The saga of the first time I ever experienced true, unequivocal fear occurred back in the summer of 1984, approximately five months into only my sixth year on the planet. I was as innocent as they came, young and full of life, unaware that there were any other actual emotions in the world outside of pure happiness, shyness, and the occasional pings of distress at the thought of catching cooties. All of that changed one sweltering June afternoon as my parents, unbeknownst to me at the time, would be taking me to see a film that would forever change my life.
In keeping with the theme of six, I present to you the six ways in which Ghostbusters scarred me for life:
- Reading is for Suckers: It’s true, I blame my lack of literacy on Ghostbusters. From the spooky opening notes to the trio’s final confrontation with the library ghost, the first scenes of Ghostbusters set the stage to what would be my inevitable fear of the public library.
- Let’s Just Eat out Tonight: When you’re six, the refrigerator is already a large and intimidating object. When a demi-god and her two ugly pets take residence inside of one, all bets are off. Hence, why I prefer to just keep a cooler of beer by my bed side.
- “He’s an ugly, little spud, isn’t he:” There’s no doubt that the “disgusting blob” called Onion Head (later to be known as Slimer) is no Casper. When Venkman utters the epic response to the aforementioned quote, “I think he can hear you, Ray,” I remember the air leaving my body as the green spud came flying down the hall.
- “I’ll take the next one:” Honestly, I’m not entirely sure why the taxi skeleton left such an indelible mark on my brain. Seeing as the creature’s screen time was mere seconds should have made him a passing thought. Nonetheless, something about the look on that bugger's face as it turned its head creepily around at the passenger in the backseat had me swearing off yellow-checkered vehicles for the better part of 30 years.
- “So, she’s a dog:” Ever since I’ve been able stumble on two feet, I’ve loved animals, especially dogs. Alas, leave it to Ghostbusters to plant the seed in my pea brain that adopting a hairless mutt might not be in my best interest. It didn’t take long for me to shake that notion, but to this day I still won’t go near a spare bedroom in a house where the coats are being stored.
- “I tried to think of the most harmless thing:” Like most people that saw Ghostbusters for the first time (or hasn’t had the ending spoiled for them by its iconic notoriety within pop culture), the final scene of the film was one of epic and surprising proportions. That said, the three seconds of film that scared the ever-loving bejeezus out of me more than any other scene was the initial shot of Mr. Stay Puft’s head moving through the building rooftops. When he turns his head on camera with that pissed-off, evil grin on his face, I knew someone was going to have to steam clean my movie seat. When that manically sinister look made its second appearance as he looked at the boys in grey before scaling the building, I knew I would be sleeping with the lights on for about 14 years. For the most part, when the Michelin Man doppelganger came on screen in his totality, I fell in love with the whole culmination of events taking place, and it quickly became one of my favorite scenes of the film, even at that time. But, those eyes . . . those eyes!
I don’t remember my parental units providing any type of warning before heading into the theater that fateful day, although, to be fair, I recall very little of my life during those early days of my existence. I’m not one of those individuals with a sponge-like memory that can recount the precise visual details of leaving the womb or what it was like having my diaper changed for the first time. Regrettably, not much has changed, seeing as I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning. On the bright side, at least I’m consistent.
Taking all of that into consideration, it’s a tribute to the ingenuity of the film’s tonal balance to have successfully engrained such terrifying, yet awe-inspiring, memories into my still-developing gray matter. I do take some consolation in knowing I’m not the only one this movie had such an indelible impact on. I’ve talked to many in and around my age who also regale of the first time the library ghost had them sleeping with their parents for the following 12 months. It’s a more common thread than one might think.
As my maturity and intelligence levels have increased over the years – although arguably not by much – I’ve grown to love Ghostbusters for all of its other brilliant qualities, the most important of those being the film’s unending layers of humor. Even after having watched the film for the 67,364th time during Sony’s recent 4K theater re-release, I was still picking up bits and pieces of nuance that had escaped me during previous viewings. I always chalk that up to the fact that I continue to laugh at extremely high decibels for the majority of the film’s runtime.
Consequently, as I sit back and take in Ghostbusters for the umpteenth time this Halloween, as per my yearly ritual, I will also again reflect back on the first thing to ever truly scare the underoos off me, and, more importantly, one of the very first things I remember from my childhood. Despite the fact the movie has undeniably scarred me for life, it has done so in the best of ways, as well. If you have no major plans come the 31st, I highly recommend asking, “Who ya gonna call?” and sitting down to watch one of the best flicks to successfully cause wonderment, laughter, and nightmares within six year olds the world over. Ghostbusters is, indeed, that good. So good, in fact, it’s scary.