Despite coming from such different ends of the film genre spectrum, horror and comedy are two categories of movies that have accompanied each other multitudes of times – often leading to great success. One of the best, and most famous examples of this, arrived in 1984 when Ghostbusters was released – generally considered the first time that ghosts and slapstick comedy had come together on the big screen.
A team that consisted of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Sigourney Weaver was always likely to impress. The result was one of the biggest successes of the 80s, which continues to be a major cultural influence on movies and TV to this day. But can Ghostbusters, and its following sequels and reboot, be considered as a horror series?
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When the nostalgic spotlight has been removed, and you watch the original film on its own merit, it comes to light just how scary the 1980s movie was. Firstly, consider the style in which the original movie was shot, its primary colour pallet strays very far away from conventional comedies.
There is limited use of bright, and vibrant colours within the movie. Instead, a focus on dark and misty surroundings is favoured, akin to traditional horror movies.
Moving away from the style of the film, the actual ghosts in Ghostbusters would strike fear into most children. With gruesome, realistic imagery used to convey the supernatural, the effects team can consider their work to be a huge triumph.
The famous ‘Librarian Ghost’ would fit seamlessly into The Shining, and is genuinely terrifying. The only ghost which fails to adhere to this trope is the slimmer, who is undoubtedly used as more of a comedic device. But remember, this is traditionally recognised as a children’s comedy, interwoven with genuine scenes of horror.
The original Ghostbusters was a pioneer for comedy and horror, the huge success the franchise has enjoyed down the line is largely due to the ability of the original to cross genres so impressively. To this day, we have had three movies, TV shows, video games and there is also a slot game at William Hill inspired by the franchise. Interestingly, the sequels and reboot attempts have been largely unable to emulate the original’s success, and this could be down to their attempts to turn the franchise into a pure comedy – straying away from its roots.
Enough has been said about the Ghostbusters remake/reboot in 2016, but one aspect where the movie certainly failed was its inability to recognise the scary themes and images of the original. It went for pure slapstick comedy, and the result is evidenced when you compare the films respective reviews. The movie is awash with lively colours, bright monsters and fart jokes, which couldn’t be further from the original.
At its heart, Ghostbusters (1984) was designed to appear like the horror movie greats of its time. The Exorcist, Poltergeist and The Omen had all come before it to enjoy great box office success, and Ghostbusters tapped into this framework with the added spice of comedy. The Ghostbusters cannot, and should not be, considered to be true horror, however the influences of this genre on one of the most loved films of all time cannot be understated.