I set Callum Dunbar the challenge of watching Ghostbusters, one of my favourite films, which he had never seen before. Here’s the conversation we had after he’d watched it.
*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Elspeth H (EH): We’re going to talk about Ghostbusters, which had its 30th Anniversary last year and which you, at the age of 23, hadn’t seen until the weekend.
Callum Dunbar (CD): It was 7 years before my time.
EH: Before we talk about what you thought of it, can I ask you what you thought it was going to be like? The film means a lot in modern culture and I wondered how much that had infiltrated your mind already and what expectations you had of it?
CD: I thought it was going to be like Men In Black. That was my template.
EH: In what way?
CD: Mainly because it involved supernatural business and suits. I was also expecting Bill Murray. Heavy duty Bill Murray.
EH: Well, you were lucky there.
CD: I was. I was expecting some fairly shonky digital effects. Not quite as shonky as they were, in fact. I was surprised by how bad they were. I was expecting Casper-standard digital effects and Bill Murray humour.
EH: And did it meet those expectations? Was it better or worse than you expected it to be?
CD: Bill Murray was creepier than I thought he was going to be.
EH: In what way creepier?
CD: His flirting was quite unsettling at times, and confusing. Some of the special effects were far worse than I imagined but the film was better for that, I think.
EH: Any specific moments that stand out?
CD: When the weird dog things run across the road; a moment of King Kong-standard digital effects. The film was better than Men In Black. Much better.
EH: What did you find most surprising about it?
CD: The sexual undertones running through the whole thing. From the two strange sexual experiences involving ghosts to the Keymaster and Gatekeeper weirdness.
EH: Sigourney Weaver hovering over a bed.
EH: Would you recommend it to anyone?
EH: Who would you recommend it to? Do you have a “this will particularly appeal to people who like this film” or “I think my girlfriend would love it?”. She watched it with you, didn’t she?
CD: She did. My girlfriend did enjoy it; we’ll definitely watch the second one. I’d recommend it to people my own age. Just to witness a bit of gratuitous smoking in films. That’s always good to see.
EH: But it wasn’t gratuitous back then, that’s the thing.
CD: No, it wasn’t. But it sure as hell looks gratuitous now.
EH: You’re talking about a film that came out 7 years before you were born.
CD: I know, but the world appears to have changed so much. Now we expect plots without massive holes in them. Do we expect too much, Elspeth? I think we do.
EH: What kind of plot holes are you talking about? This is one of my favourite films, I don’t remember any plot holes in it. To me it is a seamless beauty.
CD: Maybe not plot holes, but big unanswered questions in the film.
EH: Such as?
CD: Such as Bill Murray’s dismissive attitude towards ghosts in the first half of the film, which he forgets when it’s time to become the de facto leader of the Ghostbusters.
EH: It’s just the charismatic Bill Murray character.
CD: He seems like an opportunist to me.
EH: But that’s fine. You can’t put a dampener on that. He’s magnificent in that role.
CD: And who is the blonde woman dancing at the accountant’s party? What’s the story behind the alarming sexual tension between the receptionist and the ghostbuster with glasses?
EH: Egon. That’s a beautiful foundation of a relationship, right there.
CD: And what happened to the cigarette that fell out of the ghostbuster’s mouth in the hotel?
EH: When you said massive plot holes, I was expecting massive plot holes, and what you’re giving me are higgle-dy piggle-dy little details.
CD: The film very much belongs to the “let’s throw enough shit at the wall and see what sticks” school, which I like. It kept me guessing. Also, the lack of an explanation as to how the team store ghosts; that’s something that really bothered me.
EH: But they did, they put it in the big thing with the lever.
CD: Yes, but how do you do that? They just happened to have enough money to create a ghost storage device which was literally capable of storing the end of the world.
EH: Well, they’re getting quite a lot of money from the people paying them to store the ghosts.
CD: Yeah, I guess they do.
EH: And they made friends with the mayor by the end of it.
CD: YES. Here’s the key one: why does a cardinal turn up during one scene? What does the cardinal add to the film?
EH: I think you have to allow for comic effect. I think you’re missing the fact that this is a comedy.
CD: It was a different age…
EH: I don’t have much to add to that. The other thing I was going to ask you about was, having seen the film, are there lots of cultural references that now make more sense because of it? I know you’ve seen Be Kind Rewind, where two friends make their own version of Ghostbusters. Have you suddenly thought “Oh my gosh! That’s what they were referring to!”?
CD: Actually, a lot of the hype around Bill Murray now makes more sense. As a crash course in Bill Murray I think you can’t go wrong with Ghostbusters.
EH: Had you not seen many Bill Murray films before?
CD: I’d seen a couple but now it makes more sense.
EH: You just have a better understanding of Bill. The might that is.
CD: Yeah, that’s about it. Did The Exorcist come out before or after Ghostbusters?
EH: I don’t know, actually.
CD: In the film, there’s the exorcism scene where Sigourney Weaver floats above the bed; was that a reference to Ghostbusters or was Ghostbusters referring to The Exorcist? I know which one I want to believe.
EH: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question.
CD: Another question: why do the weird dog things have to target Sigourney Weaver and the other character? I mean, there was a whole party full of people there in the accountant’s apartment when they lets the dogs out. Why did the dog chase the accountant across New York, when prime pickings of other wholesome bodies, right down the hall?
EH: You’re missing the fact that he’s the Keymaster.
CD: I am. But was he the Keymaster before that scene?
EH: He’s always been the Keymaster because of the building. I feel like you need to watch this film again.
CD: A lot of Ghostbusters went over my head. I’m not sure what this says about me.
EH: Finally, if you were to give it a rating out of 5 stars, where would it fall?
CD: I think before our conversation, I would have said 3 but now…
EH: Now you’ve got a better understanding of it…
CD: On reflection, I’d say 4 and a half.
EH: 4.5 That’s pretty good. I’m impressed by that.
CD: I can see why it’s a classic.
EH: It gets a straight-up 5 from me, nothing about that film can flaw it. It’s fantastic. So, thank you very much.
CD: Can I give my favourite quote?
EH: Please do.
CD: Bill Murray: I make it a rule to never get with possessed people… It’s more of a guideline than a rule.…
You can find Callum’s blog here or follow him on Twitter here.
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