Ghostbusters 1984, 2016, and 2021


I fully admit my bias here: I love the 1984 Ghostbusters. Anytime it’s on the big screen, I go and see it again. You can’t sway me. I don’t care how the special effects hold up. It was fantastic seeing it on the big screen as a middle schooler, comedy and spookiness coming together as a total treat.

Bill Murray is 100% a womanizing smarty pants in the 1984 film, and it doesn’t bother me. That’s the character he played in several movies of the time. Would it fly now? No. What’s considered comedy has changed since that time, but it works for the time this movie hit the box offices.

I wasn’t particularly jazzed about the 2016 Ghostbusters with an all-female cast when I first heard about it. I love the original Ghostbusters crew. I didn’t want to see Ghostbusters with different actors, male or female. I think that’s important enough to reiterate: I don’t care who they were putting in the cast; if it wasn’t the original gang, then it wasn’t going to float my boat.

The 2016 movie is ok. I don’t think it’s bad, but I wasn’t terribly excited to watch it again for class. One thing they tried to do with 2016 is keep the story as a comedy. It’s supposed to be funny, and there are some laughs to be had as they bust the ghosts running rampant in New York. The comedy just isn’t quite as tight as the 1984 film, and the feeling of a team just wasn’t there for me.

I’m going to go a step further and bring the 2021 Ghostbusters into this. There are way too many emotions lurking around the 2021 film. Instead of holding to the comedic code, we’re supposed to rally around Spengler’s bitter daughter who is certain her dad abandoned her for no reason. Gross.

My Ghostbusters don’t have teary-eyed feelings! My Ghostbusters have laughs and a cool theme song!

The Exorcist (Book) vs The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Film)


The Exorcist as a movie was one of those films my parents didn’t want me to watch. There were never restrictions on what I could read, so that was always my loophole. Besides, my imagination is usually much scarier than what’s on the screen.

The book scared me as a kid. The idea that imaginary friends, like Captain Howdy in the book, could really be demons ready to vacation in my skin was frightening.

As an adult and a parent, I read it differently. It reads more like ignored child of busy starlet entertains herself by opening herself to demons. I can’t imagine knowing my child was playing with an Ouija board alone and was talking to someone through it; I would freak out with sage and salt and holy water and Florida water.

Early in the book, Regan tries to show her mother how she talks to Captain Howdy through the board, and then they both just walk away. Superstitious me was screaming, “NO!!!! You have to close the connection! You have to end the session! Great googly moogly, this is how you get demons!” Of course, Regan becomes possessed and the story focuses on ridding her of evil.

The biggest differences for me when looking at The Exorcist as compared to the movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose are the family dynamic and the priests. In Emily Rose, the family is close knit and religious. In The Exorcist, the family is a little more loosey-goosey with mom chasing her career; they are worldly, not sheltered, and not overly religious.

In Emily Rose, it is Emily herself that chooses to depart this world, to give herself over to God as a lesson to the world and a final gesture of her faith. In The Exorcist, it’s those involved in the exorcism that take death to rid Regan of evil.

Which story works better for me as a scary tale? I’m surprised to admit that right now, it’s Emily Rose, the movie with a studious good girl from a solid family. Reading The Exorcist in the context of a parent, it’s more like single parenting career-focused moms are half-assed parents that might as well have the devil for a babysitter. Yes, The Exorcist has the good against evil theme present in Emily Rose, but to me it feels a little like a lecture: stop hosting dinner parties, Chris, and focus on your daughter and maybe then she won’t pee on the rug.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Awake at 3 AM?


I originally saw The Exorcism of Emily Rose at a movie theater in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I recall it vividly because of how suggestible I apparently was.


In the film, clocks stop at 3 AM and strange events, allegedly demonic in origin, happen at this time. A priest in the movie explains that 3 AM is the Devil’s Hour, mocking the Holy Trinity. I’d never heard of this idea that a specific hour of the day was more evil than another.


The movie was based upon the true story of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who died after an exorcism in the 1970s. For me, seeing “based on a true story” usually amps up the thrills. This one was no different; The Exorcism of Emily Rose scared the bejesus out of me.


For a few months (yes, MONTHS) after watching the movie, I would wake out of a sound sleep at 3 AM. Prior to the movie, I didn’t wake at that hour, or any hour until my alarm went off. Night after night, I would wake at 3 AM and usually feel concerned that something nefarious was afoot.


One night, I realized I’d never had any concerns about waking in the night at any particular time prior to viewing this particular scary movie. I’d never had any reason to be scared when it was 3 AM. Thinking it through, I became aware that I’d taken this idea from a piece of entertainment and let it shake me up! I couldn’t believe how suggestible I was, how open to receive this movie tidbit as fact.


It was my own suggestibility that I considered when I watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose last week, and that awareness gave me a new slant on the suggestibility of the main character. Emily comes from a highly religious home and goes off to college. She goes to a dance and even canoodles a bit her boyfriend.


Imagine how seriously someone might believe they had sinned if they had come from such a devout household. How does she rationalize what she’s done? How does she come to terms with her choices when she feels such shame and guilt?


The only acceptable answer that her she and her loved ones could get onboard with: demonic influences. Emily wasn’t acting of her own freewill. She was possessed!


Could a person convince themselves that they are filled with demons? I don’t see why not. I, a typically way too logical adult, managed to be convinced for a short time that 3 AM was chock full of evil simply by watching a film. It seems reasonable that someone from a strict upbringing could convince themselves that the Devil made them dance and smooch.


I have no way of knowing if Anneliese, the woman that inspired the film, was impressionable enough to believe being possessed was the only explanation for her thoughts or behaviors. Maybe Anneliese had an untreated mental illness. Maybe Anneliese was living with the results of a traumatic brain injury. Or maybe, just maybe, she really was possessed by something otherworldly? You can text me your thoughts when you find yourself awake at 3 AM.

Stir of Echoes: thoughts on the movie


“I never wanted to be famous,” Tom tells his wife Maggie in the beginning of the film Stir of Echoes. “I just never expected to be so ordinary.”


After being hypnotized by Maggie’s sister, Tom is gifted with a psychic connection to Samantha, the ghost of a neighborhood girl gone missing. His son also has a connection to Samantha and converses with her throughout the movie.


Initially his gift and his visions distress Tom. As the story unfolds, Tom gets more obsessed with what happened to Samantha. He receives a message to dig for her.


When his wife finds Tom in their backyard digging, Maggie wants him to stop.


Tom is angry and begins shouting at her, “This is the most important thing that’s ever happened to me. This is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”


This sense of purpose is what moves Tom forward. If a different man, a more accomplished man, has become a “receiver” of ghost noise, I’m not sure they would have tuned in and followed the leads. Furthermore, if we consider that a person with less physical strength than Tom had been the receiver of the ghost messages, they might not have been able to do the digging and demolition that went into following through with the discovery of Samantha’s corpse.


Tom is the perfect receiver, the perfect candidate, to take on this mission. It made me wonder if Samantha, our ghost girl, had tried to reach out to anyone else prior to Tom. Tom’s son Jake communicates with Samantha, but not about finding her killers or her body. Did Samantha try to find other adults that could act upon the visions she showed?


Alternatively, maybe she didn’t try to connect with other adults. Perhaps Samantha was waiting patiently to give her messages to Tom, knowing he was strong and yearning to be extraordinary. Was Samantha waiting for a bump on the head, a burning fever, or some other pivotal moment where his guard was down enough to tap into his mind?


As the film wraps, we have a moment of Jake’s perception, and he is privy to all kinds of psychic noise. It’s unclear whether Jake is only hearing ghosts or if he hears the living as well. In either case, it’s crystal clear that Jakes’s gifts stay with him.


What was not made as clear to me while viewing the film was whether Tom’s ghost communication skills would continue. We see Samantha put on her coat and walk away, presumably to the afterlife, but maybe just to a more interesting house to haunt. Samantha’s murderers are identified, and her body found. Will Tom encounter other ghosts in need of a resolution in the future, especially since his son is also open to receive spirit messages?


I would like to believe now that Tom believes in ghosts, he will be more open and sensitive to spirits going forward. I want him to see ghost birds when he’s working on phone lines. I want him to be a warmer, more compassionate human because he understands even an ordinary life is still a life, a finite and lovely opportunity.




The Amityville Horror: Green Goo and Marching Bands


     I am deliberately not researching the stories behind The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. I am not going to research the DeFeo murders or the credibility of George and Kathy Lutz. I am sorely tempted to do some digging because the numerous financial concerns of George Lutz could certainly justify the creation of some elaborate haunted house story in order to skip town and maybe make some money off the tale.

The experiences of the Lutz family take place over 28 days before they evacuated their haunted house. By comparison, Ellen Mercado and her family from the book Grave’s End stayed in a haunted house for years before a cleansing stopped the chaos.

The family experienced flies, temperature anomalies, windows and doors opening on their own, green goo appearing out of nowhere, and even the sound of a marching band creating a ruckus. Daughter Missy apparently befriends a giant pig that talks to her, and her father even sees hoof prints outside the window.

As a reader, I’m left with questions after reading Anson’s book. Did the Lutz family experience all these extreme and unusual happenings because of the DeFeo murders? Were the DeFeo murders caused by similar strange happenings and the Lutz family just came in where the weirdness left off? Has the house and location always been haunted or was it only haunted because of the murders?

There was an envelope of cash that disappeared in the story. Do ghosts and ghoulies typically take large sums of money? Where did it go? Are we to think that the envelope evaporated into some other dimension or that it was hidden away somewhere on the property?

It’s mentioned in the book that when George and Kathy initially visit the home, the blinds of the neighboring houses are closed in the direction of this house. I didn’t think that was unusual. If I had known the DeFeo family and I had to continue living in my own home after the murders, I’d want to close the blinds, too. I think it’s natural to want to turn away from any memory of the horrors that happened on Ocean Avenue. Out of sight, out of mind.

One thing that stood out to me was how the Lutz family dog reacted to various areas of the house. That’s a takeaway for me: before I buy another house, I’ll walk my dogs around there first. I trust the reactions of ordinarily agreeable family pets. Fear or aggression towards the unseen is a huge warning flag to leave the area.

If the things that happened to the Lutz family are indeed true, they were brave to last there a month. I would like to think I would’ve picked up on the high weirdness before buying the property, but maybe I would’ve been distracted by the low price for a  huge home with a pool and a boathouse.


Point of View Is Everything in The Others


     Anne, one of the children in The Others, sees ghosts…or does she? Point of view is everything in this ghostly film!

Anne tells her brother Nicholas that it is Victor that opens their bedroom curtains in the night over and over. Anne closes them, and moments later, they are closed again. Victor is to blame, Anne explains, and doesn’t Nicholas see Victor over there?

It’s not clear if Nicholas actually glimpses Victor or if poor Nicholas is just scared out of his wits by his sister’s stories. Anne claims to see ghosts throughout the film, but only at the end of the film does the audience learn that Anne is a ghost.

In fact (huge spoiler alert), Anne, Nicholas, and their mother Grace are all ghosts haunting that house. The hired help is also deceased, but continue to do yardwork even in the afterlife.
Victor is alive and the other members of his family are as well. Anne is not the girl seeing the ghost; she is the ghost seeing a living boy in the same house where she died.

Thinking back over the movie, Anne and Nicholas being ghost kids might have been hinted at in a Bible study scene. They talk about the “four Hells,” one of which is Children’s Limbo. In hindsight, perhaps they were in Children’s Limbo all along.

Having the ghosts as the main characters and experiencing things through their senses is what makes the movie special. If we’d seen it through the eyes of the living family inhabiting the house, it would have been just another haunted house tale.

Finding out that the mother smothered her children with a pillow and then shot herself, leaving them all trapped at this property, was an amazing twist. The clues and hints might have been there all along, but I didn’t guess that they were the ghosts. I was surprised, and it’s rare that a film twist catches me so off-guard.

Paranormal Activity Still Holds Up


Sometimes when I watch a movie again years after it was released, it doesn’t always stand the test of time. The special effects might appear hokey, or it might be a storyline that would be crushed with a tool as simple as a mobile phone.


Maybe I’m alone in my thinking, but I felt like Paranormal Activity is still full of fun scares. It’s similar to Blair Witch Project in that we, the viewers, are supposed to believe we’re watching found film footage, not a scripted movie. Because it’s in this niche of found footage, I believe that gives Paranormal Activity staying power.


In Paranormal Activity, Katie and Micah are experiencing what might be a haunting in their townhouse. Katie explains that this has been happening for as long as she can remember, that the haunting follows her. Micah is a little annoyed that she didn’t mention the bit about being a ghost magnet before they started living together.


They decide to film what’s happening day to day and even record in the bedroom while they sleep. This approach works well to build up tension because there are sounds, for example, that take place well off camera. That’s a terrific plan for a tight movie-making budget since you don’t have to show anything scary for most of the film.


Noises, footprints, and even a photo found in the attic build up the creepy layers, but we haven’t seen the ghost or poltergeist or whatever might be haunting Katie and the home she shares with Micah. For me, this works well in the same way that the movie Jaws created tension. It’s allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. Perhaps that fails with folks who have no imagination, but for my whirling scary-go-round brain, filling in my own blanks is a major scare.


As a fan of scary movies, I was absolutely livid that Micah wanted to use a Ouija board. Has he really never seen any scary movies? This NEVER works out well, and it doesn’t work out well for Katie and Micah either.


Random side note: I was irritated by the pronunciation of “Micah” as “Meeka” instead of with a long “I” sound. I listened to several recordings of how to pronounce the name in English, and they all had the long i. Picky? Maybe, but it’s one of those pesky things that will break my interest in a movie. All they had to do was give him a name like “Scott” and there would have been no problem!


The big ending (spoilers!) mostly happens off camera. Again, this works because we believe that this is found footage. Micah’s body is thrown at the camera, knocking the camera down. We’re treated, at long last, to a glimpse of the demon, now making itself comfy in Katie. Totally scary when demon-possessed Katie screams and lunges at the camera to end the movie.


Paranormal Activity still holds up. The timing of the thumps, bumps, footsteps, and so on just builds and builds until it explodes into a demonic possession. Is it a profound artistic masterpiece? No way, but it’s still a reliable movie for startling scares without gore or crazy effects.

Sunday Funday: Let’s Go to the Movies

The Lodge Movie Poster

The Lodge Movie Poster

Sunday is usually our day to get out of the house in search of some fun.  With both of us fighting off some February germs, my sweetie and I decided to take it easy and just catch a movie.

We’d seen the trailer for The Lodge a few weeks back when we went to see Color Out of Space.  I thought The Lodge looked suitably creepy and have been on the lookout for it to land in the local theaters.

This is not a blood, chainsaws, and jump scares movie.  This film is a heavy, stressful kind of scary.

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” — Stephen King

You have Dad’s new girlfriend caring for his two kids in Dad’s winter vacation cabin just before Christmas.  Dad’s a workaholic that skedaddles back to his job in the city, leaving the kids with this woman who is pretty much a stranger to them.  He’ll be back in two days, so what can go wrong?

Everything goes wrong.  The kids are jerks.  The girlfriend is more than a little off her rocker.  Let’s toss a blizzard into the mix and lose power so the cell phones are dead.  Everyone’s stranded in this cabin miles from nowhere with no communication and no vehicle.  Sounds like a super good time in the making, right?

What’s horrific in this movie is the churning of emotions.  The landscape is bleak, frozen white as far as the eye can see.  The situation is awful and getting worse every moment.  Our characters are cold, hungry, and desperate.  The two days that Dad is supposed to be gone seem more like a month.

Who is the villain in this movie; who is the monster?  Every character shows their ugly side, their darkness, at some point, but they also show their weak spots.  They are all at fault on some level; that’s why the movie stressed me out, because there really are no innocents and there is no happy ending lurking around the corner.

When the credits rolled, I was like, well, at least there weren’t screaming alpacas (Color Out of Space was stressful, particularly the alpacas).  I let out a sigh of relief for being set free from the weight of this movie.

The Lodge is scary because humans are terrifying.  There are no vampires or mask-wearing nuts roaming the woods, but this movie doesn’t need those gimmicks.