Ivan Reitman Explains Whether Ghostbusters Is A Comedy With Scares, Or A Horror Movie With Jokes

There are a number of reasons that the Ghostbusters franchise has been widely loved for more than three decades. It features likable characters, packs on the thrills and delivers some great laughs. Despite its popularity though, there’s one question that’s been heavily debated since that original film hit theaters back in 1984. Is that first movie a comedy that has scares or a horror flick that includes jokes? There are arguments to be made on either side of the discussion but, now, director Ivan Reitman has shared his own thoughts on what he was going for with the classic summer hit.

If you’ve seen Ivan Reitman’s films, then you likely know that he’s a pretty thoughtful filmmaker when it comes to nailing a tone. You have to imagine, though, that it was initially tough for him to strike some kind of balance when it came to his ‘80s ghost flick. Both he and his son, Jason (the director behind Ghostbusters: Afterlife), recently appeared on our own ReelBlend podcast. And it was during the chat that the older Reitman set the record straight on the genre he envisioned for the franchise’s initial installment:

I’ve mostly made comedy films, in terms of my sort of genre, so I have to think of it as a comedy. But I was a real horror movie fan. When I was 15 years old, I had this little book with all the movies that I’d seen and all kinds of memorabilia that I’d collected at that point. And so I think I came to it as a fan of horror.

It’s definitely easy to see the touches of horror within the movie but, in many ways, the comedy truly does stand above the scares. I mean, when you have brilliant comedic actors like Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis in your film, chances are you’re going for big laughs. Still, what’s great about the flick is that when it does need to frighten its viewers, it does so in an effective way. 

Ghostbusters was a major swing for the director, who, at the time, had helmed notable comedies like Meatballs and Stripes. And of course, Sony also had a lot riding on the production as well. Though the first public screening included a cut with no special effects, it ultimately proved to be a hit with audiences. Who would’ve thought that over three decades later, we’d still be talking about a green ghoul named Slimer and a massive marshmallow man who caused chaos in Manhattan?

During his recent chat on ReelBlend, Ivan Reitman discussed a number of other cool facts regarding his two installments in the iconic film series. One interesting tidbit is the fact that Sigourney Weaver’s audition actually helped the filmmaker and his team craft the third act. Reitman also shed some light on his own unproduced version of Ghostbusters 3, which would have seen Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman meet his demise. I think fans are pretty grateful that such a plot point didn’t actually come to fruition. 

Jason Reitman seems to have carried his father’s sensibilities into his own installment. Like Ivan, he balances the horror and comedy very well, making for a comedic adventure that contains plenty of moments that will make some moviegoers jump. Even after these recent thoughts from the older of the twoReitmans, fans will likely continue to have their own opinions. Nevertheless, both sides can likely still agree that, however you classify it, Ghostbusters is a great movie. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is now playing in theaters, and the first two movies in the series are available to purchase and stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.