What If… is a self-indulgent look at how things could have been. I take an event or a rumour and let my imagination run wild. It’s rarely based on fact and completely based on guess-work and conjecture.
I was watching Insidious and there was a moment when the main character’s Mother finally believes the characters are being “haunted” and says something along the lines of; “I know someone who can help us.” At this moment, the drum roll that begins the Ghostbusters theme entered my head and I had a little chuckle to myself. Then I realised how cool it would be to have my four childhood heroes show-up to kick some demon-ass and realised that a horror version of one of my favourite childhood movies wouldn’t actually be such an awful idea.
For the sake of ease and interest, what if we adapted the first Ghostbusters movie? Make that light-hearted, comedy a straight-up horror. Thinking about it, it wouldn’t be too difficult to do. You could easily start the movie with a much more tense, creepy version of the original library opening. Rather than the woman screaming at flying cards and flashing lights, something much more atmospheric amongst the books and shelves of an old library would work brilliantly. You wouldn’t even have to change the ghost that much, just focus on something much more like a Woman in Black ghost than the old “shush” lady that we get.
The movie would still have a vein of comedy running through it which would be brought by the four leads. I wouldn’t change the characters or even the actors at all. You’d still need the geeky Egon, enthusiastic Ray, cocky Peter and somewhat skeptical Winston but rather than fighting huge slime balls, they are fighting something that is actually terrifying.
I would replace the hotel confrontation with Slimer (no room in a horror for that ball of goo) with a more developed section in the library, where our heroes actually have to go up against a scary, genuinely terrifying ghost. The Woman in Black, controlling the books, turning off lights and flying straight at the camera, like her namesake does in her movie. Watching the Ghostbusters try their equipment to trap a freaky, scary ghost has some appeal, off-setting the goofy, inexperienced nature that made the movies a success.
The main story wouldn’t be a huge, city-wide, building destroying demon for the Ghostbusters to face but instead a demon possessing people within a single apartment building. I would have the Demon start with Dana, even attacking her from her fridge like the original. I would play it much more like something from Insidious or Paranormal Activity though. The Demon slowly creeping around, flicking lights, moving objects and beginning to control and eventually possess the people in Dana’s building, until it finally takes her too.
By this point, the Ghostbusters would be involved and it would be them versus the Demon in the apartment building. No Hellhounds but there could definitely be a huge confrontation at the end of the movie, forcing the Demon to finally confront the Ghostbusters – you could even have them crossing the streams!
Unfortunately this would get rid of the other iconic Ghostbuster’s villain, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man but instead we would get a creepy, atmospheric hunt for a Demon that could be anywhere or anyone in a building full of rooms and surprises. I think there is a lot of potential in the idea of having the Ghostbusters up against a genuine threat.
Overall, a genuinely horror version of the Ghostbusters could have worked very well. You could still have the comedy element and the characters would still be as good, appealing and heroic but instead of having them up against balls of goo or hounds from Hell, we get genuine Demons and Woman in Black inspired ghosts. I’m not saying it would be better than the original, but it would certainly be worth watching!