading screens; considering this version is supposed to be optimised for the Xbox One, I don’t expect to be sitting there for a minute or two while the game struggles to load up my last checkpoint.
When you’re not busting ghosts, exploring your environment, or scanning your surroundings, you’re tasked with solving a few rudimentary puzzles. Generally, these are as simple as crossing a room and activating a switch but, often, some kind of obstruction will require the use of your Proton Pack and other attachments to clear the way, such as moving an electrified wire out of water, clearing slime or vines, activating a winch, or yanking open doors with your slime tether. The game can be a bit obtuse with telling you exactly what you need to do, though; there’s a part in the sewer where you need to clear out the black slime so you can proceed further and there’s literally nothing to tell you to use your slime tether on the weights next to the gate. Later, when on Shandor’s Island, I was faced with a locked door; Egon Spengler (Ramis) helpfully said something like “Do what I do!” but all he was doing was standing still. I am not ashamed to admit that it took me a good couple of minutes to spot the seemingly-obvious stairs that led down to the hedge maze, and the solution to this puzzle, below.
The main appeal of Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is that it is chock full of attention to detail, little Easter Eggs, and call-backs to all the best and most beloved moments of the first movie. For me, though, this is a double-edged sword as, while the game clearly acknowledges and takes place after the second movie, everything about the game is geared towards it being more of a Ghostbusters 1.5 or a “real” Ghostbusters II as the characters are all modelled after their appearances in the first movie (despite looking different in the second), the music is all ripped straight from the first movie’s fantastic soundtrack, and very little of the game revolves around any of the fallout of the second movie beyond the inclusion of slime. It almost feels like the developers should have simply had the opening mission of the game be a flashback to the events of the first movie and then just presented the rest of the game as taking place between the two films or in place of the second as, while the game’s narrative just about line up, it’s clearly more geared towards paying homage to the first, more popular movie.
Graphics and Sound: Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered is a bit of a mixed bag: on the one hand, the game’s locations, ghosts, bosses, and in-game models look amazing but, on the other, the game’s pre-rendered cutscenes (and even those that use the in-game models) leave a lot to be desired.
In its first mission, the game takes the team back to the Sedgewick Hotel from the first movie, which is recreated in stunning detail. Here, you’ll explore these familiar surroundings and then engage in an extremely faithful recreation of the Ghostbusters’ first encounter with Slimer before heading out into Times Square, making your way up a building, and battling the reborn Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Another mission takes you make to the New York Public Library to settle up with the Librarian Ghost from the first film and, between missions, you’ll get to freely wander around the Ghostbusters’ firehouse. All of these familiar locations are recreated in meticulous detail, ripped straight from the first movie, and really make it feel as though you are playing a true Ghostbusters videogame.
The game then expands upon its locations considerably, transporting the team to the Lovecraftian Ghostworld, where spirits and spectres roam freely, a nightmarish version of Central Park, dilapidated cemeteries, a suitably Gothic and haunted island, and even a hellish version of the ghost dimension. While many of these locations are quite linear (you can explore but, more often than not, you’ll just run into a dead end), they are full of little details, lighting effects, and Easter Eggs to find and things to do. Almost everything is destructible, for one thing, and you can interact with certain elements (water fountains, the exhibits in the museum, and others), though, at the same time, environments can feel a little bland and restrictive. The in-game models are pretty much spot-on, though, especially for the ghosts and the Ghostbusters themselves. Despite the faithful recreation of the returning actors, though, the models can end up looking a little bit like action figures; they’re a bit stiff, their eyes tend to get washed out or swallowed up by their faces, and the cutscenes are often a little out of synch.
There’s also a marked difference in quality between the pre-rendered cutscenes and the in-game cutscenes, which is to be expected but, again, I expect more from a remastered version of a videogame. The game’s soundtrack, though, is fantastic; every track is a familiar tune (or heavily based upon tracks) from the first movie (again, no love for the sequel in this regard), which only adds to the immersive experience. The four main actors return to voice their characters and it is amazing to hear them all bantering and bouncing off of one another in true Ghostbusters fashion. It’s just a shame, then, that the game includes this weird glitch where the in-game audio and spoken dialogue will cut out when you wander too far from the group; this kind of makes sense as you’ve moved out of earshot but it can also happen if you stand still and simply rotate the camera and, most embarrassingly of all, often happens mid-way through an in-game cutscene. I also couldn’t help but notice that Bill Murray’s reading of some of his lines felt far less natural as he over- or under-emphasised certain words and generally came across as a complete inept moron, even more so than his character, Peter Venkman, is generally portrayed.
Enemies and Bosses: Given that you’re placed in the shoes of a rookie Ghostbuster, you’ll be spending the majority of your time tracking down and busting ghosts of all shapes and sizes. Your first mission is to recapture Slimer but, from there, you’ll also hunt down all kinds of other spooks, all of them rendered in the same semi-translucent style presented in the movies. Sometimes, you’ll also have to contend with possessed items, such as candlesticks, coffins, and tombstones, which will spring to life and scurry after you and are immune to your traditional Proton Stream.
These minions can’t be trapped and must be dealt with using the other attachments you get to your Proton Pack, meaning they’re far more annoying as enemies as they’ll swarm around you, throwing projectiles your way, and generally keep respawning until you seal off the portal that birthed them. Some ghosts also have the ability to possess nearby non-playable characters or even your fellow Ghostbusters, meaning you’ll have to hose them down with your Mood Slime before you can capture the offending ghosts. Others bring massive statues and suits of armour to life or transform the environment to suit their needs but one thing most of them have in common is that you’ll need to switch to different attachments to whittle them down and they are slippery devils that force you to run around in circles getting pummelled by projectiles and attacks, constantly reviving your teammates or being.
Easily one of the worst enemies in the entire game are the kamikaze cherubs you encounter late into the graveyard mission; these little bastards not only shoot at you with flaming arrows, they also fly at you head-first and explode, dealing massive damage. If that wasn’t enough, you also have to contend with a never-ending slew of possessed gravestones, Ray Stantz being all but useless as a partner character, and the fact that the only way to clear this area is to slam or slime tether the cherubs into a gate. This kind of frustration really brings Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered down; it’s just so inconsistent as one minute you’ll be having a whale of a time busting ghosts and, the next, you’ll be beaten to a pulp in seconds over and over and forced to sit through those long-ass loading screens. This inconsistency is translated into the game’s boss battles as well; after making short work of Slimer and a ghostly fisherman, you’ll do battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and, honestly, the little Marshmallow Minions he spawns throughout the preceding mission are more of a threat than he is! You simply hang from a tether, clear away his minions, and then zap him in the face enough times to turn him into marshmallow mush once more.
The next mission sees you settling the score with the Librarian Ghost, who surrounds herself with a shield to drag the fight out a bit but is nothing compared to Azetlor! This demonic entity is comprised of books and is initially protected by its mask, which you must shoot your Mood Slime at for what feels like an eternity. Once the mask is finally removed, you’ll probably fail the mission almost immediately as Azetlor makes mincemeat out of you and your team mates. Apparently, you’re supposed to dodge into the portals scattered throughout the arena to avoid Azetlor’s attacks and ignore reviving the other Ghostbusters but this never worked for me as, when you enter a portal, you exit it with the controls slightly janky so if you press up on the analogue stick you just jump back through the portal again! Seriously, the boss battle was the most annoying and challenging boss in the entire game, including the game’s final bosses!
Later, you’ll have to chase the Spider Witch around her lair; after dealing enough damage to her, she disappears and you have to desperately follow your P.K.E. Meter to find her before she replenishes too much of her health, making this battle more of a chore than anything. You’ll also encounter a giant Sloar chained up in a dungeon-like sewer, which you must bait into attacking you so you can damage the glowing weak spot on its head. When you reach the finale of the game, you’ll battle against Ivo Shandor himself in a two-stage boss battle. In the first, he has possessed the New York City Mayor and is protecting himself with a green energy shield. You’ll be constantly reviving your team mates as they are either pummelled into submission by the skulls that home in on them (and you) or instantly incapacitated by Shandor’s whirlwinds but, if you blast away at Shandor’s shield with your Mason Collider, he’ll activate four nearby pillars to regenerate his health. Blast each of these in turn and the battle will end, making the most difficult part about this boss simply having enough Ghostbusters alive to see the mission through.
Shandor then assumes a far more demonic form, that of the “Architect”, an enormous Satanic being that forcibly drags you all back to the Ghostworld in a final encounter that is laughably easy compared to some of the bosses and enemies you’ve battled up until that point. Seriously, I had to revive my team mates the least in this battle and never once had to be revived; you simply keep your distance, blasting at Shandor with Boson Darts and, when he moves to the centre of the arena to regenerate, blow up the pillars. Wash, rinse, repeat, and he’s done in no time at all.
Power-Ups and Bonuses: As you progress through the story, you’ll be gifted with additions to your base Proton Pack; you start out with the basic Proton Stream, which can whittle away a ghost’s health, ensnare them, and slam them to help trap them, but soon gain access to additional components. The first are the Boson Darts, highly concentrated bursts of protonic energy that are great for clearing out large swarms of enemies and dealing heavy damage, though you can only use them a couple of times before your Proton Pack overheats. Next, you get equipped with the Dark Matter Generator, which allows you to blast at enemies with a shotgun-like Shock Blast or freeze ghosts in place with the Stasis Stream, both of which can be handy for crowd control and giving you time to regenerate health.
After this, you’ll get access to the Slime Blower, a smaller, heavily modified version of the ones seen in Ghostbusters II. This allows you to clear caustic black slime from the environment, reduces certain enemies to mush, and allows you to attach slime tethers to objects and ghosts. Unfortunately, the lack of a lock-on feature makes using the slime tether in this latter fashion more frustrating than helpful and it is, by far, the feature I used the least. Finally, you upgrade to the Composite Particle System, which allows you to use the Mason Collider for a rapid-fire function similar to a machine gun. You can also use the Overload Pulse to have your shots home in on a specific target, both of which can be useful for rapidly wearing down ghosts for the capture. While you never get to drive the Ecto-1b (that honour is, awkwardly, generally left to Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), my second favourite Ghostbuster after Ray), it does feature a few times in the story mode and is, at one point, equipped with the Super Slammer Trap that allows you to instantly trap ghosts once they’re lured over to the car. Otherwise, you’ll be using your own trap to grab the ghoulies and earn cash to spend on upgrading each of the features of your Proton Pack to reduce overheating, speed up the trapping process, and other improvements that marginally improve the experience.
Additional Features: As you progress, you’ll unlock each story chapter to replay on one of the game’s three different difficulty settings. This is crucial to revisiting areas and finding any Artefacts you missed, scanning and recording every ghost in the game, and earning all of the game’s Achievements. While you can replay from each mission’s checkpoints, the upgrades you’ve purchased don’t carry over and you can’t take features like the Slime Blower back to the first mission, for example, somewhat limiting the game’s replayability. You’ll also unlock the game’s cutscenes to view in the game’s “Extras” menu but that’s pretty much it; you don’t unlock any additional characters or costumes, there’s no post-game content, and even the multiplayer aspect from the original version has been excised from this remaster! Apparently, all of these features (and more) were apparently planned for the game and a multiplayer component was supposed to be released shortly after the remaster’s launch but, as of this writing, it’s not happened.
The Summary: Soon into playing Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered, I suspected what it was that kept me from keeping the game in my PlayStation 3 library back in the day. While it looks and sounds fantastic and really feels like an authentic Ghostbusters experience, the game is just so damn inconsistent; it looks great and can be really fun to play, running smoothly and featuring some great vocal work from everyone involved who isn’t Bill Murray but then wham! Suddenly you’re faced with an obtuse puzzle, lost in maze-like corridors, or battling enemies and bosses than can one-shot you and your team with cheap, difficult to avoid attacks. Honestly, it really stinks that the developers couldn’t at least release the game with couch co-op; the game begs for it, seeing as you’re running around with the other Ghostbusters the entire time, so a split screen multiplayer would have only increased the game’s appeal. Plus, not adding anything new to the game for this remaster is a real disappointment; the only thing that’s been changed is that the graphics have a bit more polish and that’s it. We could have gotten new skins or costumes, maybe even some extra Achievements or gameplay modes but, instead, we’re left with a slightly better looking version of the base game that really doesn’t deserve being bought at full price. It’s great to see all the guys back together and to experience a version of what Aykroyd and the late, great Ramis had planned for Ghostbusters III but, as a complete package, Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered fails far more than it succeeds and is recommended only really for hardcore Ghostbusters fans.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
What did you think of Ghostbusters: The Video Game: Remastered? Did you play the original version; if so, which console did you play it for and how do you think this remaster holds up compared to the original? Which Ghostbuster is your favourite? Which Ghostbusters videogame do you have fond, or bad, memories of? Do you think I am being too harsh on Bill Murray? Are you looking forward to the new Ghostbusters movie? Whatever you think about Ghostbusters, drop a comment below.
Sequels are funny things; you have to get the balance just right between providing everything people enjoyed about the first moving but expanding upon the plot and characters in a natural way. If it’s difficult for a lot of sequels to get this right, it’s even harder for third, fourth, or other sequential entries to hit the mark.
There’s a few prime examples of sequels done right (Back to the Future Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day(Cameron, 1991), and The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) spring to mind as some near-undisputed examples of sequels that were everything their predecessor was and more) and even fewer examples of completely perfect movie trilogies as most stumble by the third entry due to one reason or another. I can’t tell you, though, how often I’ve seen people talk shit about some sequels that are actually not that bad at all and, arguably, criminally under-rated. When movies, comics, and videogames produce remakes or other ancillary media based on these franchises, they either always complete ignore these films or openly criticise them for absolutely no reason. Today, I’m going to shed some light on ten under-rated sequels and, hopefully, try to show why they’re actually not as bad as you might think…
While the Saw (Various, 2004 to present) noticeably dipped in quality as Lionsgate milked the series for all its worth with sequel after sequel after sequel (most of which were actually interquels as they foolishly killed off John Kramer/Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) way too early in the series), I feel like a lot of people don’t give Saw II enough credit. Saw (Wan, 2004) was an intense, terrifying experience that saw two people trapped in a room with the only option of escape being death or sawing a foot off with a rusty hacksaw. It kick-started a whole “torture porn” sub-genre of horror, despite most of its terror coming from the horrific situations rather than copious amounts of gore. Saw II, however, put the focus on Jigsaw, who was an almost mythic figure in the first movie and wasn’t fully revealed until the film’s dramatic conclusion. Here, we delve deep into his motivations for putting people through his gruesome “tests” and this film is a worthwhile watch simply for the subtle menace exuded by Tobin Bell.
Not only that, Saw II ramps up the gore and the desperation by having seven shady individuals all infected with a deadly, slow-acting nerve agent and trapped in a horror house, of sorts. The film’s tension comes from the desperation of Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who is frantic to save his son from Jigsaw’s trap and to bring Jigsaw in by any means necessary. Yes, there’s more gore and more onscreen violence and, arguably, Saw II set the standard for the myriad of sequels to come by ramping up Jigsaw’s traps and plots to an absurd degree, but this was before the series fell off a cliff. Here, minor characters from the first film are expanded upon, the lore of this world is fleshed out beautifully, and we have some of the franchise’s best traps ever.
For many of us back in the nineties, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990) was the first time the “Hero” Turtles were depicted as being as violent and nuanced as in their original Mirage Comics run. Up until the release of this movie, the Turtles were cute, cuddly superheroes who we watched foil the Shredder (James Avery) week after week and whose toys we bought with reckless abandon. However, given how dark and violent the first film was, this sequel does a massive course correction, increasing the silliness and reducing the onscreen violence and decreasing the Turtles’ use of their weapons in an attempt to align the live-action movies more with their more kid-friendly, animated counterparts. Yet, that doesn’t mean this sequel isn’t good in its own right. The Turtle suits (once again brought to live by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) look amazing and are probably better and more expressive than in the previous movie; the film also stays relatively close to its source material by focusing on the mutagenic ooze that created the Turtles, and it also introduced two mutant antagonists for the Turtles to fight.
While they’re not Bebop (Barry Gordon and Greg Berg) and Rocksteady (Cam Clarke), Tokka (Rock Lyon and Kurt Bryant) and Rahzar (Gord Robertson and Mark Ginther) are a fun, welcome addition. It’s great seeing the Turtles kick the snot out of faceless members of the Foot Clan but Ninja Turtles has always been about the crazy mutated characters and these are two of the most impressive looking and formidable, especially considering their childlike demeanours. The Shredder (François Chau) also returned in this movie and is a lot closer to his animated incarnation, being decidedly more theatrical than in the first movie but no less intimidating. Probably the only thing that lets this movie down for me (no, it’s not the Vanilla Ice rap scene) is the final battle between the Turtles and the ooze-empowered Super Shredder (Kevin Nash) in which Shredder is unceremoniously defeated by being crushed under a pier due to his own foolishness. Apart from that, though, I feel this movie is the perfect balance between the dark, violent Mirage Comics and the light-hearted animated series and this balance is where the Ninja Turtles (a ridiculous concept to begin with) shine the brightest.
Now, admittedly, Batman Forever has its fan-base; there’s plenty of very vocal people out there who rate this quite highly among the many Batman (Various, 1966 to present) movies, especially after viewing the special edition and a lot of the deleted scenes which, had they been implemented, would probably have elevated this movie even higher. There’s a couple of reasons why this film is often unfairly attacked: one is because of how God-awful its sequel, Batman & Robin(ibid, 1997) was. That film’s over-the-top camp, painful performances, and nipple-suits are often considered so bad that both of Schumacher’s Bat-movies are unfairly lumped together and judged as a failure, when this just wasn’t the case.
The second reason is because of how dramatically different it is from the previous Bat-movies; after Tim Burton brought us a dark, brooding, serious interpretation of Batman (Michael Keaton) in 1989, he was given free reign on the sequel, Batman Returns(Burton, 1992). While this made for one of my personal favourite Bat-movies thanks to Burton’s Gothic sensibilities, it upset a lot of parents (…and McDonald’s) and, similar to Turtles II, Schumacher was brought in to make Batman more “kid friendly”.
And yet despite the gratuitous neon lighting, the slapstick elements, and an incredibly over-the-top (and massively unsuitable) performance by Tommy Lee Jones, Batman Forever not only brought us a physically imposing Bruce Wayne/Batman (Val Kilmer) for the first time but it actually had the balls to include Dick Grayson/Robin (Chris O’Donnell). Schumacher smartly uses Robin’s origin as a parallel to Batman’s so that the film can tread familiar ground but in a new, fresh way while also bringing us one hell of a bad-ass Robin suit. Thanks to the blinkered, narrow-minded opinion that Robin (a character who has been around basically as long as Batman) is somehow “not suitable” for a Bat-movie, it wouldn’t be until the recent Titans (2018 to present) series that we would finally see Dick Grayson realised in live-action once again (though we came so close to seeing another interpretation of the character in the DC Extended Universe). Also, sue me, I grew up in the nineties and have always been a big fan of Jim Carrey’s. His performance as Edward Nygma/The Riddler might be over-the-top but his manic energy steals every scene he’s in and he genuinely looks like he’s having the time of his life channelling his inner Frank Gorshin and chewing on Schumacher’s elaborate and impractical scenery.
Okay, I’m just going to come out at say it: Terminator Salvation was, hands down, the best Terminator (Various, 1984 to 2019) sequel after Terminator 2 and always will be, no matter how many times they force Arnold Schwarzenegger to throw on the shades and the jacket.
After how perfectly Terminator 2 ended the series, the only smart way to produce further sequels was to have Terminators travel to other times and target other key members of the resistance (a plot point touched upon in the Dark Horse Comics, the dismally disappointing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Mostow, 2003), and threaded throughout the semi-decent Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 to 2009) television series) or to make prequels that focused on the war against the machines in a post-apocalyptic future. This latter idea would be my preference and, as such, I absolutely love Terminator Salvation. Is it perfect? Well, no, but it’s a different type of Terminator movie…and that is a good thing, people! Rather than making yet another lacklustre retread of Terminator 2, Salvation is, ostensibly, a war movie depicting the last vestiges of humanity driven to the brink of extinction by increasingly-dangerous killer machines.
Not only that, we got Christian Bale as John Connor! After the pathetic casting and portrayal of Nick Stahl (remember him?) in the third movie, we got freakin’ Batman as the last, best hope of humankind! And he gives a great performance; stoic, gritty, hardened, this is a Connor who is on the edge of accepting his true destiny and is desperate to do anything he can to stay one step ahead of Skynet. Add to that we got a pretty decent battle between Connor and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger). People like to shit on this sequence because Kickinger has Schwarzenegger’s likeness digitally laid over his face but, honestly, it isn’t that bad an effect and, if you can’t get Arnold back, this was a great way to utilise him. The only faults I have with this movie are that Connor shouldn’t have received such a clearly-mortal wound from the T-800 (I know he was originally supposed to die but, after they changed the ending, they really should have re-edited this scene to make his wound less deadly) and that the franchise has largely ignored it with subsequent sequels rather than continuing on from its open-ended finale, meaning we’ll forever be denied the bad-ass visual of an army of Arnold’s marching over a field of human skulls!
Okay, just hear me out…Attack of the Clones is not that bad, especially after Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace(ibid, 1999) focused way too much on boring shit like “trade disputes” and politics, insulted our intelligence with the dreadful Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and sucked all of the menace and intrigue out of Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) by portraying Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) a whiny, annoying little brat.
Arguably, the Prequel Trilogy would have been better if Lucas had opted to have Anakin discovered as a young adult and cast Hayden Christensen in the role from the start as this would be a far better parallel to his son’s own journey to becoming a Jedi. Christensen is a decent enough actor and he was simply handicapped by Lucas’s dreadful script; if Lucas had opted to let someone else take another pass at his dialogue, we could have seen a bit more of the snarky banter Anakin shares with his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Despite the copious amount of green screen and computer-generated characters thrown at us here, Attack of the Clones has a lot of visual appeal; from the city planet of Coruscant to the rain-swept Kamino and the dry lands of Geonosis, the only location that lets Attack of the Clones down is its return to the sand planet Tatooine but even that is used as a pivotal moment in Anakin’s turn towards the Dark Side.
And let’s not forget the fantastic Lightsaber battles on display here; every battle is as good as the final battle from The Phantom Menace, featuring some impressive choreography and setting the stage for one hell of an epic showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan in the next movie. While I don’t really care for Yodi (Frank Oz) being a CG character, or wielding a Lightsaber, there is a perverse pleasure to be gained from seeing Yoda flip about like a maniacal spider monkey. Oh, and this movie has freakin’ Christopher Lee in it! Unfortunately, Lee’s Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus is criminally underused in this movie and killed off all-too-soon in the sequel. Another misfire for me was Lucas wasting time introducing Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison); I’ve never really understood why people love Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) so much as he’s a bit of a klutz and doesn’t really do anything, but he does have a rabid fan base and, since we never see his face in the Original Trilogy, I would have instead cast Temuera as Boba so that we could see him actually do something.
Hellraiser (1987 to present) is a horror film series that seems to have struggled to be as successful as some of its other peers. I’ve already talked about how the original Hellraiser(Barker, 1987) really hasn’t aged very well and this applies to every sequel in the series as well as they seem to immediately age to moment they are released thanks to the decision to release every sequel after the third movie direct to video. Admittedly, a lot of my fondness for Hellraiser: Bloodline is based on two things: it was the first Hellraiser movie I was able to sit through from start to finish and was responsible for me becoming a fan of the series, and Event Horizon(Anderson, 1997) is one of my favourite science-fiction/horror movies. Arguably, Event Horizon is a far better version of Bloodline’s core concept (that being “Hellraiser…in Space!”) but there’s an important thing to remember about that: Bloodline isn’t set solely in space! Instead, Bloodline takes place in three different timelines and follows the descendants of Philippe Lemarchand (Bruce Ramsay), an 18th century toymaker who was unwittingly responsible for creating the magical Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that, when solved, summons Cenobites from a dimension where the lines between pleasure and pain are blurred.
Cursed for this act, Lemarchand’s descendants are driven by an inherent desire to create the Elysium Configuration, a means to forever seal the Cenobites from our world forever Dr. Paul Merchant (also Ramsay) is merely the latest in a long line of these toymakers to encounter the demonic Cenobite dubbed Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his acolytes; unlike his predecessors, Merchant actually succeeds in his mission and destroys both Pinhead, and the portal to Hell, forever using a massive space station. There’s a few reasons I think people misjudge this movie: one is that it was absolutely butchered by Miramax, who demanded all kinds of reshoots and changes, meaning that the film’s original director’s cut has never been seen. Another is a holdover from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Hickox, 1992), which saw Pinhead ape Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and become just another slasher villain with a twisted sense of humour. Similarly, in Bloodline, Pinhead goes from being a representative of the Order of the Gash (…lol), to wanting to unleash Hell on Earth permanently like some kind of invading force, to the point where he takes hostages and transforms people into Cenobites whether they have opened the box or not. Yet none of this changes the fact that Bloodline is a pretty decent film; we finally get to see some background into the mysterious puzzle box, there’s multiple times when the structure and history of Hell is hinted at, and there’s some really disgusting kills and gore. Personally, I rate this film higher than the second (because that film is boring) and the third simply because it doesn’t have a Cenobite with CDs jammed in its head!
This one is gonna cost me a lot of credibility but I honestly do not get why X-Men Origins: Wolverine gets so much shit, especially considering how incoherent and screwed up the timeline and continuity of the X-Men (Various, 2000 to present) movie series became after this film. Sure, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is poorly represented, some of the CG is a bit wonky, and there are a lot of flaws in the plot, but there’s also a lot to like about this film. First, and most obvious, is the film’s opening credit sequence, which many have cited as being their favourite moment of the film. Seeing James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Victor Creed (Liev Schreiber) racing through various wars is stunning and I do agree that the film really should have based around this premise and their slow degeneration into bloodlust, with Logan overcoming it and Victor giving in to it to become Sabretooth. Yet, often, I see a lot of criticism about how the X-Men movies tend to always focus on Wolverine at the expense of other Mutants…yet people still hate on this movie, which puts the spotlight entirely on Wolverine and still manages to feature some new Mutants and fill in a few plot points along the way. We get to see Logan’s time in Team X, the full extent of the procedure that gave him his Adamantium skeleton (although we miss out on the feral Wolverine showcased so brilliantly in the otherwise-disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse (Singer, 2016)), and even how unknowingly pivotal he was in bringing the original X-Men together.
The casting really makes this movie shine: Jackman is at his most jacked as Wolverine and, while he’s a little too tame compared to what you’d expect from this point in his life, he always brings a great intensity and charisma to his breakout role. Schreiber was an inspired choice to portray Logan’s brother, who (it is strongly hinted) eventually succumbs to his animalistic ways to become Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), bringing a nuanced menace and sophistication to what is normally seen as a feral character. Danny Huston is always great as a smug, scenery-chewing villain (though he doesn’t exactly resemble Brian Cox) and Reynolds gave a great tease at what he was capable of as everyone’s favourite “Merc with a Mouth” (…until it was sown shut). We also get some new Mutants, which I appreciate even more after subsequent sequels could never seem to let go of having teleporting demons involved in their plots; Fred Dukes/The Blob (Kevin Durand) is fantastically realised in the movie and has a great (and hilarious) boxing match with Logan and everyone’s favourite card-throwing Cajun, Remy LeBeau/Gambit (Taylor Kitsch) also makes his one (and, so far, only) film appearance here. I only expected a brief, unsatisfying cameo from Gambit but he actually has a surprisingly substantial role. Could it have been bigger? Sure, but I’d say he was treated a lot better than Deadpool (who, it should be remembered, was still planned to get a spin-off from this film).
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987). It told an easily self-contained story of Detroit City police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being rebuilt from death as a bad-ass cybernetic enforcer of the law and rediscovering his humanity. It’s a classic film, with some amazing effects, hilarious commentary on consumerism, media, and corporate greed, and would be a tough act for anyone to follow. Yet, call me crazy, but RoboCop 2 succeeds far more than it fails. RoboCop has a fresh coat of paint and has (literally) never looked better onscreen; he’s just as efficient and pragmatic as before and, though he seems to have regressed back to a more mechanical mindset, he still exhibits a great deal of humanity but in new and interesting ways. First, he is routinely referred to as “Murphy” by other officers (particularly Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen), his partner) and struggles so badly with reconnecting with his wife and son (who believe that Murphy is dead and buried) that he routinely stalks them, which contributes to his superiors deciding to reprogram him. This results in a deliciously over-the-top sequence where RoboCop, his head full of insane, politically correct directives, tries to calm situations with talk rather than bullets. It eventually becomes so maddening that he is forced to electrocute himself just to clear his head enough for him to focus on the big bad of the film, Cain (Tom Noonan).
Now, Cain and his psychopathic gang of untouchable drug dealers are great, but they’re not Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith); instead of Clarence’s manic energy, Cain brings a quiet, intellectual approach to his menace. He also manages to dismantle RoboCop’s metallic body, just as Clarence destroyed his human one, and is eventually able to go toe-to-toe with RoboCop as the frankly fantastic RoboCop 2 (or “RoboCain”). If you liked ED-209 from the last movie, RoboCain is bigger, badder, and better. A combination of animatronics and stop-motion, RoboCain was an ambitious choice for the film and actually works really well considering the technological limitations of the time. The fight between Cain and RoboCop also holds up surprisingly well and is far more interesting than Robo’s encounters with ED-209 thanks to the villain being far more versatile than his clunky counterpart. I think what brings this movie down, for many, is that Cain’s gang aren’t as charismatic or memorable as Boddicker’s (I can only name two of Cain’s guys off the top of my head, whereas I can name at least five of Boddiker’s), some of the plot is a bit redundant (Robo’s story arc is, essentially, a truncated version of the same one from the first), and the awfulness of subsequent RoboCop movies leaving such a sour taste that people assume all RoboCop sequels are terrible…and that’s just not the case.
Okay, full disclosure: as a kid, I was not a fan of this movie. I loved Predator (McTiernan, 1987); it was over-the-top, filled with massive action heroes, and featured a tense build-up to one of cinema’s most memorable alien creatures. The sequel just seemed to be lacking something; maybe it was because we’d already seen the Predator (Kevin Peter Hall) in its full, gruesome glory and didn’t really need to go through the suspense of its eventual reveal all over again. Replacing Schwarzenegger is Danny Glover’s Lieutenant Mike Harrigan, a hardened, smart-mouthed loose cannon who plays by his own rules (as was the tradition for any cop worth a damn in cinema back then). I was in awe at Schwarzenegger as a kid so it was disappointing to go from him to Glover but, honestly, Glover is probably better in many ways: his anti-authoritative, roguish nature makes him more relatable as a character and the fact that he actually gets hurt and struggles to physically prevail makes him far more human. He’s a much more believable protagonist in a lot of ways and, thanks to his more developed acting chops, is more than a suitable replacement for Arnold. Predator 2 also takes the titular hunter out of the jungle and places him in the next most logical place: the concrete jungle. Now, a lot of people hate this change; even Arnold hated that the Predator would be in Los Angles for the sequel but…surely doing the sequel in the jungle again would have just resulted in exactly the same movie as before?
It’s so weird that people rag on the city setting as it makes perfect sense, is realised really well, and even set the ground for a lot of the Dark Horse comics. No other sequel around this time repeated the first in this way; Aliens (Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2, Batman Returns, Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner, 1992), just to name a few, all fundamentally alter the concept of the first movie rather than rehashing it so why does Predator 2 get such a hard time for doing it (and doing it well, I might add)? To make matters worse, Predator 2 has been criminally overlooked in subsequent sequels; there was no mention of the film’s events at all in the otherwise-excellent Predators (Antal, 2010), a film that went out of its way to reference (both through homage and direct mention) the first movie, and it only gets a passing mention in the disappointing The Predator(Black, 2018). Jake Busey, son of Gary Busey, even featured as an expert on the Predator species but there was no mention in the film of his relationship to Busey’s character, Peter Keyes, despite the two being father and son! I’ll never understand this; it’s a real insult, to be honest. Predator 2 brought so much to the table; it defined the honour system of the Predator species, introduced a whole bunch of the alien’s iconic weaponry, and laid the foundation for comic books, videogames, and sequels and spin-offs to follow for years to come. Subsequent movies have no problem reusing the weaponry or the culture of the Predator introduced in this movie but when it comes to actually directly referencing the film’s events they shy away and why? It’s a great film! Great kills, great action, great tension, some fantastic effects, and a super enjoyable chase sequence between the Predator and Harrigan across the streets and rooftops of Los Angeles! I just don’t get the hate, I really don’t.
Man, if you thought I was mad about Predator 2, just wait until you hear this one. Ghostbusters II suffers from a lot of the plagues of Predator 2, and other films on this list: it’s unfairly criticised for not being exactly the same as the iconic first film, it’s overlooked time and time again, and direct references to it are few and far between. Just look at the majority of Ghostbusters-related media; be it toys, videogames, or otherwise, the characters almost always look exactly like the first movie rather than this one. And why? Because it doesn’t have the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in it. Give me a fuckin’ break! As much as I love him, and that entire sequence, it wouldn’t make any sense of Mr. Stay Puft to appear in this movie! The Ghostbusters destroyed it when they defeated Gozer the Gozerian (Slavitza Jovan and Paddi Edwards) and this movie revolves around an entirely different villain and plot so why bring it back? I guess audiences were just used to antagonists returning ins equels at that time but to judge this movie just for not having Mr. Stay Puft is not only unfair, it’s down-right stupid.
After all, it has the Statue of Liberty coming to life instead! Sure, it doesn’t match up to Stay Puft’s rampage, but it’s still pretty decent. Also, the film’s antagonist, Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg), is voiced by Max von Sydow, who is an absolute legend. Vigo’s threat is arguably much higher than Gozer’s in a way as his mood slime has been brewing under New York City for decades and is the direct result of all the animosity in the world (…or, just New York, which is bad enough). It’s powerful enough to cause ghosts to go on a rampage again and turn the Ghostbusters against each other, and is a far more grounded threat than Gozer’s plot to destroy the world. The stakes are raised in Ghostbusters II through the fact that the titular ‘Busters have been forced to disband and go their separate ways. Through this, we see something that is also often overlooked about this movie: character growth. Would you criticise Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) character growth in Aliens? Well, yes, probably; you are the internet after all but this plot point allows Ghostbusters II, like RoboCop 2, to retread the familiar ground of the disgraced Ghostbusters being called upon to save the city in a new way. The characters are all a bit more haggard after how badly the city burned them so seeing them rise up regardless, to the point where they’re even able to resist the mood slime, is a great arc.
Add to that the film’s consistent and enjoyable special effects, the truly gruesome sequence in the abandoned Beach Pneumatic Transit system, and a creepy performance (as always) by Peter MacNicol and you’ve got a film that, like Turtles II, is more than a worthy follow-up to the original. And, yet, like I said, this film is often overlooked, almost with a vendetta. It doesn’t help that co-star Bill Murray despised the movie, which is always bad press for any film; his cantankerous ways also constantly held up the long-awaited third movie to the point where we had to suffer through that God-awful reboot before a follow-up would be approved. Despite Murray’s opinions, Ghostbusters II has managed to endure in some respects, though; characters and events were directly referenced in Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters (1988 to 1991) and Vigo’s portrait was prominently featured in the true third entry, Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009). Yet I wouldn’t at be surprised if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Reitman, 2021) completely ignores this movie, or at least brushes it off or lampoons it, especially considering the trailers seem more focused on calling back to the first film.
Do you agree with my list? I’m guessing not and you think most of these movies are terrible but why do you think that? Are there any other under-rated sequels you can think of? Write a comment and give me your thoughts below.