The Unintentional Terror of The Ghostbusters

Two of the greatest events in history happened in 1984. First, and arguably most important, I was born. Second, The Ghostbusters hit theaters. Joking and false ego aside, the film is fantastic and has held up very well over the last 30 years. Sitting here tonight watching it I find myself still laughing at all the hilarious jokes and little nods to other humor and horror works throughout. But, as I’m watching it, there are certain things I have started to realize are absolutely, unintentionally horrifying about this film that I don’t think people fully appreciate about this movie. I’ve decided to list them off here for all of your reading pleasure.

Number one on the creepy shit-o-meter is is Peter Venkman and his date rape back up plan. When he arrives at Dana’s apartment to find her possessed by an ancient Gozerian demon, he “conveniently” has 40cc’s of Thorazine on hand to put her out and get her to sleep in the bed instead of above the bed. What, exactly, was he planning for their evening that he thought he needed to bring tranquilizers with him?

A close second to that frightening thought is what they actually end up doing to the ghosts that they capture. They store them “indefinitely” into a containment system. We’re not just talking evil, malevolent spirits and poltergeists wrecking up the place. We’re talking about ghosts like the beloved Slimer with creatures like the Scoleri Brothers (yes, I know, GB2) who were murderers in life and attempted murderers in death. It’s like taking a 95 pound pencil neck geek charged with tax fraud and throwing him in a cell with a muscle bound 300 pound rapist. Prepare your butthole, little man, because you’re going to pay for that embezzled five grand a million times over. Only it’s worse because not all these ghosts are committing supernatural crimes. Some are just lost souls incapable of moving on. They’re being imprisoned for existing. Nothing else.

Then you come to the means by which they are caught. Egon Spangler, we can assume, is some sort of savant with numerous degrees and doctorates who has chosen to use his mad scientist credentials for the greater good of bustin’ ghosts. Not only does he manage to somehow get nuclear material but he weaponizes it in the form of four or five proton packs and traps that he then distributes to his cohorts who have, presumably, much less education in the fields of nuclear physics so they can fire them up and shoot protonic energy at ghosts in one of the most crowded cities in the world. There is no telling what the shielding is on these devices, what the residual radiation left behind from them being fired is, and what sort of harm it is doing not only to the men wearing them but the people who happen to be around when they’re using them. And the best part of all this: if two people are shooting and accidentally cross streams it will cause a “full protonic reversal” in which every single molecule in their bodies will explode all at once. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “friendly fire.”

The containment system for the ghosts is another point of absolute terror when you consider it’s some kind of laser grid (probably powered by the leftover plutonium from the proton packs) that eventually explodes when the power is cut off. I get leaking when the power is shut off. I get the door falling off the hinges and letting all the ectoplasmic inmates free. But it fucking explodes in a mushroom cloud in the middle of Manhattan. We’re talking about a door to a pocket dimension created by a mad scientist who created atomic powered laser guns to catch ghosts that erupts in a nuclear inferno because someone flipped a single switch. No safeties. No shut down procedures. No fail safes. Just. One. Switch.

Now, maybe the most terrifying thing of all is the fact that a bank LOANED them money to open this business and create all this shit. Banks better known for stealing away farms and homes from working stiffs trying to make ends meet when they can’t make that first payment gave presumably hundreds of thousands of dollars to three men with degrees in parapsychology to open a business devoted to catching and eliminating a phenomena that was heretofore completely unproven with no other collateral than one man’s childhood home. Most of the people reading this would be lucky to get a bank to agree to loan them money to buy a car or start a pizzeria, let alone to catch ghosts. And now, you understand why the economy is in the toilet.

Finally, four men using technology and techniques they were pretty well pulling out of their ass to handle what really wasn’t a problem before they came around, not only helped to (almost) usher in the apocalypse but did so at the expense of billions of dollars in damage to property, the risk of millions of lives, the destruction of historical landmarks, and a giant marshmallow sailor that they both brought into existence and then detonated by, yep, crossing the streams and risking further nuclear catastrophe.

I love this movie. I still love this movie even after writing all this. But, you have to look at it realistically, A date rapey doctor, a mad scientist, a nerd who lost his virginity to a dead woman (watch the movie), and a dude that just wanted to make a paycheck used an arsenal that would have given any terrorist organization or Bond villain wet dreams to bilk people out of money to handle a problem that they really didn’t see as much of a problem until they came around peddling their service.

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About Danno

Dan Lee is a horror fiction fiend, freelance writer and photographer living in the outer edge of a large, southern metropolis. His stories, articles, and photos have been featured in several ‘zines and websites and his fiction and other prose continues to be developed through this blog.
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