The Real Ghostbusters Episode 4: ‘Slimer, Come Home’ (1986)

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This is the first episode in the series to be written by showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, who is responsible for many of the most beloved adventures in the show’s early days. After three episodes of variable apocalyptic intensity, Slimer, Come Home is a relatively mellow, character-driven story (although featuring another heavy-duty ghost as the antagonist), and one where Slimer’s role in the show is given centre-focus.

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So far Slimer’s been responsible for setting the chain reaction that led to Brooklyn being pulverised by a Class 10 toy monster, for putting the guys in serious auto-related danger in the following episode and only coming good in episode #3 by kicking a demon bird square in the nuts. Actually, he saved the day in episode #1, but he started the whole bloomin’ chaos in the first place, so I say he merely broke even, the little scamp. He’s already displayed an irritating penchant for swiping food that doesn’t belong to him, having stolen a year’s worth of chocolates that were meant for Janine, but in episode #4 he goes one worse by eating the whole of Winston’s birthday cake, which leads to his self-imposed exile from HQ.

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The animation seems softer here, not as vivid or as sharp as the preceding three episodes, almost like it’s out of focus. This actually adds to the more sentimental nature of the episode, which kicks off with the guys on their third night in a row of poltergeist-related ghostbusting. This night though is particularly important as Janine’s busying prepping Winston’s surprise birthday party back at HQ. Their pursuit leads to them to some abandoned back street where as Peter observes, ‘the trash wants to take us out’ as a dozen poltergeists approach them hiding in rubbish bins. Nevertheless, they don’t actually do anything, instead retreating into the body of the chief ghost who is the source of their power, and he’s introduced briefly as a very spooky silhouette with a wicked grin before we get to see him proper later on.

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Egon reassures his crew that poltergeists ‘can’t actually hurt you’. I didn’t know this is true, but consider the body count of Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist. That’s right, a big fat ZERO. So maybe he has a point. However, we now get to see the chief ghost in question, and he’s one ugly mothercrusher with a top hat, a snake’s  tongue and a scary sonically modified chuckle (it sounds like a computer game villain’s chortle), and he uses all those trash cans to take out the guys. Egon cowardly suggests they run. Peter bravely suggests they blast them. They do, and get covered in dirty trash. Egon’s the one to listen to in this episode, clearly. Two film references are chucked at us, Peter’s trigger-happy tendencies being blamed on Clint Eastwood, and after the guys are literally blown away by Chief Ghost’s powerful lungs, we get a nod to The Wizard of Oz. So, the good guys lose, and their spirits would be dampened were it not for the excitement surrounding Winston’s party.  So enthusiastic are they, that they ‘whisper’ about the event directly in front of (and admittedly tired and drained yet entirely unsuspecting) Winston.

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Winston enters the HQ, all the lights are out….and then ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY!’ Winston is clearly shocked, and so are we because we actually hear Egon laugh. He even says, hilariously:

‘I just want you to know…I’m having a wonderful time’.

Okay, that doesn’t sound funny, but because Egon’s saying it, it works on every other possible level beyond the obvious. It almost sounds sinister. Luckily, this awkwardness is put on hold as Janine brings out an enormous blueberry fudge cake (complete with GB logo!) that overwhelms Winston so much he goes right ahead and declares this to be the happiest day of his life. And then Slimer downs the whole cake in one go. He doesn’t even take his time to chew his food. Fair enough he doesn’t have teeth, so I suppose he can’t chew. Also, he doesn’t have a regular throat so he can’t choke. And he doesn’t have internal organs so he can’t get a belly ache. So I can see why the all-in-one go might seem appealing. Still, there’s more fun to be had in taking time over your food.

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Anyway, this act of greediness does not go down at all well with the others. Well, in true Ghostbusters tradition, it’s Peter who goes the extra mile and really unleashes venom on Slimer, whereas the other three try to let it go. Not Peter, who goes as far as to ask the definitive existential question: ‘what use is Slimer?’ This is too much for the little spud, who decides to pack it in and run away from home. This is accompanied by, yep you guessed it – Tahiti – who offer up a slow, sad song that’s a major departure from the uptempo pop featured the last three episodes. Their lyrics are worryingly literal – as Slimer wanders off into the cold and rainy night, the vocals wail ‘into the cold and rainy night’. This is followed by the miracle that Janine can read Slimer’s writing following the discovery of his goodbye note. Peter is thankfully proper cynical during these moments, reacting with the news by stating that he’s going back to bed. To be honest, Slimer is egging it on a bit, saying ‘no one likes me’. It’s obvious that it’s only Peter who hates him – the rest love him well enough, I suppose.  Still, Slimer’s depressed, bless him. Everyone blames Peter, Peter gets the hump, Winston is alarmingly practical in suggesting that talk is cheap and that they should start looking for their green buddy. Peter won’t back down and refuses to join the search party. Stubborn, very stubborn. Out on the town, Slimer meanwhile is tempted by the display window of a chocolate shop but then remembers Peter’s (all too true) comments about him being a greedy-guts, so instead he follows some ghosts into a scary building…

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Peter’s ruthless attitude however doesn’t remain so for much longer, as Janine catches him sneaking out of the building to search for Slimer. Bless him, deep down, he really is a softie, although he doesn’t admit it, insisting that he’s only going out in the pouring rain for a nice walk. We know though, don’t we? What I really like about this episode is the visually softer tone I mentioned earlier– the animation is gentler and more cosily nocturnal than in other episodes, and New York at night has a really melancholic, desolate feel to it here, especially when the guys are calling out for Slimer. We soon find out that the Big Bad Ghost who’s been feeding off all the energy of the little ghosts will be keen to gather any supernatural prey, including the likes of Slimer who, if caught in the Belly of the Beast, could end up becoming very evil. Now, we’ve already seen one of the good guys turn bad in the previous episode and we saw how that looked, so the stakes are high.

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It’s strange how you can vividly remember certain scenes from your televisual childhood, and the scene where Slimer enters the scary building with all the ghosts inside burned itself into my memory’s retina. It must have been a Saturday morning screening, broadcast on one of the ITV entertainment extravaganzas like Motormouth or Ghost Train, and I distinctly remember one of those intrusive banners plastered at the bottom of the screen telling us what was going to be on later on in the show, maybe Bros performing ‘I Owe You Nothing’ or something like that at 11.15am. This makes sense because we’re just coming to the act break (when the banners would normally make their appearance), and these Saturday morning shows wouldn’t show the whole episode in one go, they’d leave us hanging and show Act 2 later on. Anyway, the building – I remember the main entrance hall being very spooky because it’s entirely empty and very dimly lit, and then all of a sudden a pair of doors open, with light shining from the other side.Inside, the ghosts look like a right old rowdy bunch – all that’s missing are pitchers of booze – and they are friendly enough to offer Slimer a seat, which he happily accepts, but what’s this? The Big Bad Ghost is with them, and his laugh is all we need to know that this isn’t going to end well.

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Meanwhile, the guys search continue, with them hoping they’ll find Slimer before the poltergeists do – Peter calls out to say he forgives him (almost), Egon nearly gets mugged by a gang led by a guy who looks like Peter on steroids, but the bad guys back off when Egon’s weirdness freaks them out . Ray decides to stay in the same spot and hoping Slimer will pass by, in accordance with a theory that if you wait in one place and one place only, everyone you ever know will eventually come into contact with you. Egon is all too ready to destroy Ray, but Ray’s 2nd Grade teacher who he obviously hasn’t seen in ages passes by to say hello, so Egon shuts up after that. However, the BBG is already on speaking terms with the little spud, trying to teach our admittedly very unfrightening pal how to look scary, picking on two blokes walking down the street who aren’t even given the dignity of proper dialogue, just incoherent mumbling, though I’m sure I picked up ‘my wife’ somewhere in the midst of their ramblings. The BBG then towers over them and laughs his laugh and the guys run away, after which the BBG suggests Slimer does the same, despite the latter being significantly littler than him. Slimer’s first target turns out to Peter, who he inadvertently slimes and then scarpers from, retreating into the Scary Building, where the BBG has assumed a rather horrifying form with a huge MOUTH where his belly should be, and get this, the belly mouth can SPEAK!

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The poltergeists gleefully dive right into the belly, which has returned to normal (I think the sight of the ghosts flying into the mouth would have been too freaky for a kids show), and Slimer is petrified at the thought of being part of, as Egon puts it, ‘one big giant ectoplasmic MESS’. The guys are coming to the realisation that Slimer may be doomed very, very slowly I must say, and Peter even takes the time to remark on Slimer’s impending destruction topping off a ‘perfect day’, the vicious scoundrel. All this banter means that they’re too late to stop Slimer being immersed, as seen in a couple of shots where we can see his shape struggling to get outside of the belly – it’s like something out of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Although this was made before that. So there you go. Just like in the last episode, they aim to pull out Slimer by setting their proton packs at his exact frequency. It’s a miracle that this stunt worked with Peter the last time, and luckily, it works again, but the BBG isn’t very happy. He does the smart thing and steals the guys proton packs, and goes one better by slamming the wooden floor with his fist and causing the floorboards to curl up like fingers and trap them before slowly pulling them towards his still hungry belly. However, the silly BBG didn’t properly dispose of the proton packs, allowing Slimer to use them to rescue the guys, who in turn use them to trap him, but of course, he’s just digested about a hundred or so ghosts, so the trap is insanely overloaded! Unfortunately this added bit of tension is swiftly taken care of as we cut to the fire house and the trap is entered into the Ecto-Containment Unit. Oh well.

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The silliest thing about all of this is while Peter and Winston take care of the trap, Egon, Ray and Janine thought it was the best time to prepare a surprise welcome home party for Slimer – priorities, people! Peter still acts like a muppet when it’s revealed that the party was idea, instantly getting all defensive by saying that he didn’t miss Slimer and that he is ‘pond scum’. He makes Slimer cry. Peter admits he missed him a little. Slimer is overjoyed. I reckon Slimer is manic depressive, bipolar, very Homer Simpson-esque in his capacity for wild mood swings. Winston brings out a suspiciously appalling looking cake which Slimer gobbles in one go again, but we find out that they made a decoy cake for Slimer to have while they enjoy their own , much better-looking cake. So the moral of the story is? Ghosts never change, so always have a spare cake handy. The episode ends on a (thankfully) mysterious note as we never get to see Slimer’s party trick where we get to see what he’s already eaten.

Rating: 7/10: All in all a memorable episode, less intense than the first three, but a sweetly sentimental episode which nevertheless boasts some spooky imagery and nice atmosphere.

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