Ain't It Cool News (

AICN HORROR’s Ambush Bug offers up a four thousand word kick to GHOSTBUSTERS 2016’s baby-maker!

Logo by Kristian Horn
What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Hey folks, Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here. Initially, I was going to put this review in my regular AICN HORROR column, but it’s such a big release and such a long review, that I figured it deserved it’s own post. So here goes…

In theaters today!


Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, characters created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Starring Melissa Mccarthy, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Matt Walsh, Nate Corddry, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Zach Woods, Ed Begley Jr., Charles Dance, Karan Soni, Steve Higgins, Michael McDonald, Ozzy Osbourne, Toby Huss, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, and of course, Al Roker
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug

Like many of you readers, I feel it’s kind of ridiculous that every review of GHOSTBUSTERS has to have a qualifier before the actual review talking about the online outrage and where they stand with it. But alas, that’s the over-politicized, unfortunately-polarized world we live in today, so here goes. Having witnessed the numerous trailers, news snippets, rumors, on set pics, and whatnot, I must admit, I really wasn’t looking forward to Paul Feig’s version of a film I revere as a classic splicing of comedy and the supernatural. I found the GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 trailers to be very bland and sadly unfunny, securing feelings that had been percolating in my head since I heard who was going to be starring in this film, knowing what their schtick was, and seeing that schtick on full display in the trailers. Given that trailers are supposed to be offering the viewer a sampling of the film it is previewing, I have to say I wasn’t impressed and wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this press screening. I didn’t go in wanting to hate the film. I never do that. I want all of the movies to be good. The world would be a better place if they were. But I did go in with the attitude that it was going to have to work hard, given the material I had seen leading up to it, to impress me. I will admit that, had I not been given an opportunity to see this film in a prescreening, I seriously doubt I would have spent my own money to see it this weekend. GHOSTBUSTERS just wasn’t a film I was looking forward to given what I saw of the film. I don’t normally get invited to previews (and maybe after this review, I won’t again), but given that this is a remake/reboot/regurge of a classic schmelding of horror and comedy, I felt it was my duty as AICN HORROR guy on Ain’t It Cool to go see this prescreening. Would I advise folks to spend their hard earned money on a ticket? I eventually get to that in the 4,000 plus words below.

Starting out, I want to apologize for the length of this review. I feel that most reviews of this size are looked over because of the length, but since we live in a world where one is labeled a misogynist if you don’t like a film starring women and labeled a hater if you don’t like a film that many support, I wanted to talk about why this film just didn’t do it for me and give detailed reasons to support those feelings rather than just saying it sucked and move on. I don’t normally review movies of this scope and size, so if I’m going to tear into it, I want to really support what I was trying to say. If after this review you want to label me an internet troll or a misogynist, that’s your problem. I gave my reasons with much elaboration below. So again, sorry for the length and girth of this review.

GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 tells the story of four women who come together from different areas in the paranormal investigation world to take on a force that threatens to break through the barrier between our reality and the metaphysical realm, allowing ghosts to roam free and make life horrible for the living. Kristin Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, possibly the most fleshed out character of this quartet—a professor seeking tenure and hoping to keep her paranormal investigator days behind her. Gilbert tracks down her former writing partner and estranged friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), another paranormal investigator, when the book they co-wrote and Gilbert thought had been long out of print is brought to her attention. Yates’ partner in crime is the brilliant and quirky nuclear physicist Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and with information about a possible paranormal manifestation at a historical museum, Gilbert joins Yates and Holtzmann in the first unofficial Ghostbusters investigation. Finally, after another manifestation in a New York subway, New York history expert and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) decides she should join the team as they develop their weapons, establish their home base, hire a dim-witted receptionist named Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), borrow a hearse for transport, and once all that is done, start bustin’ some ghosts.

I didn’t hate GHOSTBUSTERS. Hate would mean that I had some kind of emotional attachment to the film and one of the most important things missing from this version of GHOSTBUSTERS is its failure to capture the audience and get you to believe in these characters as a team. Each character is doing their own well developed schtick that they had performed in various SNL skits or films prior to this film. One might say that this is true with the original GHOSTBUSTERS, but with Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Hudson, I feel they added to that schtick rather than relied on it in that case. (Note: I will be referring to and comparing this film to the original GHOSTBUSTERS throughout the review. You think this is unfair? Tough. Some may say that every film should stand on it’s own ground as its own entity. That is the case for all films, I agree, but when you choose to toss aside the urge to dive into the well of creativity and instead decide to unearth a classic and reimagine it, expect comparisons. Simple as that. If you don’t want to be compared to what has come before, don’t call it GHOSTBUSTERS.).

As I mentioned before, Kristen Wiig’s character of Erin Gilbert is the most fleshed out of the bunch. We get an explanation as to how she met Abby as well as why she believes in the paranormal. Wiig’s uptight character isn’t anything we haven’t seen before in various SNL skits as she bumbles around the attractive Kevin (which I’ll deal with later) and cartoonishly loses it when things get apocalyptic. Still, Wiig’s character kind of fits in this story well and I think she used this go-to character to her advantage in her performance. In many ways, Wiig is cast in the Peter Venkman role, as she is sort of the skeptic for a short while and has an interest in one of the possessed characters later in the film.

The only other actress who seems to be playing a character is Kate McKinnon who fleshes out the overzealous Holtzmann quite nicely. I liked her character as she is fully gung ho about this ghost business and seems to be having a blast while the others are hesitantly tiptoeing into danger. Holtzmann is the Egon of the group with all of Egon’s brain and zeal for the tech side of the paranormal, but she doesn’t possess Egon’s inherent self-preservation, aka cowardice, in the face of danger that Ramis exemplified fantastically. This kind of makes her a new and distinct character and I appreciated that, for the most part. That said, McKinnon is sometimes simply too goofy, delivering nary a line without some kind of cartoonish exaggeration and instead seems like she is the kid in the back of the class goofing off in all of her scenes—failing to give one serious take and mocking the film rather than really delivering anything from the script she was given. In a nutshell, McKinnon is basically playing a female Ace Ventura here. This can often lead to some moments of improv genius, but her aloofness also suggests she just doesn’t give a shit about this film enough to take anything seriously, so why should we?

You don’t make things funnier when they are screamed at a louder volume. Someone needs to tell Leslie Jones this. Jones’ Patty is a close second for my least favorite character of the group because she is overly reliant on the same one-note performances she gives on SNL. She does the take no shit, loud, tough black gal schtick that we all have seen from almost every overweight, street-talkin’ black gal from Mo’Nique to Nell Carter, but really doesn’t add anything new to the mix to make it her own. Some may say that Ernie Hudson’s Zeddemore is the street level viewpoint of the original and relies on those “from the streets” tropes to build his character, but Hudson offered up a coolness, an aloofness, and an instant connection with the rest of the gang that makes him one of the crucial aspects of the original (I refer back to the scene where Zeddemore and Ray are smoking cigarettes and working on the Ecto 1 where it shows Hudson easily assimilating into and being useful to the team). Jones’ Patty is constantly working overtime to justify why she is on the team, or rather, the script is constantly trying to justify itself for having a subway worker join up with a team of scientists. Doing nothing but commenting on how weird the situation and these girls are, it is a wonder why she stays with the Ghostbusters in the first place. Some may say this is a distinguishable character trait—that Patty is insecure, so she is reminding these gals she has some expertise in the history of New York to be useful, but instead of making this her own and adding that three-dimensionality to her character, it feels much more like a screenwriter bending over backwards to combat online criticism to the first trailer of using stereotypical attributes for a minority character. I will say that one of the film’s funniest lines comes from Jones as she encounters a dark room full of mannequins and states, “Uh-uh, that’s a room full of nightmares, right there.”

Last and definitely least is Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates. Melissa McCarthy tries to avoid the usual tired slapstickery that Feig made her famous for, but manages to toss a few pratfalls in during a photon blaster testing routine to satisfy her drooling fanbase who need to see a fat chick fall down at least once. But McCarthy plays things so straight in most every scene that she really kind of just fades into the background here among the more boisterous personalities she usually plays that are being handled by the other three gals. Most of the jokes lobbed from her gob fall flat (most of them revolving around wonton soup, for some odd reason) and aside from trying to keep everyone else in line, she offers nothing else to the role. McCarthy feels as if she is holding in her personality here as if she is stifling a burp in church. Compare this to the earnest portrayal of Ray Stantz by Aykroyd as the beating heart of the Ghostbusters and there is no comparison to be made.

I walked out of this film only remembering Patty’s name (and that’s because she was wearing a necklace that said “Patty”). Compare that to characters that have become icons from the first film. Sure everyone knows Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, but apart from that, ask folks walking on the street who Peter Venkman or Ray Stantz are and the names will immediately be recognized. Here, these gals are playing themselves. To solidify my point, I have resisted simply calling these actresses by their real names rather than their character names while writing this review so far because, apart from McKinnon who seems to be mocking the film she is in every time she is on screen, they are playing themselves to some greater or lesser degree.

Because these gals are so busy letting the audience know how goofy, distinct, and funny their characters are and Paul Feig is so interested in capturing that time after time, they forget one crucial thing—camaraderie. We didn’t get a coming together story with the original GHOSTBUSTERS because we didn’t really need it. It was a film about four guys thrown together to fight ghosts, just like this is a story of four gals thrown together to do the same, but the cast of the original seemed like they actually wanted to hang around with one another. The smirk on Ramis’ face as he watches Murray do his thing. The aforementioned shared cigarette break between Aykroyd and Hudson. The way Murray mussies up Aykroyd’s hair when he gets excited. All of those little moments that made it feel like we were watching a bunch of folks that were comfortable with one another. They were friends and we didn’t need a lengthy explanation screeching momentum to a halt (as we get with Feig’s film) as to why. It just happened naturally and was part of the magic of the original because Reitman captured that magic so well. Feig captures gags written into the script or at his subtlest McKinnon in the background doing something weird. It’s much more clunky one-note directing that captures no subtext and only focuses on the gag that happens to one set of characters and then robotically moves on to the next gag. This film isn’t a story about a team, but a group of individuals waiting for their turn at the mic and it takes away any camaraderie that should have been here as it was crucial to the success of the original and to any film focused on the building of a team. Having an ending with a group hug doesn’t mean camaraderie has been achieved; it only means they have to drive the point home that this is a team since it wasn’t successfully established in the first two hours of the film.

Sticking with the way this film was directed, I was pretty impressed with the intro. As with the original, the intro of this GHOSTBUSTERS is supposed to be scary and in some ways it actually succeeds in doing so. The initial scene, though punctuated with one-liner jokes from a museum tour guide (Zach Woods) that almost ruins the suspense Feig is trying to build, is actually scary as a wailing ghost is first talked about and then encountered in the opening moments. I actually thought Feig did a decent job making things scary in these opening moments. Unfortunately, he forgets all of this when the Ghostbusters are on screen. Action is not Feig’s forte. This isn’t a film where you’re going to be saying, “Man, remember that one cool action sequence?!?!” For some reason, Feig seems to have gone to the Chuck Norris school of ‘80s action filmmaking as he feels that replaying an action where someone is tossed and makes an impact against a wall from different angles will make the scene feel like it is more exciting. To me, these scenes are edited so sloppily that it only makes me think that the ghost not only tosses a fella, but does so three different times, breaking three different mirrors and lamps in the process. The overly CG-ed climax is equally problematic with quick cuts and very few establishing shots giving the viewer no understanding of where everyone is and how it all fits together. Again, Feig is more entranced in showing each of the Ghostbusters do their schtick than plotting out a clear scene depicting action.

Instead of action, this film goes out of its way to take cheap shots at the online community. From making its villain an internet troll to three times telling the same joke that you just shouldn’t read the comments sections of postings on the internet—this is a film that really doesn’t care about its fanbase. Instead of working to win over the online readership, Feig’s script instead condemns the fans who deemed the original a classic and made it possible for there to be a reboot in the first place. It’s that type of down-snouted attitude towards the fanbase that really left a bad taste in this reviewer’s mouth. It used to be online critics were the go-to joke in films, which I feel is kind of justified as we do put ourselves out there, are outspoken with our overzealous comments, and refer to ourselves as professionals when much of the time we are just folks with the extra time to go to and talk about a lot of movies, but when the film turns on the audience themselves, it makes you wonder just who they are making it for.

The story itself is problematic. No motivation other than the fact that he looks weird is given to the villain (played by Neil Casey). Again, the bad guy this time is the perceived online community and all of the clichés are noted by these gals whose characters should be sympathetic to the guy for being equally nerdy as themselves, but instead, end up being too cool to admit they have any similarities to this outsider antagonist. This guy is a loner who hates everything—that’s why he wants to unleash the ghosts to the world. While we will always remember Gozer, Zuul, Vince Clortho, and even Vigo the Carpathian, you won’t be remembering Rowan North’s name five minutes after this movie. The dynamics between the characters in this story is the reason why it falters greatly in the end. Specifically, the climax where SPOILER (not really, since it’s in the trailer) Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin is possessed by Rowan and has a big showdown with the gals. But in order to get into that problem, you have to get into the real issue concerning the character of Kevin and all the baggage that comes with it.

The original GHOSTBUSTERS film was full of double entendre and innuendo. The proton packs were balls, the blasters were penises. There was a reference to crossing-streams—an act performed when two men are pissing into the same toilet, for those who don’t get it. Ghosts performed blow jobs and people get slimed with mucous-like discharge after some supernatural “action.” It’s this type of self-effacing humor that made the original funny and the comedy edgy and nuanced, despite the potty humor. While many of these details from the original are carried over, the Freudian penis humor is replaced by repeated castration metaphors. Many of Holtzmann’s tech has castration connotations such as “the Nutcracker” machine. When combating Rowan, who takes the form of the Ghostbusters logo in the end to fight the team, they shoot him in the dick to take him down. Of course, this isn’t self-effacing humor since these are women doing the castrating. Instead, if you think of it, this is more of a mean-spirited, aggressive act. The original was funny because the humor came from the guys poking fun at themselves. They joked that they will be going sterile due to the radiation from the proton packs. Does a joke about sterilizing eggs occur in this remake? No, just that they might lose their hair, which is neither edgy nor funny. But hypocritical metaphors aside nothing is more mean-spirited and bizarro-misogynistic than the character of Kevin.

While many get up in arms about the racist robots in TRANSFORMERS or the anti-Semitic aliens in STAR WARS, it’s most likely there will be no protestors out there talking about the Kevin character in GHOSTBUSTERS. The original gave us Janine (Annie Potts) an empowered women role. The reboot makes Kevin into a cartoon airhead. Janine had the Ghostbusters wrapped around her finger. She was there offering snide remarks, never really working and complaining when she was. This new version of the Ghostbusters secretary is objectified from the very first moment he is on screen. Remember when the Ghostbuster guys drooled over Janine like a piece of meat? Remember the scene where Janine shows multiple pictures of herself topless to the guys and then those pictures are shown over the credits?


That’s because those scenes weren’t there in the original. The original secretary was treated with respect and given some of the wittiest dialog, taking these guys who were starting to get in over their heads down a few pegs. Kevin functions as simple eye candy here, played up to such cartoonish lengths that it is downright offensive. Kevin doesn’t know how to work a phone. Kevin wears glasses without the glass because the lenses get dirty. Kevin stumbles in and out of the office and doesn’t know that you can’t reach into an aquarium through the glass. If a blonde woman were portrayed in this way, it would have been an outrage. Here it’s a gag used over and over and over. In the original, while there were some goofy characters, none of them felt like a cartoon. They all felt real. Rick Moranis (who smartly stayed away from shaming himself with a cameo in the reboot) was over the top, but still, one could imagine a socially awkward, slightly obnoxious character like Louis Tully living next door to you in your apartment complex. There is not a character like Kevin in this world this side of a special needs ward at a hospital for the mentally challenged.

And it is because of this cartoon character that the final act of this new GHOSTBUSTERS fails miserably. In the original, much like the reboot, you have a character (Murray’s Peter Venkman in the original and Wiig’s Erin Gilbert) completely smitten with another character who ends up being possessed by an evil spirit. But while Venkman pursues a relationship with the three-dimensional character of Dana (Signourney Weaver) and has an emotional investment in the character when she is possessed by demons, when Kevin is possessed, Erin is simply concerned whether or not his face is damaged. There is not an emotional story here; no romance between Erin and Kevin other than her objectifying him and lusting after him because he has perfect abs. Because of this shallow connection between the characters, when Kevin is possessed it’s not really something to get worked up over because no one sees him as anything but a beefcake, not a character who can be liked, much less respected or concerned about. Centering the entire climax on saving the cardboard Kevin and killing the horrible internet troll ghost simple fails to resonate on an emotional level the original handled so well. Despite Venkman’s aloofness, you felt his pain when he thought he lost Dana. Because this film fails to give us anything for us to latch onto emotionally, as Reitman did with Dana, it fails to make us care. GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 instead goes for the easy laugh every time and would rather elevate women by putting down males than tell a compelling tale with real characters.

GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 landed its jokes only about 40% of the time for me. Easy fart jokes and clichéd gaffs we have seen in tons of films make up most of the laughs. There are a lot of cringe-worthy moments, such as the clichéd scene where a concert is interrupted by our heroes who save the day and then take some time to bang their heads with the rockers on stage in front of a well-lit crowd of extras unconvincingly made up to look like metalheads. Of course, you have to have a cameo by Ozzy tossed in because…why not? I guess, it could have been worse. Kevin, possessed by the evil internet troll, compels the police force, military, and SWAT teams to stand in a disco pose during the climax. Apparently, at some point, the script had them dance in formation for an entire song , but it was smartly edited out. But fear not! This scene is played for all to cringe to over the credits. Though the scene was omitted, thankfully, seeing it over the credits only shows us that this movie could have been much, much worse.

I didn’t hate this film. I just didn’t care about it very much. I didn’t mind the dayglo ghosts. Slimer was bright green in the original and I felt that the film carried on in the way ghosts were represented in the first two films. No complaints here about that aside from Slimer showing up for no particular reason other than fan-service and he did that in GHOSTBUSTERS II. The reboot is a big, dumb, action comedy that goes for the easy laugh rather than the deep one that resonates long after the film is over. There is a lot of stuff crammed in for fan-service. A bust of Harold Ramis can be seen in the background of one scene which actually felt like a nice homage compared to the shameless cameos of the living cast. These cameos are pretty obnoxious, specifically Bill Murray’s with Dan Aykroyd’s being the least, surprisingly. And things like the naming of the Ghostbusters and attaining the logo are done in the clumsiest of manners. For a film so focused on telling us how these girls came together, it really does rely a ton on these clumsy coincidences for the inception of key elements of the brand like the logo, the car, and the name.

But while there are half-assed attempts to appease the fans, GHOSTBUSTERS feels more like it hates its fanbase rather than embraces them. It feels like a movie made out of spite. Like a jaded pop singer who thinks she is too cool to be singing to her crowd of teens wanting to hear her old pop tunes, GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 has ire for those who made GHOSTBUSTERS 1984 a classic and these little nods to and cameos from the original feel forced in and done only half-heartedly.
Both the original GHOSTBUSTERS left you with a good feeling—like the losers had their day and they were finally appreciated by folks who thought they were kooks. In both films, New York embraced the Ghostbusters for all of their hard work and there as an uplifting feel to it all. In the reboot, the Ghostbusters may have won the day, but they remain unrecognized by the establishment (lead by Andy Garcia, whose line about the Mayor from JAWS is the best delivered line of the film). While between the original and its sequel, the Ghostbusters lost their popularity and acceptance, they both ended with the guys earning their day. In the reboot, these gals remain in the shadows (like Batman, as Wiig says)—four everywomen, still unappreciated by the establishment. It’s a statement about womanhood, I get it, but a heavy handed one and one that surely won’t make you feel good once the credits roll. There are many misogynistic film in Hollywood deserving of making a point by adding an all gal cast, but GHOSTBUSTERS simply wasn't one of them.  Ending it with "us gals are never appreciated" message just doesn't fit the fun tone the first two left us with.

I guess speaking out against this film automatically makes me a misogynist in some folks’ eyes, but hopefully the last 4,000 words supports why this wasn’t the film for me and it wasn’t the fact that girls replaced boys in this remake that made me view it this way. Some may say that the jibes at talkback fanboys was warranted given the early backlash about the film and in some ways, the way the fanboys screech out before seeing the film deserves this type of ire. But don’t make a GHOSTBUSTERS film about it. This is a franchise made famous by geeks and if you lash out against them, you’re losing the audience that put you on the map in the first place. If GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 is for you, that’s super great. And I don’t think any less of you for your opinion. You can go into it feeling like it’s a female empowerment film, but it didn’t feel that way to me and if it is a female power statement, it does so in the pettiest and clumsiest of ways. GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 is a big, clumsy, dumb, hammy, unsubtle, uninspired, and ultimately unnecessary film. I left it feeling like I had seen a film vastly inferior to the original two GHOSTBUSTERS—not because it was starring women, but because everything from the lame comedy to the cliched performances to the lack of camaraderie to the clumsy action simply doesn’t hold a candle to the first two films of this franchise.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller and on his new website collecting posts for AICN HORROR as well as all of the most recent updates on his various comic book projects on

Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!

Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN HORROR’s Facebook page!

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus