“Why worry. Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.”
I could hardly choose a single line to put at the top of this–they’re almost all classics.
The great story of three men, who, after being booted out of the cushy world of academia and have to get real jobs which is a problem for some of them, “You’ve never worked in the private sector. They expect results.” So they do the only thing they can think of, they catch ghosts. Oh and destroy a lot of crap in the mean time…but they get paid well. Meanwhile a moldy Sumerian god is planning on returning and destroying the world. But, as I’m sure we all know the Ghostbusters have this covered. Honestly do I really have to summarize the plot…we’ve all seen it. We all know who to call.
Not exactly a lot of fear here, just a lot of great humor dressed up in the trappings of a horror flick. Something that has been lost in modern comedy, the understated visual gag. Egon moves to the other side of the elevator after turning on the proton pack and the comment about the unlicensed nuclear accelerator…no need to explain the punch line or even to have other characters mention it, just make the joke and move on expecting your audience to be bright enough to get it…and there are numerous examples of this. And then the dialogue is even better. I watch this movie every year and it never gets old. As I said I’m sure you’ve seen it so you know that rather than listening to me talk about the quality of the writing you should just go and watch it.
And of course on the greatest reason to love this movie, the EPA is the villain. That’s right the whole mass destruction is primarily caused because an arrogant, dickless (hey, I’m just quoting a fact listed in the movie, twice in fact), brainless, bureaucrat had to show that he had power. This movie understands that when it’s the federal government vs. small business, the federal government is on the side of the universe destroying evil. It’s a pity the bureaucrat only got covered in marshmallow and not something more painful and befitting the vicious crime of being a bureaucrat.
Of course the lasting impact of this movie can best be summed up with the following line from my favorite TV show:
“Who you gonna call? [awkward silence] God, that phrase is never gonna be usable again, is it?”–Spike
Give it up, Frank! Death ain’t no way to make a living!
Even a New Ager like me who believes in psychic powers, I will admit most of them are charlatans and con artists. However the story of a real psychic who makes his living off of being a charlatan psychic is, as far as I know, original…yes I’ve seen quite a few stories about charlatans developing powers but never the other way around. (Of course having Michael J. Fox as a misanthropic asshole was also a new idea.)
And the supporting cast is simply hilarious. Jack Busey as the villain is possibly one of the few actors on this planet who can look crazier than his father Gary. R. Lee Emery as a ghostly version of his usual hardnosed drill sergeant. And the ever underappreciated Jeffrey Combs as a mentally unstable FBI agent who is obsessed with the paranormal (yeah that may make you think Fox Mulder, but this guy makes Mulder’s most bizarre habits look mundane and rational.
Battles with the Grim Reaper himself, other worldly serial killers, psycho Feds, and a crazy lady with a very big gun. Mystery as to who is good and bad. Tension throughout most of the movie. And a good dose of humor. This movie is unknown most likely because it had a very poor showing at the box office when it first came out. This probably had something to do with the fact that the studio tried to hype the movie by pointing out that it was produced by Robert Zemeckis (whom we had all forgotten even back in the 1990’s) and completely ignored the director Peter Jackson (I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I seem to remember him going on to do something else, the name just has a certain ring to it). Again, not the greatest film ever made but it is far too underappreciated than its quality actually merits. (If nothing else this is what gave Jackson a huge amount of experience in dealing with CGI, without which we wouldn’t have our favorite Hobbits).
Here we see not the typical fear of death that is so common of horror films (although it is here) but more the fear of life. You have ghost by the bushel who are afraid to move on with their “life” (I use the term loosely), a hero so focused on what has gone wrong with his life that he is unable to move on, and a trio of villains who all seem to be radically antithetical to living life. In both your life, and afterlife, it is shown that not moving on, living life, but rather holding on to the past (in Fox’s character focusing on his wife’s death, with the killers their focus is on breaking records set by others) to the point that it is a paralytic even worse than the fear that the characters tend to inspire in others.
“Does it hurt to be dead?”
Sometimes the dead still need a savior.
Those words being the dark journey through murder and the paranormal that is “Stir of Echoes.”
Kevin Bacon plays a man who accidentally gets a latent power of being able to hear the dead with volume turned onto full. This would be annoying in and of itself, but he’s living in a house where someone was murdered. Psychic powers are difficult to control if you’ve grown up with them, to go from zero to full blast in a day will drive you absolutely crazy…and it does drive Kevin Bacon’s crazy.
Although he was asking for it. He did say “What’s the worst that could happen?” We all know that next to “As long as nothing bad happens” that is about as terrible a jinx as you can get.
Obviously ghosts, those who have died but can’t move on, bring up the inherent fear of death but they also bring up the heavily related fear of the unknown. What are they? What do they want? Why didn’t they move on? The maddening frustration that comes when you get part of the story but not all of it, that you understand something is happening but you don’t know what, that you know you have to do something but have no clue what it is. The helplessness of not knowing. It can be one of the worst fears in the world, and since it’s something we’ve all experienced (although likely not to this extreme degree) we can empathize can feel the terror that such a situation causes—this movie just takes them to a horrifying extreme.
It is based on a book by Richard Matheson (who also wrote “I am Legend” which was much better than the movie, hat Dreams May Come very different from the movie so hard to compare, and “Steel” which was ruined by Hugh Jackman very soon…he also penned the Twilight Zone episode where Shatner sees the creature on the wing of the plane and that Star Trek episode where Kirk was split in two) who is an excellent writer so I can assume the book is as good if not better than the film, but I have not read it so I can’t be absolutely sure in that knowledge….I mean to get around to reading it just haven’t yet. Judging what I know of Matheson’s style the book probably went into the intricacies of how people experience and deal with psychic powers. This movie touches on some of that, how it comes in waves and images that are not always understandable. Skeptics like to complain about how weird it is that psychics can’t just talk to people who in life were quite able to converse…but the thing they’re ignoring is that when you die you leave your vocal chords behind and are left with only your mind. Look at your own mind for a minute…is every thought a pure and logical sequence of words? Or are there emotions, images, sounds, smell, memories of different times all at once, thoughts that preexist any definition in sense or words. I would hazard that most of us do not have perfect control of our minds…add to that the unfamiliarity of being out of your body and it gets even more chaotic. And that’s what a psychic picks up. That random train of thought. So when it comes, as it does to Kevin Bacon in the form of disjointed images and half-dozen notes of “Paint it Black” it will drive you up the wall.
In addition to all of this fear that comes from the madness of the unknown, there are the overtones of the “Cask of Amontillado” in the way the ghost’s body has been buried and the hint that this will never end for our characters creates a tone of darkness that strikes just the right chord of terror of the unknown.