07.13.2016
culture

8 Blatant 'Ghostbusters' Ripoffs: They Weren’t ’Fraid of No Lawyers!

Should the new one be on this list?

Frenzied online fan debates about director Paul Feig’s female-led Ghostbusters reboot have generated enough free publicity for Columbia Pictures' big Summer 2016 release to border on scary. 

This unleashed onslaught of passion for goofs in jumpsuits running after special-effect spooky things could be a prompt to revisit the original 1984 supernatural comedy. Or, we could explore the flurry of out-and-out Ghostbusters imitations that, kind of like the vast universe of Star Wars rip-offs, emerged in the ongoing wake of director Ivan Reitman's exercise in paranormal hilarity.

So we flipped a coin.

Now, let’s strap-on our ectoplasmic splatter visors and bust down a list of the original (and very much unofficial) “re-imaginings” of Ghostbusters.

Shadow Chasers (1985)

ABC attempted to combat NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” ratings behemoth with this hour-long mystery comedy starring Dennis Dugan and Trevor Eve as a pair of slapstick-prone paranormal investigators. The show even had a cheeseball dance-pop theme song. Shadow Chasers' nine-episode run ended up as the lowest-rated series of the 1985-86 season.

Ghost Fever (1987)

Sherman Hemsley, star of the classic TV sitcom The Jeffersons and unabashed prog-rock fanatic, lost a bundle by producing Ghost Fever as his own big-screen vehicle, playing a police detective looking for comedic clues in a haunted house. Shot in 1985 and desperately re-edited for two years before being released, director Lee Madden opted to use an “Allan Smithee” credit so he’d never be associated with this flop. 

Ghostbusters (1986)

Here’s where matters get a mite complicated. The Ghost Busters was a live-action 1975 kids’ show that reunited F Troop stars Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker (along with a guy in a gorilla costume) to play the specter-popping gumshoes of the title.

The series itself owed much to vintage supernatural Hollywood burlesques such as Bob Hope in The Ghost Breakers (1940) and the Bowery Boys in Spook Chasers (1957)—as does Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis's Ghostbusters screenplay.

The Ghost Busters TV program died fast and slipped into oblivion until 1984, when Columbia Pictures paid Filmation, the show’s parent studio, a fee to use the name Ghostbusters

After Columbia's Reitman-directed movie became a smash, Filmation reignited its original property as an afternoon cartoon to cash in on the moniker, even though the product was still about two old-timey PIs and an ape chasing monsters. Columbia, in turn, launched an animated series spin-off of the movie called The Real Ghostbusters, prompting Filmation to retitle its product, The Original Ghostbusters.

Men in Black (1997)

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones co-star as the government agents of the title, sharp-dressed adventurers with magical sci-fi guns who track down and thwart wild creatures from other realms. While the Men in Black contend with space goons rather than inter-dimensional creeps, and the movie (along with its multiple sequels) is based on a graphic novel, there’s simply no mistaking its initial template as being pure Ghostbusters.

Evolution (2001)

With Evolution, Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman rejiggered a straightforward sci-fi script into a mammoth-budget farce about meteor monsters invading Earth. David Duchovny, who often busted ghosts with a straight face on The X-Files, stars as a military scientist out to stop the mutating CGI star-beasts. The movie features OG proton-pack-wielder Dan Ackroyd as the governor of the state where the hostile visitors have landed.

Attack the Block (2011)

A gang of teenage British street toughs turns from hoodlums into the saviors of humanity in Attack the Block, after organizing and improvising to combat a horde of intergalactic monstrosities who use England’s Guy Fawkes Night fireworks tradition to camouflage their invasion. 

While they’re not science experts or trained warriors, the youths tangle not only with freaky aliens but the police, hostile citizens, and other crime outfits while defending their attacked block by any means necessary.

The Watch (2012)

What begins as a male-bonding comedy about suburban Ohio dudes organizing a neighborhood patrol morphs into a Ghostbusters knock-off amped up with computer effects and gross-out gags.

Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and The Mighty Boosh’s Richard Ayoade star in The Watch, which was co-written by Seth Rogen and directed by the Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer. As with Ghostbusters, that’s a lot of comedic firepower going in; unlike Ghostbusters, no one should be expecting any kind of reboot 30-plus years after the fact.

RIPD (2013)

RIPD stands for Rest in Peace Department, an otherworldly police force that tracks down “deados,” who are expired human souls that refuse to move on to the next plane of existence. Ryan Reynolds stars as a Boston cop killed by his corrupt partner. 

On the other side, he’s partnered with Jeff Bridges as a 19th century U.S. marshal and Civil War vet. Together, they bust ghosts that are not yet ready to give up their own ghosts.

Pixels (2015)

Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Peter Dinklage take on giant, malevolent characters from vintage videogames, fighting Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and other Atari-era standards who have come to life and gotten blown up to the size of Ghostbusters’ Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It took in a lot of quarters at the box office.

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