Monday, September 9, 2013

My years in horror: 1984

We come to the first year with movies that I know I saw in the theater. No, I didn't see Children of the Corn, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th Part IV at the showhouse. I did see Gremlins and Ghostbusters at the theater and one of these films is the best horror movie of 1984.

Look, I know how important A Nightmare on Elm Street is and that fourth Friday flick is one of the best in the franchise. But I can't do it. I can't say that either of them is a better film than Ghostbusters. 

 I turned five that Halloween and Ghostbusters had been a huge hit all summer long. I don't know how many times I peeked through the curtain in the auditorium, trying to make it through the whole show. More often than not, I bailed just like Venkman, Stanz, and Spengler did after the library ghost scared them out of the New York Public Library. So there's part of me that will always be five when I watch this movie and back then I was a much easier scare.

So let's talk about that for a moment, shall we? How scary--how much horror--is in Ghostbusters? That first ghost set the bar high. The build-up was perfect and showing us a more sedate ghost before giving us the creature established the balance between laughs and frights that made Ivan Reitman's picture such a classic. The comedy might always overshadow the horror, but but in your copy and skip ahead to the part when Dana Barrett (Signourney Weaver, making her second appearance in one of our best of the year movies) is getting ready for her date with Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). When those demon hands burst out of her chair and pull her toward Zuul, this becomes a true horror movie. That moment is scarier than the entire length of far too many "horror" movies.

I can tell you right now that this won't be the last horror-comedy to be the best of any given year. When done right, the two seemingly polar opposites enhance each other and increase the effectiveness of both. Get used to it. Not everyone can do it right but some of the all-time best movies play on this combination.

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