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Who Ya Gonna Call?: A Look at ‘Ghostbusters,’ Past & Present

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

It’s 2024, and the Ghostbusters are back in New York City, folks! This time around, they look a little different, but you might recognize a few familiar faces. This year’s “busters” share the screen in the newest of the franchise’s films— Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. These characters fit in the new storyline as original ghostbuster Egon Spengler’s grandchildren, played by Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard. Accompanied by mother Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) and (now) stepdad Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), the group now occupies the original Ghostbusters firehouse in New York City. They face challenges old and new as they battle teenage angst and adulthood, all while the latest monsters creep into the streets of the city with only one group who has a chance of stopping them. 

The newest release is preceded by three others in its universe. The original Ghostbusters was released in 1984 and followed the original four men: Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Winston Zeddemore. The group first forms after an incredible sequence of supernatural activity unfolds throughout the city and they’re called on by Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dana Barrett. They eventually find themselves fighting between Venkman’s possessed love interest and a door to another dimension on top of a Central Park West highrise. The franchise’s debut film includes countless quotable lines, hilarious dialogue, and extremely dated CGI, and remains an incredibly iconic movie to this day. The film’s legacy is what paved the way for its various sequels to be made. Ghostbusters 2 was released five years after the first film, and follows the same group after another clan of ghosts unleash their rampage on New York City. Finding themselves in trouble with the law and facing backlash from their attempts to save the city, the Ghostbusters navigate this conflict all while trying to save the world again. The second film includes visits from characters from the debut film, as well as insight to Venkman and Dana’s relationship arc, where their son is now a primary target for the new bunch of monsters roaming the city. 

This brings us to our most recent in the franchise, and to the first release (technically third in the series) of the new Ghostbusters stepping into the scene. Ghostbusters: Afterlife released in theaters in 2021 and introduced fans to the newest group. It follows Mckenna Grace’s character, Phoebe Spengler, and her brother Trevor, played by Finn Wolfhard. Taking place 32 years after the last film in the series, Phoebe and Trevor are moved to an Oklahoma farm their mother inherits from her father after his death. While assimilating to their new home and learning the ropes of small town life, Phoebe joins a summer science class and meets science teacher Mr. Grooberson, played by Paul Rudd. Through her new friends, she learns about the fear many have surrounding her new, apparently haunted, home, and the infamous stories told about the man who lived there. After attempting to learn more, Phoebe discovers the root of her scientific mind, and her lineage connecting her to original Ghostbuster, Egon Spengler. The exploration of her lineage causes the release of the ghost, Gozer, who fans will recognize from the first film. The rest of the film follows them stepping into their new roles as Ghostbusters, and working together to solve the underlying mystery together. The film concludes after an incredible battle between the ghosts and Phoebe and her group, with plenty of callbacks to original film moments. This is humorously and admirably tied together while fans get an emotional callback to those left in the original group of Ghostbusters as they make a cameo. One of the final climactic scenes unfolds as the original group lends a hand (or proton pack) to Phoebe in her final fight against the first ghost they ever vanquished together, and the one who is revealed to have caused the death of their friend and her grandfather. As a fan of these films since first watching them as a kid, I found this scene incredibly valuable and moving to the inclusion of the franchise as a whole. The film even uses CGI to involve Harold Ramis’ deceased character, assisting his granddaughter in the final fight. Who knew busting ghosts could get so emotional? 

Combinations of these films set up for the most recently released film, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. This film released in theaters March 22, 2024. I was lucky enough to attend an early screening to view the movie, and can confidently say I was not disappointed, but, because this is a spoiler-free article, I’ll keep my praise brief. The newest film in the series follows the group three years after the conclusion of Afterlife, and shows us the new Spengler family in action, living in the original Ghostbusters firehouse in NYC. The opening scene follows the family in action in the iconic “Ecto-1” Ghostbusters Cadillac, and Pace University students will be happy to note our very own cameo in the first five minutes of the film— a shot my roommate and I had to excitedly whisper-yell at each other about as we saw the Pace Plaza building come into view. After another run-in with the law, the Ghostbusters have to act much more carefully, and Phoebe finds herself unable to actively work as a Ghostbuster. However, this devastating loss allows her to meet a new friend while attempting to let off steam, which propels the majority of the rest of the film’s plot. 

Something I appreciate about this franchise’s rebranding in their newer films is their fearless, unwavering ability to make references to the original films. Whether this is because of the original producers’ and actors’ involvement in the new films, or just their knowledge that it works for them, I love it. The film brings back old minor characters like William Atherton’s character, who carries his same obnoxious energy in his scenes, larger characters like Annie Potts’ Melnitz character (who we finally get to see suit up in this film), the iconic Slimer ghost, and so many other familiar faces and references. 

While the plot has certain slow spots that could’ve been filled or rearranged, this film did the job that it’s done for years in the past, which was to make people laugh. I found the new plot interesting and captivating, and thoroughly enjoyed the overarching found family-esque theme that is consistent in these movies. Mckenna Grace delivered an exceptionally complex character that provided the franchise with a certain step up in depth that it was previously lacking. Regardless of the performance of the film, or the critics’ views, I sincerely enjoyed the film, and thought it was another great sequel to an already amazing franchise. The humor the new characters are bringing to the storyline and the depth and complexity in characters is something so valuable that many franchises tend to miss within future projects. I’ll never tire of seeing the giant ghost logo appear on the screen, or the unforgettable, iconic theme song blasting through movie theater speakers. I think Paul Rudd’s character and Ray Parker Jr. say it best: “Bustin’ makes me feel good!” Whether I’m 10 watching this movie for the first time at home, or 20 watching it in the very city it takes place in, I’ll always know who to call. 

Katie Getz is a first year member of Pace’s Her Campus! Katie loves to write about all things pop-culture, current events, NYC life, music, & movies! She’s excited to be a part of Her Campus to be a part of such a positive community of people! At school, Katie is earning her Bachelors in Psychology, and minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies! After college Katie is planning on earning her Doctorate in Psychology and becoming a therapist for adolescents. Over the summer she is working a camp for children with learning disabilities, and is excited for similar opportunities in the future! At Pace, Katie is the membership outreach chair for The National Society of Leadership and Success. She also co-hosts "ChicChatter" with a fellow HerCampus member. "ChicChatter" is a podcast at Pace's WPUB radio station! Outside of Her Campus, Katie is originally from a small town in Maryland, but now lives in New York City with her roommates and loves exploring the city any chance she gets. You can often find her wandering the city, or in a bookstore or record shop browsing for more books and records she doesn’t need - and constantly listening to Taylor Swift the entire time. If she’s not outside exploring with her friends, she’s probably binging New Girl again, or watching The Lorax and Dead Poets Society while she knits and browses on Pinterest!