The ghost of Ghostbusters is one of the strangest and most unique specters haunting post-80s popular culture: it’s like that one perfect relationship we’re doomed to never get over and constantly long to recreate. Should a Ghostbusters 3 even be attempted? Probably not, but let’s get serious: it’s going to happen, no matter what. With that in mind, I’ve dug through Tobin’s Spirit Guide, Zundinger’s Magicians, Martyrs, and Madmen, plus my own headbox to come up a few ways of crafting the perfect Ghostbusters 3.
8. Feature hot comedians as the new Ghostbusters.
Casting popular and genuinely hilarious people in a new Ghostbusters is absolutely the best way to go. Here’s my short list of people who could/should populate a new busting team: Jesse Eisenberg, Andy Samberg, Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Tracy Morgan, Rashida Jones, Richard Ayoade, Michael Cera and Melissa McCarthy. Making sure we’ve got some female Ghostbusters this time out is essential, and what’s most important of all is that the movie features genuinely funny people doing what they do best. The original films work on the inexplicable magic of those four guys looking like they somehow belong together. THIS CANNOT BE RECREATED. Therefore, the sequel shouldn’t try to look back, and instead bank on fresh, contemporary talent.
7. Appoint Winston as the captain of a new team of Ghostbusters.
So, if having hot, young, funny actors as a new Ghostbusting squad sounds a little like your stereotypical, cynical Hollywood move, how do you appease the old fans? Have all the Ghostbusters back? Well, maybe—but we’ll get to that in a second. If you want to see those actors appear in anything more extensive than a cameo, realistically, Ernie Hudson has aged the best. Of the four original ’busters, Winston would be great in some kind of administrative role, in a revamped Ghostbusters corporation. Winston Zeddemore is the pragmatic, working-class Ghostbuster, which means he knows how to get things done in real-world kind of way—making him an ideal choice to be the sort of “Captain” of the new squad. Think of Ghostbusters 3 kind of like Torchwood (but with straight-up comedy), and Winston as Captain Jack.
6. Set the movie in the future.
Dan Aykroyd’s original concept for Ghostbusters was much more heavily based on a science fiction premise and was to feature a futuristic world where both ghosts and Ghostbusters were commonplace. While the film eventually went in a more relatable direction, the idea of setting a new Ghostbusters in the future could be fun; I’m picturing a near-future New York City, filled with futuristic technology. A premise like this would allow the writers to get away with certain narrative conceits about massive monster/ghost attacks which have taken place in the past. Maybe this version of the world has been ravaged by ghosts and monsters, meaning a new team of ’busters needs to rise up from that old firehouse and spring into action. It would be a radical departure, but if done with the right amount of pluck, it could work. Most importantly, it would feel new.
5. Actually tackle the metaphorical significance of ghosts.
One thing about the ghosts in the existing films is they don’t really carry the same narrative weight that ghosts do in proper ghost stories. Essentially, the ghosts in Ghostbusters could just as easily be monsters or aliens. For example, the idea that Slimer is the ghost of someone who died is never explored (famously, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd have claimed he’s supposed to be the ghost of John Belushi, although the scant biographical information on Slimer that is provided in related material surprisingly makes Slimer specifically someone else). Sure, Vigo was the ghost of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters 2, but the notion that ghosts are real people from the past is never explored or even addressed for longer than a second. It could be fun to see the new Ghostbusters bust the ghosts of famous dead people—the cartoon version of the show actually dealt with this a few times, with surprisingly thoughtful results.
4. Film in Awesome New York City Locations
Ghostbusters 3 simply must take place in New York City, or it just won’t work. The original Ghostbusters is a classic New York film, up there with Woody Allen’s Manhattan or Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Previous Ghostbusters outings have prominently featured Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, City Hall, and, of course, the New York Public Library. So, how about having a ghost shoot-out in the Guggenheim? Or an awesome, spooky chase scene across the Brooklyn Bridge? Here, I think Ghostbusters 3 could take a cue from Doctor Who’s “The Angels Take Manhattan” and really showcase the flashy 21st-century New York through a fun science fiction lens.
3. Include a genuinely touching love story (maybe with a ghost?)
We don’t want to throw out everything that was great about the original Ghostbusters movies—particularly the element of romance. The awkward and befuddled love between Dana Barrett and Peter Venkman is totally essential to the two previous films, grounding both movies and serving as the real heart behind all the humor and action. Without this kind of stuff, the movie could easily get bogged down by its own goofy premise. So, a new Ghostbusters would also need some kind of love story. Having a romance between one of the new Ghostbusters and a civilian again would be nice; or maybe a flirtation between two of the new Ghostbusters? But perhaps the riskiest (and potentially interesting) option would be for a Ghostbuster to fall in love with a ghost!
2. Make at least one of the ghosts truly scary.
Any sequel to Ghostbusters 2 will need to make sure that some (or at least one) of its lead ghosts/demons/spooks/specters are actually frightening. When the monster hands pop up out of Dana’s couch in the first film, it’s totally freaky. To this day, I still jump when Vigo shoots those bolts out of his eyes at Janosz (not to mention the creepy Janosz flying ghost nanny!) If this means bringing in vampires, werewolves, and other traditional scary monsters, go for it. If it means employing newish creepy talking skeleton ghouls, or whatever—fine. Essentially, the horror elements in Ghostbusters need to be scary enough to frighten (but not traumatize) the children who desperately want to see the movie, so we’re not talking Prometheus-level grotesque, just plain spooky. If you’re not scaring some kids (while simultaneously confusing them with odd, irreverent humor), then you’re not making a real Ghostbusters movie.
1. Have Bill Murray and other Ghostbusters appear as ghosts.
The nerd rage monster that lives inside of you (and is still pissed off that Hi-C discontinued Ecto-Cooler in the 90s) is probably saying NO WAY. DON’T MAKE GHOSTBUSTERS WITHOUT BILL MURRAY. And yet, it’s possible that this will happen. In any case, save for maybe Winston, I think that the original Ghostbusters should only appear AS GHOSTS. If Bill Murray signs on to appear in the movie in a larger capacity, having him play a sarcastic, deadpan ghost-Venkman who is constantly giving unsolicited advice to the new Ghostbusters (and/or Winston) could be comedy gold. Plus, Venkman could have some ulterior motive for helping the new Ghostbusters. Maybe he wants to come back to life? Maybe he just wants his own place to haunt, where he can endlessly flirt with people? His own talk show again? There are all sorts of angles to take if you reimagine the old Ghostbusters as ghosts, particularly if this were combined with the futuristic New York City premise. Maybe in this future, Venkman’s World of the Psychic is a TV show hosted by ghosts!
No matter what, one of the original ’busters must appear as a ghost. It’s the best way to directly deal with the fact that a ton of time has passed since the last two films—and also acknowledge that Ghostbusters itself has been gleefully haunting pop culture over the last three decades with its wit, originality, and snappy theme song.
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com and sleeps on a genuine 1980s Ghostbusters pillowcase that used to glow-in-the-dark.