Blu-ray Review Comedy

Spook Central Blu-ray Review: Ghostbusters 1 & 2

October 1, 2014Ben MK

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They're baaack...

This year marks three decades since the theatrical debut of Ghostbusters. And with Halloween right around the corner, what better way to celebrate than to revisit with Ray, Egon, Peter, Winston — and, of course, Slimer — in this seminal, genre-bending comedy classic and its sequel? Sony's just-released anniversary collection bundles both films together, with several all-new extras and Mastered-in-4K video to boot. But for those who may already own any of the two previous Blu-ray releases of the first film, is this new edition worth a double — or even a triple — dip?


The Films Is there anyone out there who hasn't seen Ghostbusters? Even if you're among the minority of moviegoers, you're probably at least familiar with it, as the film has made quite an impact on popular culture over the years. From toys to videogames, cartoon spin-offs to clothing, you'd be hard-pressed to think of a consumer product that hasn't been swept up in the marketing and merchandising boom it triggered.

It all started in 1984, with the film that re-teamed director Ivan Reitman with Harold Ramis, co-writer of Reitman's previous two films, Meatballs and Stripes, and Bill Murray, the star of those films. Also joining them was one of the original members of SCTV Toronto and Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd, on whose original concept the movie was based, and Ernie Hudson, who had become a familiar face on the small screen, with guest-starring roles on such shows as The A-Team, The Dukes of Hazzard and The Incredible Hulk.

A smart and savvy send-up of the horror genre, Ghostbusters casts Ramis, Murray and Aykroyd as doctors Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman and Ray Stantz, a trio of New York City parapsychologists who run Columbia University's Paranormal Studies Laboratory. But after losing their research funding, they're inspired to take matters into their own hands, going into business for themselves as professional paranormal investigators and eliminators.

One of their first customers is Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who comes to them seeking help for the strange goings-on in her apartment on Central Park West. The Ghostbusters' investigation yields much more than your average, run-of-the-mill haunting, however. Joined by new hire Winston Zeddemore (Hudson), they discover the building to be a Hellmouth, and it falls on them to protect the fine citizens of New York from the demonic visitor that steps through it — a shapeshifting demigod called Gozer.

Looking back on the film thirty years later, it's no wonder it's become the influential classic that it has, as it still holds up tremendously well. Although some of the visual effects are admittedly crude by modern standards, there's an undeniable charm about the movie, owing primarily to the entertaining interplay between its cast members (which also include Rick Moranis as Dana's nerdy neighbour, Louis Tully, and Annie Potts as the Ghostbusters' no-nonsense secretary, Janine Melnitz).

And they all return for Ghostbusters 2, which pits the Ghostbusters against a new foe: the malevolent and ghostly Prince Vigo, once-ruler of Carpathia. Set five years after the events of the original, the 1989 sequel begins with the team divided and New York on the verge of being besieged by a subterranean river of pink slime that's been feeding off the negative emotions of its citizens. It's not long, however, till the Ghostbusters band together again — to save the city from the effects of its own negativity and to rescue Dana's infant son, Oscar, from the clutches of Viggo, who intends to use the boy as a vessel to usher in his second coming on this earthly plane.

In some ways, the sequel feels like a rehash, hitting many of the same story beats as the first movie, but it's still a fun romp in its own regard. Reitman and company successfully expand on the original's supernatural action, with set pieces that are more visually impressive. And though some of the character dynamics have changed, there's still ample humor and heart at the core of the film. Other aspects of the sequel don't hold up as well as its predecessor (for some reason the music feels even more dated, even though it's a more recent film), but the fan service it delivers is worth the price of admission.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 feature Mastered-in-4K video and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio presentations, with Ghostbusters 2 also making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut. Ghostbusters, on the other hand, has been released on Blu-ray twice over the past five years: both times with the same Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and the second time with the same Mastered-in-4K video presentation as this release. In the end, however, Mastered-in-4K and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 deliver the winning combination, with both films looking and sounding better than they ever have before.

Color reproduction and contrast are impressively sumptuous in most shots, with reds and yellows appearing to stand out the most (see the red eyes of the demon dogs in the first film, for example, or the yellow hardhats and outfits donned by Ray, Egon and Winston as they descend into the sewers in the second film), upstaged only by the movie's more fantastical visual elements (such as Slimer's fluorescent green hues or the neon pink river of slime that flows beneath the city). Otherwise, the high-def transfers take on a very filmic quality, thanks to the unaltered grain structure present in the image, with no observable image defects and top-notch sharpness and clarity (save for a few deliberately soft-focus shots).

As for the audio, whether it's Ray Parker Jr.'s original Ghostbusters theme song or Run-D.M.C.'s rendition for the sequel, both movies sound uniformly great, with fully immersive channel placement that places viewers squarely in the middle of all the supernatural action. From the howls and screams of the various ghosts and ghouls and the ferocious growls of the demon dogs to the thunderous footfalls of Mr. Stay Puft and Viggo's bellowing voice, these robust reproductions of the films' soundstages are sure to give fans goosebumps.

Special Features Sony's 2-disc Blu-ray release includes UltraViolet digital copies of the films, as well as numerous extras. Housed inside its handsome digibook packaging, you'll also find "A Personal Note from Ivan Reitman" and a 25-page full-color booklet that delves into the making of both films (with photos, concept art and "Original 1984 Talent Bios" to help guide the way).

Ghostbusters is accompanied by 110 minutes of special features, and that's not even counting the Commentary with Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis & Joe Medjuck, the Slimer Mode Picture-in-Picture (in which interview clips, behind-the-scenes footage and factoids pop up in a small window overlaying the film as it plays) and the Gallery 1988 Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Print Collection (which consists of 31 images celebrating the film's 30th anniversary). There's also the 24-minute Who You Gonna Call: A Ghostbusters Retrospective, part one of a newly-produced look back at the franchise with Reitman an Aykroyd, hosted by entertainment journalist Geoff Boucher, 2 minutes of Alternate TV Version Takes, a 4-minute "Ghostbusters" Music Video by Ray Parker, Jr. and a 2-minute Theatrical Trailer. The rest of the film's bonus features are carried over from previous home video releases and include a couple of pieces on the restoration of the Ghosbusters' iconic vehicle, the Ecto-I (the 16-minute Ecto-I: Resurrecting the Classic Car and the 6-minute Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-I Gallery), a handful of vintage featurettes (the 10-minute 1984 Featurette, 11-minute Cast and Crew Featurette and 15-minute SFX Team Featurette), ten deleted scenes (dubbed Scene Cemetery), totalling 8 minutes, and three Multi-Angle Explorations and three Storyboard Comparisons, totalling 6 minutes each.

Ghostbusters 2 comes with 35 minutes of special features, beginning with the 16-minute Time Is But A Window: Ghostbusters II and Beyond, part two of the franchise retrospective hosted by Geoff Boucher. There's also another Scene Cemetery (this time consisting of seven deleted scenes, totalling 7 minutes), a 5-minute "On Our Own" Music Video by Bobby Brown and three Original Trailers, totalling 6 minutes.

The Bottom Line Ghostbusters is one of those rare films that truly deserves to be called a classic. And while its sequel may not necessarily stand up to the same degree of scrutiny, the fact that they're both included here in one low-cost package should be considered nothing less than a bonus. Factor in the spectacular Mastered-in-4K A/V presentation and the inclusion of a bounty of endless extras, and the conclusion is a no-brainer: Ghostbusters 1 & 2 on Blu-ray is a must-own for ghost, ghouls and Ghostbuster-wannabes everywhere.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Films  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

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