In this FandomWire Video Essay, we explain why THIS is the PERFECT scene in Ghostbusters.
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Ghostbusters Perfect Scene
Ghost-Smashers! Well, that’s what they were almost called, anyway. Released in the summer of 1984, Ghostbusters became an instant classic. The story of four paranormal investigators who become the world’s only hope against ghosts, ghouls, and otherworldly entities was unlike anything audiences had seen before. But as good as the movie was, it was nearly very different.
Dan Akroyd, who portrayed Ray Stantz in the film, had envisioned a story that played out on a far larger scale. His vision followed a team, then titled the “Ghost-Smashers,” as they traveled through various dimensions, battling otherworldly beings in varying realms of reality and existence. To say that the script was grandiose would be an understatement, and the project was deemed too massive of an undertaking. The budget for Ghost-Smashers would have been astronomical, and studios weren’t bending over backwards to finance it.
Together, Akroyd and Harold Ramis reworked the script, scaling it back to a more grounded paranormal comedy that explored the team’s origins with a focus on New York City. And the title was changed to… Ghostbusters. On paper, it doesn’t sound like it should work. A supernatural comedy about ghost hunters doesn’t exactly scream box office success. But a tight script and an amazing cast helped to launch this 80’s hit into a cult classic that is still spawning sequels and merchandise today. There’ve been animated series, video games, toys, sequels, and reboots, but nothing within the Ghostbusters brand has managed to recapture the ‘lightning in a bottle’ of the original.
Filled with iconic imagery and one-liners, Ghostbusters is one hour and forty-five minutes of pure escapism with a fantastic soundtrack. And while nearly every moment of the film is memorable, there is one scene in particular that perfectly encompasses the comedic beats balanced flawlessly against the supernatural elements. A scene that showcases these four men as being completely in over their heads yet unflinchingly determined in their efforts to save New York, and the world, from utter annihilation. It’s absurd, heroic, hilarious. It’s… PERFECT. I’m talking about the climactic showdown against Gozer and… you guessed it, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
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Ghostbusters wouldn’t exist without this man.
Akroyd’s relationship with the supernatural runs deeper than many may know. In a 2020 interview, Akroyd told Yahoo Entertainment, “It started with my great-grandfather. It’s a family business, really.” The comedian comes from generations of believers and mediums. Séances and publications devoted to the study of psychics and spirits were just a part of everyday life growing up, and his father, Peter Akroyd, even authored and published a book titled “The History of Ghosts.”
This passion and respect for the supernatural shines through in the Ghostbusters script, far more so than any of the franchise’s follow-ups. The three core team members, Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman, and Ray Stantz, are true believers in a world filled with doubters. The driving force behind their decision to launch their own business stems from their dismissal from the University where they were employed, utilizing a grant to study parapsychology. The university doesn’t acknowledge their studies as legitimate. Even after starting The Ghostbusters, the team are flooded with calls mocking and patronizing them.
The overall consensus that ghosts aren’t real and that their business is a scam is one that Akroyd has likely faced frequently throughout his life. Through his writing, he’s able to craft a scenario where not only his beliefs are proven to be true, but that the world then turns to the believers in their time of need. Those who had scoffed at the idea of ghost hunters now rely on them to save the day. Audiences love an underdog, and the Ghostbusters are certainly that, especially as they face off against Gozer The Destructor, in the film’s final act.
For the most part, these men would be considered “average.” They don’t possess the muscular physique or unstoppable determination typical of the 80’s cinematic hero. With the exception of Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, they’re intellectuals, doctors, and professors. Winston’s role in the film is to embody the “everyman.” He lacks the experience and knowledge of the rest of the team, but his willingness to accept the existence of ghosts, coupled with his common sense street smarts, make him a valuable member.
Our perfect scene finds these men on a rooftop as an interdimensional being known as Gozer The Gozerian, finds itself in New York. This is one of the few plotlines from the original “Ghost-Smashers” storyline that made the transition into the film. Up until this point, the Ghostbusters’ experience with ghosts had been somewhat minimal: running scared from a specter in a library and being slimed by a hotel menace lovingly named “Onion Head.” Onion Head, who would later be known as Slimer, went on to become a staple of the franchise, even acting as a sort of Pet in the Ghostbusters animated series.
They had never faced off against anything even close to this powerful. And as a result, they don’t have a plan of action. Ghostbusters is far more comedy than horror. However, it does showcase some exceptionally effective horror elements. Case in point, the Terror Dogs. The Terror Dogs are Zuul and Vinz Clortho, the Gate Keeper and Key Master, and loyal servants to Gozer, who utilize unlucky humans as their earthly vessels. Those vessels are Louis Tulley, played by the comedic icon Rick Moranis, and Dana Barrett, played by Sigourney Weaver.
Sure, the scene of Louis being chased through the city by a terror dog looks dated by today’s standards and is largely played for laughs, but the scene of Dana’s encounter with a terror dog is far more frightening. She sits in an armchair in her apartment as an ominous glow shines through the cracks of a nearby door. Just as she begins to take notice of the light, three inhuman arms burst from the fabric of her chair and pin her in place. The door opens to reveal a Terror Dog, its eyes glowing red through the thick fog that engulfs the room as it hisses and roars. The chair turns and begins to slide towards the horrifying image as Dana fights to free herself unsuccessfully. It’s a far cry from the film’s typical humor and sets the tone for the threatening intensity of the film’s climactic finale.
As the Ghostbusters make their way to the rooftop where the final showdown occurs, Dana and Louis, now possessed by Zuul and Vinz Clortho, stand and wait for their master. Lightning crashes to the rooftop, striking Dana and Louis and transforming them into the Terror Dogs. This completes their ritual, and acting as the Gatekeeper and the Key Master, they summon Gozer through an interdimensional gateway. It’s a visually stunning achievement that’s made even more impressive considering the limitations of the time.
Gozer is described as an ultra-powerful, shape-shifting Demi-God capable of taking on any form it wishes… Here, it takes on the form of a pale-skinned, slender woman played by Yugoslavian model Slavitza Jovan.
Part of what makes this scene so perfect is the manner in which the Ghostbusters react to the situation, maintaining their composure and delivering some of the film’s funniest one-liners. For example, Ray greets Gozer with a “Good evening” and attempts to order the demi-god to cease any and all supernatural activity and return to where it came from. Gozer responds by asking, “Are you a god?” and Ray answers with a hesitant “No.”
That was the wrong answer, as Gozer then pelts the Ghostbusters with electricity from her hands and nearly throws them over the edge of the skyscraper to their death. This leads the Ghostbusters to use their proton packs. The proton packs are energy-based weapons used for capturing and restraining ghosts. All four members of the team power on their packs and fire at Gozer, who leaps high into the air, flipping, and landing unscathed. The team turn up the power of their packs and fire again, only this time, Gozer disappears. Vanishing into thin air.
The team celebrates, thinking they’ve defeated the shape-shifting antagonist with surprising ease. However, their cheers and high-fives are short-lived. As the building shakes and concrete rains down on the frightened spectators below, the menacing voice of Gozer emerges, stating that the “Traveler has come” and demanding the Ghostbusters to “Choose the form of the destructor.”
Gozer’s plan, like so many cinematic antagonists, is world destruction. Complete and utter annihilation of planet earth beginning right here in New York City. And unfortunately, that destruction seems imminent as the Ghostbusters have proven they’re no match for the godly powers of Gozer the Gozerian. In a final act of menace, Gozer forces the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the otherworldly traveler who will act as earth’s destroyer. Venkman insists they empty their heads, clear their minds, and refuse to imagine anything. But the voice of Gozer insists that a destructor has been chosen anyway.
It’s revealed Ray had been the only one unable to fully clear his mind. Instead, he thought of the most harmless thing he could. Something he’d loved from his childhood… The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Stay-Puft Marshmallows are a fictional brand of Marshmallows created for the film, and The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is a fictional mascot. However, his appearance as the giant, destructive monster at the climax is not the first time we’ve seen him. The mascot could be seen earlier in the film on a bag of Marshmallows in Dana’s apartment.
Many involved with the film feared that his inclusion was a step too far into the territory of silliness and that it would take the audience out of the moment. Luckily those naysayers were overruled.
In his new book “How The Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever, A Convenient Parallel Dimension,” Author James Greene, Jr. Wrote:
“The filmmakers believed, however, that this behemoth was worth the gamble for the metaphor: humanity’s fear of the intangible proven to be, in Ramis’s words, ‘as insubstantial as marshmallow.’”
The introduction of Mr. Stay-Puft as a godzilla-sized behemoth that threatened the world was pivotal. It had to be done perfectly. The imagery of his oversized head bobbing along the iconic New York Skyline set the tone immediately.
It was decided that the creature would be one hundred and twelve and a half feet. To achieve that illusion, a large suit was constructed for an actor to wear while interacting with miniatures. His scenes were shot at 72 frames per second so that the footage could be slowed down and create the illusion of his massive stature.
With Mr. Stay-Puft making his way up the side of the building, the team has to think quickly, and Egon suggests crossing all four streams from their proton packs, something that he had urged them not to do earlier in the film, saying that it could destroy all life and cause every molecule in your body to explode at the speed of light.
The plan is to use the streams to reverse the particle flow through the gate and HOPEFULLY survive. Sure, it doesn’t really make any sense, but it works, and we love it!
An explosion erupts, and fire engulfs Mr. Stay-Puft, causing melted, foamy marshmallow to rain down on the thankful citizens below. This was accomplished utilizing a mixture of shaving cream and water. Dana and Louis break free from the charred shell of the Terror Dogs, seemingly unscathed, and everything is right in the world. All thanks to the ordinary men who were brave enough to take on Ghosts.
The climactic showdown between Gozer and the Ghostbusters was a perfect conclusion to one of the greatest stories ever told. Throughout the film, the extent of the supernatural slowly increased, allowing the audience and the characters to slowly adapt and accept. All of it building to this PERFECT scene that dared to push the boundaries of what was expected in film.
What’s your favorite Ghostbusters scene? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for watching, and for more great video content, who ya gonna call? FandomWire! We’ll see ya next time.
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