Ghostbusters is the best comedy ever made about the limits of the Lovecraftian worldview.
The movie’s back in theaters for its 30th anniversary, so my wife Steph, our friend Dan and I all went to see it last weekend. It’s perfectly structured. Desire lines are clear scene by scene. Act breaks are sharp and propulsive. Every payoff is set up early in the film, including Mr. Stay-Puft. The film even bothers to make sure we know why ghosts are appearing at this particular point in human history—the dead rise as Gozer approaches.
I remembered this movie being funny, but a lot of lines that skipped over my head when I was a kid bit deep this time—Tully’s “You’re the Ghostbusters? Who does your taxes?” (Honestly, everything Rick Moranis says or does on screen is hilarious.) Young Max also didn’t appreciate the sheer amount of damage the Ghostbusters do to the hotel in their first outing. I got the joke of Slimer dodging neutron beams, sure; I didn’t have the running cost-of-repair tally in the back of my head. The cake they blow up used to be a prop; now I know that cake. I’ve been to weddings with that cake. Its explosion is a lot more than an excuse to shower people with frosting. It’s a wonderful, visceral, hilarious film, with a great soundtrack, and y’all should go see it in theaters while you have the chance.
But, leaving the theater, all three of us kept saying one word in particular: heart. We all mentioned how much heart the movie had, how modern films we’d seen recently seemed heartless by comparison. But what is this strange, ephemeral “heart”? The Potter Stewart test is, as always, unsatisfying—we know it when we see it, sure, but what is it that we’re seeing? Why does Winston’s “I love this town!” at the end strike home, even though the question of whether he loves this town or not is never raised in the movie before this moment?
[As usual, I’m kicking about a theory.]