In defence of Ghostbusters 2 – Carpathians, Pink Goo and Lady Liberty

When there’s something strange…in your fandom-hood, who you gonna call? A level-headed individual to calm everyone down and tell it like it is, that’s who! And never fear, that person is here! The Ghostbusters franchise seems to have evolved over the last three decades from enjoyable comedy movies that we look back on fondly, with a nostalgic glow, to something we regularly scream about on the internet, and not in the good horror movie way.

Much of this screaming revolves around pitting the four Ghostbusters films that have been released so far (Ghostbusters: Afterlife is out now) against each other. And I’m here to tell you that they’re all good! Yes, even Ghostbusters II. And the lady Ghostbusters. All of them.

1989’s Ghostbusters II has never had a great rep, including from the people involved. But some of us liked it even more than the first one at the time and have remained loyal to this day. It was released while the fantastic Real Ghostbusters animated series was running and even incorporated some elements – such as Janine’s look. Also, once lovable human teddy bear Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) became a Ghostbuster in the sequel, he was added to the cartoon. What a time to be alive!

Firstly, the stakes are raised by giving Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) a baby. It’s also great that the baby isn’t Venkman’s and that her husband has been quickly dispatched, leaving her as a single mother.

I really need to know who to talk to in order to have Dana’s life – an apartment on Central Park West, a nanny and the ability to bounce between vague part-time jobs – both in creative fields. Dana has moved on from being a cellist in a world-class orchestra to a restorer of museum-quality paintings, as one does.

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The opening sequence, in which the baby’s pram goes haywire and starts running away from Dana on a busy New York street is thrilling and well-executed. We then catch up with Ray (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston (Ernie Hudson), who are down on their luck due to the ghostbusting work drying up.

They are now – the horror – children’s entertainers at birthday parties. This leads to a great moment with director Ivan Reitman’s son (and future Ghostbusters: Afterlife director) Jason Reitman getting the line; “my dad says you guys are full of crap!”

Ray and the Brownstone Boy #2

We find Venkman (Bill Murray) hosting a talk show called ‘World of the Psychic’, where a woman tells him that the world is going to end on February 14, 2016. But she was five months out because the girl Ghostbusters came out in July of that year (I jest).

One of the highlights comes early on, where the four Ghostbusters, including Egon (Harold Ramis), have reunited to investigate some strange pink goo that appears to be flowing in the sewers. They pose as construction workers, complete with authentic ‘Noo Yoik’ accents, and lower Ray down into the bubblegum-like slime.

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This leads to them getting into trouble with the law again and they find themselves in court, with a deeply sceptical and angry judge. The angrier he gets, the more the slime starts to bubble and ooze, until the ghosts of the Scoleri Brothers (who the judge sentenced to the electric chair) appear! And of course, the Ghostbusters have to save the day once more.

This courthouse scene is one of the best in any of the three movies, with the idea of murderers who were given death sentences coming back to life making for a scary concept (for kids, at least) which is executed (ahem) entertainingly. Even more, could have been made of this if anything.

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The central conceit of Ghostbusters II – that the pink slime feeds on anger (in the New York of the 1980s) – is a truly funny and clever one. The Mayor says; “being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker’s God-given right!” The other big strength is that Vigo the Carpathian – and his cypher, Janosz (a deliciously hammy Peter MacNicol) – makes for a great villain.

As always, Venkman gets all of the best lines, such as when the Ghostbusters are investigating the painting where Vigo resides and he is photographing it as if Vigo is a fashion model – “I’ve worked with better, but not many.” The undoubted best joke of the film comes when Dana flees to Venkman’s apartment after the bathtub tries to eat her baby (it happens).

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She tells Venkman that she really should put the baby down, as it’s getting late and he replies; “May I?… You’re short, your belly button sticks out too far and you’re a terrible burden on your poor mother!” Murray is still firing on all cylinders in the sequel.

The finale has lots of great little side-moments, beyond the main event, such as a lady’s mink coat coming to snarling life, the Titanic finally arriving in New York harbour and Slimer driving a bus. But the star who saves the day is Lady Liberty, who is, dare I say it, maybe even better than the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man?

Peter MacNicol as Dr. Janosz Poha and Wilhelm as Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.

Thematically, she works brilliantly – bringing cynical New Yorkers together on New Year’s Eve in celebration and song, therefore sucking the pink goo of its power. If you can’t feel the stirrings of joy as Jackie Wilson’s ‘Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher’ starts to play, then I don’t know what to tell you.

And once again, the Ghostbusters save Dana (and her baby) and New York. A last great little gag is when they rid the haunted painting of Vigo the Carpathian, it transforms into a ‘classical’ work, depicting the Ghostbusters in togas. It still mystifies me to this day why Ghostbusters II has such a bad rep, as it could be argued that it’s even more fun than the first. It has great gags, a great villain and a great giant who saves the day – what’s not to like?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in theatres now.

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Fiona Underhill Fiona Underhill

Updated: Nov 19, 2021


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