Arts & Culture News

The New Ghostbusters Film Is Haunted by the Original, But Dallas' Biggest Fans Aren't Scared Off

Angry online movie critics achieved a new level of mouth-frothing fervor over director Paul Feig's all-female reboot of the classic 1984 horror comedy Ghostbusters that can only be matched by a riot at a British soccer stadium or a Donald Trump primary rally.

Users of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit doomed the new Ghostbusters' chances before it even hit theaters. There are campaigns dedicated to reducing the film's rating on the Internet Movie Database and the trailer on YouTube is one of the most disliked videos in YouTube's history. There were even calls for Ghostbusters fans to boycott the new film.

These efforts only made the humor and characters in Feig's film more relevant, exposing a previously undetected sexist strain of Ghostbusters fans. Of course, the haters could do nothing to prevent the movie from being released last Friday or scoring plenty of fair to positive reviews from real critics. And some of Dallas' truest Ghostbusters fans are embracing the film readily.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Ghostbusters — a nonprofit community of cosplayers who celebrate their love for the Ghostbusters franchise by building replica props, uniforms and vehicles from the films for appearances at conventions, charity gatherings and other public and private events — received an invitation from the franchise's new production company, Ghost Corps, to attend the official premiere at Mann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

"I loved it actually," says DFW Ghostbusters member Derrick Dorman of Mesquite. "I know it's been ridiculously controversial with the fanbase, but at the end of the day, it's just a movie. There's no reason to get all twisted up about it, and that's coming from a guy who drives a Ghostbusters car every day." 

The DFW Ghostbusters received their invitation two weeks before the premiere, and members traveled to California on their own dime. Some flew, while others drove one of the group's five ECTO-1 inspired vehicles (if you count the motorcycle dubbed the ECTO-2 that's introduced in the new film). They got to walk the slime green carpet, greet the celebrity guests from the new and the original film, meet other Ghostbusters groups from across the country and watch the movie in 3-D on a laser-projected IMAX screen.

"It was absolutely surreal," says DFW Ghostbusters member Megan Yenter of Irving. "Everything about it just happened so fast. I never thought in a million years that I would go to a red carpet premiere for, well, I don't want to even call it just a movie. It's a classic story that was a big part of my childhood. I never thought I'd be part of that or let alone be on the red carpet for it."  

The new movie stands alone from its cinematic inspiration. Four completely new characters, played by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, build a paranormal extermination service after making encounters with various spiritual entities throughout New York City. However, the film still features nods to the original film, including jokes and Easter eggs that only trivia buffs could spot in a single viewing, as well as some clever cameos for the first film's principle cast members such as the late Harold Ramis, the screenwriter and co-star of the original film, who passed away in 2014. 

"I think Paul Feig did a really good job of paying attention to the previous movies and franchises and staying true to them, but he's also doing it his way," says DFW Ghostbusters member Dan Hammans of Frisco. "There are an awful lot of things in that movie that were done very well that could have really upset the internet contingent that's been flaming him for months on end, and you may agree or disagree with what he did, but you can tell that he considered the information and it's very targeted and very well done." 

The Ghostbusters movies and cartoon spinoffs may have featured some heavy action plotlines and horror elements but the priority in all of them was comedy. The members say the new film stayed true to that goal. 

"I laughed a lot," Dorman says. "I thought it was hilarious. I don't remember any jokes bombing. There was a fart joke that some said was kind of stupid but most of the comedy was pretty witty." 

Pretty much every major character scores laughs, but the funniest are harebrained gadget-maker Jillian Holtzmann, played by McKinnon, and streetwise wisecracker Patty Tolan, played by Jones. 

"Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are just dynamite together," Yenter says. "Melissa McCarthy has kind of grown into being a lot more homey, and you have this balance that's rounded out well in their scenes. Holtzmann's kind of quirky and weird and Melissa McCarthy [Abby Yates] is the go-getter and the gung-ho one out of all of them, but she's also super nerdy. Wiig [Erin Gilbert] is the more reserved one. Patty was very unexpectedly complex because she comes in as the commoner out of the four of them. She brings in this element of being her own kind of historian, and the fierce loyalty she brings to the group when she finds her own among them is really awesome." 

This new batch of CGI ghosts can do more than leave behind sticky trails of ectoplasm. They can also scare members of the audience. “I did get a little jumpy in some parts," says member Miriam Sharp of Garland. "When we saw it, it was in 3-D. So I’m sure that made it more enhanced." 

The team also have more toys to play with than just the standard portable positron collider that shoots concentrated energy through a neutrona wand. Holtzmann builds all sorts of modern, steampunk-style equipment, including a proton glove that increases "hand to specter combat" and a set of handguns that really add to the action in the film's final fight scenes and are bound to find a place on cosplayers' "To Build" lists. Feig even encouraged the DFW Ghostbusters to get a head start on their prop building projects by sending them pictures of the new vehicles and ghost-fighting equipment long before the film's release, Dorman says. 

“There is a lot more action than in the previous films," Dorman says. "I know a lot of people are thrown off by it, but the way it's placed, it doesn’t linger. It works. It’s a little over-the-top compared to the cartoon, because it's a little ludicrous, but at the same time, it doesn’t take you out of it.” 

Some members admitted that the film is not without its flaws. There are some confusing plot holes, and the final battle scenes seemed out of place in a comedy. Sharp described it as "the cheese factor towards the end." 

“I didn’t really care for the way that it ended," Yenter says. "The ending seemed very rushed and I felt like I wanted to get more out of it than I actually did."

The new Ghostbusters may be flawed, and it could never top the original film, but it has opened a door that's been closed in Hollywood for a long time. “It didn’t feel overly girl-powered," Sharp says. "I didn’t feel that it was overly feminine, either. If you were able to replace the cast with male actors, you would have gotten the same response.” 

The film also revived a beloved, 30-year-old franchise for a whole new generation of fans. "It’s a reboot," says member Dan Sharp, the husband of fellow member Miriam Sharp. "It’s not a continuation. It’s as if the other film didn’t occur. So it’s a completely different movie. That’s what gets me with people who say, 'It’s going to ruin my childhood.' It’s not even in the same universe, technically. Get over yourself! It’s kind of how the new Star Wars is in a way. It’s for a brand new generation to fall in love with, the way that you fell in love with it.” 
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.