University parapsychologists Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray), Dr. Raymond Stanz (Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Ramis) lose a research grant when their experiment methodology is proven to be bogus. The team decides to go into business for themselves and open ‘Ghostbusters,’ a ghost removal service. After struggling to get on their feet, they are summoned to investigate the strange happenings in Dana Barrett’s (Weaver) Central Park West apartment. What they discover is that all Manhattan is being besieged by ghosts and other-worldly demons through a portal in her building.
"Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together . . . mass hysteria!"
After sitting through a pile of some truly dreadful movies of late, it's always a real pleasure to sit down and enjoy Ivan Reitman's vastly superior film classic, 'Ghostbusters.' From the Columbia Pictures logo, accompanied by Elmer Bernstein's eerie score, to the moment the iconic theme song is cued, a smile full of fond memories plasters itself onto my face, and the setup for the librarian ghost secures it for the remainder of the show. While there may not be anything spectacular about watching a couple of books moving from one shelf to the next or a really bright flashlight shine on an elderly woman's face, for me, it is all about the patient movement and pace in the expert direction before the main title rolls on screen. It's an effective opening sequence that generates interest with a farcical, light-hearted air of spookiness and mystery. Everything that follows is a grandiose spectacle of comedy and special effects, enhanced by an outstanding cast that makes the film feel as fresh and original as it did when it originally premiered.
When their research grants expire and they're promptly expelled from Columbia University as quacks, three parapsychology scientists, Peter Venkman (Billy Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), go freelance, creating a ghost removal service and calling themselves the "Ghostbusters." Along with a sardonic receptionist, Janine (Annie Potts), and a fourth member, Winston (Ernie Hudson), they purchase an abandoned firehouse (still located at 14 N. Moore Street, NY!) and retrofit a 1959 ambulance dubbed "Ecto-1." Before long, the guys are hired by the beautiful cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who notices some strange occurrences in her kitchen and eventually gets possessed by a demon, together with her nerdy neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis). With a sudden rise in spectral activity, the team soon faces the task of saving New York City from an untold evil brought forth by Gozer the Gozerian.
Like most great comedies, 'Ghostbusters' relies on the interactions and conversations between its characters, but leaves enough headroom for some great visuals that play along with the gags. The rest of the film reveals something greatly lacking in many modern comedies: smart dialogue full of quips, cynicism, sarcasm, and all-around zaniness that feels spontaneous rather than scripted. We don't gather a sense of jumping from one pratfall to the next or from one comedic situation to another. There's a terrific flow in the narrative where each quirky one-liner and special effects-driven prank naturally leads to other, sometimes bigger laughs. I can't think of another comedy that smoothly transitions from a laser-tag show against a demigod to a battle with a Godzilla-like marshmallow giant without missing a beat.
Aykroyd and Ramis wrote a terrific script with a nice blend of comedy, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. It plays off of each actor's talent, welcoming improvisation, and suits their respective roles perfectly. The characters carry a believable camaraderie, as if they've known each other for years, and we feel comfortable around them. Though Ramis never planned on playing the role of Egon (Christopher Lloyd, Michael Keaton, and Chevy Chase were favorably considered), it is practically nigh impossible to imagine anyone else pulling it off. Winston was also written with Eddie Murphy in mind, but Hudson does such a terrific job in his low-key role that Murphy's exuberance could only be viewed as a distraction. The team rightly allowed Murray to go all out with Venkman and establish that cynical comic persona for which he is now celebrated. With Reitman reining it all together, the spook-fest that is 'Ghostbusters' still produces laughs of epic proportions.
Added to this is the use of physical props and animatronics spliced into the film, which recalls an earlier time of cutting edge technology. With a cemented trend for the use of CGI effects in modern moviemaking, there is something charming and endearing about watching some old-school special effects do their thing. Of course, this new Blu-ray version greatly exaggerates the artificiality of it all and makes the tricks-of-the-trade appear dated by comparison. But these fabricated creatures participate in the humor and become a part of the storyline, turning 'Ghostbusters' into that rare exception where such effects actually compliment the film. Over the years, Slimer has evolved into the undisputed mascot of the franchise while the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is now enjoyed as one of the funniest monsters to grace the silver screen. Even Ecto-1 is easily recognized today as the official vehicle of the Ghostbusters and looks more like a clown car than a serious transport of paranormal equipment.
Capitalizing on a popular and universal interest in sci-fi, extraterrestrials and the paranormal, 'Ghostbusters' remains a timeless classic, full of memorable, understated lines ("You know, you don't act like a scientist"; "They're usually pretty stiff"; "You're more like a game show host") and many well-known scenes, like the librarian ghost. Celebrating its 32-year anniversary (it originally premiered on June 8, 1984) and with a remake featuring an all-female cast about to premiere later this summer, the film continues to win audiences with a large, devoted fanbase at its heels, and remains one of the most successful comedies in film history. This cinematic gem is one that shouldn't be missed . . . by the living or the dead.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Ghostbusters' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, or if the disc is dual-layered or tripled-layered. The new UHD disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music.
Our favorite parapsychologists rise from the grave with yet another home video release, but this time around, they wander into the paranormal world of Ultra HD Blu-ray with a great looking HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, boasting a few admirable moments along with several slightly less satisfying areas. But in all honesty, that's to be expected from a thirty-year-old film that was originally shot on traditional 35mm stock and later mastered in a 4K digital intermediate, giving early adopters the opportunity to compare the possibilities of this new format in respect to older motion pictures. And the results are for the most part great, yet not entirely convincing for those still on the fence. Don't get me wrong, this 4K presentation is definitely an improvement over previous editions, making this the best way to enjoy the classic comedy, but it's not a major jump in quality.
As before, viewers should be forewarned not to set their hopes too high because the movie, as photographed by László Kovács, has never been much of a looker. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the picture quality comes with a thick layer of grain throughout, and some sequences, particularly low-lit interiors and nighttime scenes, are predominantly thicker than others. Then again, this only serves to give the 4K transfer an appreciably cinematic appeal that cinephiles will surely appreciate.
Added to this, the picture comes with a slightly improved clarity and definition, which is immediately apparent in the lettering of signs all around, along books and the many machines sitting atop desks and tables. We can also more plainly make out the textural fabric of clothing — you can actually see discrete fibers in Janine's sweaters and Dana's outfits. The architectural design of the run-down firehouse and the haunted apartment complex is a tad more detailed, even from a distance with the weathering of the exterior of buildings and many of their intricacies clearly visible. The faces of the cast are more revealing, showing the tiniest, most insignificant blemishes, and individual hairs, from the actors to the optical ghosts and practical effect creatures, are sharper and more realistically defined. But again, there are a few soft, poorly-resolved scenes throughout, though obviously inherent to the photography and the source's condition.
The more noteworthy difference is a noticeable uptick in contrast and brightness levels, which in turn gives the film a more pleasing, renewed appeal. Although the cinematography is somewhat restrained, contrast is nonetheless spot-on and glowing with dazzling, true-to-life whites. Viewers can distinctly make out differences from the spotless labcoats, the unused papers on desks, the clean tiles along the inside walls of the firehouse, and the various computer equipment decorating the office space. Blacks are full-bodied and accurate in every scene with excellent gradational details in the darkest segments, displaying clear differences between the various shades. Poorly-lit interiors and nighttime sequences reveal the smallest gizmos on shelves, imperfections in the concrete of the apartment building and the faintest wrinkles in the supernatural hounds, Vinz and Zuul.
Of most interest to early adopters is Sony gracing the movie with new color grading so as to take advantage of the wider color gamut, and the results are surprisingly fantastic. The palette offers a rich array of energetic primaries that make the visuals and special effects come to life — reds appearing redder and greens looking greener — and flesh tones are warm and accurate. The blue and reddish-orange energy streams shooting from the proton packs are much more distinct and separate than ever before. Secondary hues are equally top-notch, animating every scene with a lovely, picture-perfect warmth, which is made all the more apparent when the Ghostbusters reach Gozer's foggy pyramid. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest, the entire confrontation against Gozer reaches the level of demo-worthy, filling the screen with a great mix of purples, whites, blacks and the orange flames consuming the Stay Puft marshmallow man. In the end, this is now the best presentation of a classic and dearly-beloved comedy.
Although our favorite ghostbusting team is also given an upgrade in the audio department, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for those not equipped for the new codec, arrives with similar results as the video. In that it's not a significant, night-and-day difference from its TrueHD counterpart found in previous Blu-ray releases. However, the design does appear to enjoy the breathing room, generating a slightly more amusing and engaging soundstage with sparing use of the surround speakers.
Originally an 80s stereo design, a majority of the audio remains a front-heavy mix and balanced across all three front channels, feeling expansive and naturally spacious. The entire soundstage contains various special effects and ambient sounds with a wide dynamic range, offering decent room penetration and clarity throughout. The original musical score by Elmer Bernstein and the iconic theme song by Ray Parker, Jr. enjoy a broad and sometimes engaging soundscape, with minor bleeds in the front height channels to create a very gratifying half-dome wall. Dialogue appears more polished with better warmth and clarity in the tonal differences between each actor and performance. If anything, imaging displays the best improvement fans will admire.
As in previous editions, surround activity is limited with the occasional atmospheric cues spreading to the sides and ceiling channels, like the sound of crickets or New York street traffic heard in the distance. Although pretty faint and subtle, directional pans smoothly move between the speakers for a few pleasing moments of envelopment. Of course, the best moments involve the battles with ghosts, such as the first encounter with Slimer, which nicely expands the soundfield. Better still, the things become more lively towards the third act when ghosts escape from the containment grid. and the fight with Gozer fills the room with plenty of activity. In fact, that final clash can serve as a good demo clip because Gozer's voice echoes all around and in the overheads, and at one point, it even hovers above the listening area and seems to float from one side of the room to the other, generating an immersive and very cool dome-like effect. The low-end, once again, is impressively weighty for a 32-year-old sound mix, adding palpable depth to each time the proton packs are activated and used.
After 30 years, 'Ghostbusters' remains just as amusing and hilarious as when it first hit theaters, full of gut-busting dialogue and many memorable scenes. Demonstrating that big-budget special effects can mesh well with laugh-out-loud comedy, the film remains one of the most successful comedies ever made, and continues to convert a new generation of fans with each viewing.
This Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a strong 4K video presentation. Though the picture quality isn't a massive jump from its Blu-ray counterpart, it offers several noteworthy improvements that should please fans. On the other hand, the movie arrives with a top-notch, satisfying Dolby Atmos audio presentation, joined by the same collection of supplements featured in previous home video editions. Nevertheless, the overall package is recommended for early adopters enthusiastic about the new format.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.