The Real Ghostbusters Episode 6: The Boogieman Cometh (1986)

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This episode is a real favourite/source of psychological distress amongst RGB fans – it’s sometimes rated as the best episode ever. It’s also rated as being pretty frightening, and you know what? It is. Yet for some reason, I may have missed this one when I was younger, either that or the Boogieman himself just didn’t scare me as much as it did other children. When it comes to episodes that terrified the socks off of its audience, this is usually the key culprit. And yet, this episode just seemed to blend in with the others at the time – I do vaguely remember it, but maybe I was made of sterner stuff. No wait, I wasn’t – read my review of Episode #3 for proof of that. Anyway, watching it now, I can clearly see why it was regarded as so scary. It taps into childhood fears of monsters in the closet/wardrobe/under the bed very well, and by having children as the victims, us as viewers were able to identify more than ever with the on-screen terror.

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We begin with an entirely unrelated segment that tells us nothing except this – the Ghostbusters ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Hmm. It does bother me that the guys’ main theme song uses a double negative so shamelessly. A lot of songs do this. Still, ‘I am afraid of no ghosts’ or ‘I’m not afraid of any ghosts’ wouldn’t flow nearly as well, so I’m letting Parker Jr off the hook.  I ain’t gonna not let it bother me. I think. So anyway, the guys are chasing a ghost named Louie, who resembles a reject from some Warner Bros. gangster movie from the thirties who sounds like Edward G. Robinson (and by default, Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons), right down to the n’yarr vocalism. Louie is cornered and after realising that there’s no way he can be taken alive since he’s already dead, he goes for broke and tries to terrify the crew by transmogrifying into a, it must be said, pretty terrifying sight that amazingly, doesn’t fluster the guys one bit. Just another day at the office for them. I’d have lost it. So, they trap him (but not his hat – we never find out what happens to that) and we’re back at HQ. The dialogue in this episode is above average, I must add. Egon’s right that intending to ‘sleep like the dead’ is an utterly inappropriate simile given the guys’ line of work. There’s another Slimer routine where Peter gets his bedsheets ruined. Nothing new to report here, though I like the line about if Slimer had any days left, they’d be numbered. Oh, and there’s some foreshadowing with the introduction of the ‘Ghost Bomb’ which cancels the need to trap ghosts by simply eradicating them outright.

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The main story really kicks in when Janine wakes up the guys in the middle of the night (choice line from Peter: ‘Remind me to pay you some time, so I can cut your salary’) because two very frightened children named Megan and Kenny have turned up to request help in dispatching the Boogieman. Just like in the last episode and its cynicism towards the existence of trolls, most of the team are quick to dismiss claims of a Boogieman, which seems weird. I’d have thought that once you’ve met a huge marshmallow man, you’d have more of an open mind. Egon however, is instantly worried. Why? It’s personal. Now the Boogieman lives in children’s closets, and loves nothing more than to scare the hell out of kiddies, and it turns out that Egon was one of his victims years ago. This was the reason Egon took up an interest in the paranormal. I really like that we get some backstory for one of the main characters here – it definitely adds an edge to the danger. Still, Peter’s quite dismissive of the kids’ fears, pinning them down to overactive imaginations, which is exactly what you don’t want to hear when there really is a monster in the closet. Egon’s with the kids on this one though, insisting they investigate NOW. Peter’s ‘okaaaaaaay’ reaction to this is rather amusing, as is his ‘thanks, that explains a lot’ reply to Egon’s cryptic explanation as to why they’re out of bed and on the job.

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At the kids’ house, they enter the closet and in true Gozer/Fridge fashion, it’s completely harmless inside. Unlike the film however, the Boogieman does immediately appear after we’ve all breathed a sigh of relief. After a strangely idiosyncratic cry of ‘Ye gad!’ from Egon, the Boogieman sticks his enormous head out of the closet, and yes, I can see why this one scared most of us when we were younger. He’s horrible. The shot where we see him reflected in Egon’s glasses is too good for me not to screengrab, so here it is.

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Plus, his voice is unforgettably weird and so good they more or less recycled it for the bad guy in the next episode. When he says ‘I remember you….’ To Egon, it arguably rivals the similar reaction the Freddy snake gives to Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, which was also pretty bloomin’ creepy. Egon can’t handle it and tries to take out his old foe right there and then, but since the Boogieman’s not a ghost, the blasters do very little. This is the second episode in a row where the guys have encountered a nemesis who isn’t strictly speaking, a ghost. Saying that, the rays do enough to get the Boogieman back in the closet, so we’re okay for the moment at least. Egon wants to go into the closet and catch him, and Winston, quite understandably says ‘No we don’t. Show me where it says that?’ which is quite reasonable thinking really. Egon’s determined, but all plans are thwarted by Megan and Kenny’s parents, who treat the Ghostbusters like raving loons and send them packing. Again, why the unwillingness to believe? They live in the same city as the Ghostbusters, and if the series is anything to go by, the most haunted city in the world, so what’s with all the cynicism?

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The guys back at HQ try and work out how to eliminate the Boogieman, clearly forgetting all about the Ghost Bomb we saw earlier in the story. We discover about Egon’s personal issues with the Boogieman, as well as the fact that he feeds off fear. The more scared you are, the more powerful he becomes. Sneaky when your target audience are terrified kids. A plan is formed when the guys plan to check out other closets to see if they lead to the Boogieman. Ah, now they remember the Ghost Bomb. At least they sussed that one out now instead of right at the last minute.  Now what happens next is a sequence that I don’t remember in the shorter version of the episode – Winston takes the time to check on Megan and Kenny whilst the others tool up. It’s a relatively unnecessary sequence – Winston shows up and blasts the Boogieman before he can get to the kids, and everything’s okay again, but I like that the writers’ acknowledged that it would make sense that the Boogieman would come back as soon as The Ghostbusters left, and to be honest, this is a pretty freaky sequence that makes for a great act break. The lighting in this sequence is quite scary, with the kids’ lit in garish amber like the kind they used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind where the aliens are outside.  There are some shots of the Boogieman approaching which are pretty frightening, definitely nightmare material for younger viewers. Winston is incredibly proactive here, blasting the Boogieman through the upstairs window as soon as he gets out of the car, ensuring a sharp retreat, though not before a spooky ‘I’ll be back’ promise before he shuts the door of the closet.  Winston’s parting words to the kids are ‘If you’re not afraid, he can’t hurt you’. Great advice, except the Boogieman is terrifying and these kids are only seven years old. Still, he does stick around to make sure everything’s okay.

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The next morning, the guys attempt to find a closet gateway with little luck, but Peter remembers the whole ‘mountain and Mohammed’ saying (which Ray has never heard of, weirdly) and suggests they lure the Boogieman to them by creating a plausible kids’ bedroom environment for him to come to. They do this by renting a scuzzy flat with a closet, and dressing up Ray as a big kid to act as bait. Of course, Ray is essentially a big kid, so not much acting is necessary. We even discover Ray’s love for Dopey Dog, here represented as a cuddly toy but who would reappear in a later episode as a living, breathing character, albeit a very different looking one. So Ray gets into the whole big kid act a bit too well, to the point where he wants Peter to read him a bedtime story, leading to some funny exasperation from the latter. Anyway, the plan works – the Boogieman arrives to seize Ray (referring to him as ‘a large toddler’, which is Ray in a nutshell) but the guys burst out, guns blazing, and drive him back into the Boogieworld, guys in hot pursuit.

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The Boogieworld is brilliant, loaded with doors that lead to all the closets in different children’s bedrooms and gravity defying physics right out of Escher. The guys pursue the Boogieman to the strains of Tahiti – more specifically, their song ‘The Boogieman’, with its immortal couplet (Don’t look behind you/He’s gonna find you!) going from bedroom to bedroom, cheered on by their child fans, sliding down vertical corridors and hallways, all of it splendidly visualised, reaching a bonkers crescendo when they end up in a cushion surrounded by snakes! Quite freaky this bit. The guys take a risk and blast the snakes (as this is a different realm, they have no idea what effects the blasters will have on their surroundings), turning them into fireworks. Why? Why not, as Egon says.

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So, the last ditch plan is to wire up the proton packs to the Ghost Bomb, creating enough of an explosion to seal off the Boogieman’s realm from the outside world. However, as soon as they trigger the countdown, ol’ Boogie Face is blocking their route to freedom. Egon confronts his fears and attempts to take on his foe, but in the end it’s down to Megan and Kelly to take him down, and bless little Kenny, he really is terrified, but once they get some fire in their belly, they really give the Boogieman what he deserves, saying that his head’s too big, which it really is. Plus, they knock him for having bad breath, and if that doesn’t deflate his sense of self-esteem, nothing will. They also have a bag of marbles which they unleash, causing Boogie to slide over, clearing the path to freedom! The bomb goes off, the gateway is sealed, and Megan and Kenny’s parents, instead of going crazy at the guys for causing an explosion to occur in their kids’ bedroom, take back all the things they said about not believing in the Boogieman earlier on and apologise. Egon tucks the kids into the bed, wishing them a well-deserved good night’s sleep, and all is well in the world. Well, maybe not, as something grabs Peter’s uniform into his locker as he tries to put it away, and all signs point to the Boogieman having returned. Except we can clearly see it’s Slimer. When Peter find out, he seriously loses it. I don’t think he’s ever wanted to destroy Slimer more. The end.

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Rating: 10/10 Ghostbusters at its strongest. Easy to see why it’s many fans favourite.

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