The ultimate word on the making of one of the most iconic movies of all time.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife defied both multiple release dates and naysayers to open at the top of the box office this weekend in a spectacular bow which, some speculate, will continue to give hope to the in-person theatrical experience. This opening is a testament to the enduring love fans have for this series and the kind of escapism so rarely offered at the movies anymore. The film’s reception is an even greater testament to the undying affinity people have towards the franchise, considering the various bumps along the way. Fan patience has been tested time and time again over the years as one proposed sequel after another never came to be, and fans found themselves divided when the 2016 all-women reboot garnered less than favorable reactions, to put it mildly.
While critical reaction this time around has been mixed, it seems there’s very little for fans to do but just enjoy what is, in essence, a reference-heavy sequel that also manages to feel like its own story. In between repeat viewings of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, however, fans should definitely not sleep on the recently released documentary Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters.
Directed by Anthony Bueno, Cleanin’ Up the Town is an in-depth look at the making of the iconic 1984 movie. Mixing talking head interviews with the cast and crew and fantastic behind-the-scenes footage which has never been seen before, the documentary takes the deepest of dives into the origins of the movie, the journey of getting it to the screen, and what came after.
Even if a fan thinks they know all there is to know about Ghostbusters, Cleanin’ Up the Town is sure to offer up plenty of behind-the-scenes tidbits that will surprise them. Even the well known stories are even more fun to hear about thanks to the vast amount of interviewees assembled here. Anecdotes include almost setting the stuntman in the Stay-Puft suit on fire by accident and the fact that the ecto-1 experienced similar problems to the shark in Jaws, only working part of the time. As for the interviewees, it seems like virtually everyone involved with Ghostbusters shows up to talk about it—well, almost everyone. The main cast is there to give standard “landing the gig” tales and stories about filming certain scenes. The real surprise, however, is seeing the likes of Alice Drummond, who played the frightened librarian, and Michael Ensign, who played the snooty hotel manager, among others, giving their two cents and showing just how deep Cleanin’ Up the Town goes. As soon as Jennifer Runyon and Steven Tash (the two actors who played the college students in the movie) turn up, it becomes clear that Cleanin’ Up the Town will be the ultimate Ghostbusters documentary experience.
Hearing the origins of Ghostbusters and the various struggles to get the movie made is utter catnip for any fan. Dan Aykroyd remembering how his grandfather’s fascination with the supernatural was the starting point for the movie is a reminder—after years of fandom, cosplay, and merchandising—of the very organic place where it all began. Bueno’s film keeps that reminder in the audience’s minds all the way through as crew members recall the making of Ghostbusters. Each story told gives way to yet another glimpse into the sheer lunacy of bringing this hugely ambitious project to the screen, including trying to realistically bring Slimer to life and the rush to complete key special effects with the movie’s release just a mere few days away. Stories such as these are obviously plentiful with a film that’s as much of a deep dive as Cleanin’ Up the Town. As fun as they are to hear, however, there’s a down-to-earth charm behind each of them, giving a perspective apart from the fans and legacy to show a bunch of small-time creatives who each believed in this wacky little project. As much as Bueno’s film is a tribute to Ghostbusters, it’s also a love letter to the spirit of moviemaking and the undying dreams that power it.
Cleanin’ Up the Town ends without even a whisper of Ghostbusters II, the 1989 sequel which has far fewer defenders than it deserves. It’s unquestionably a glaring factor of the documentary that’s hard to ignore. However, fans can take comfort in knowing that Bueno is in post-production now with a companion film which will take the same kind of probing look into the sequel. Until then, Cleanin’ Up the Town remains the kind of ultimate comprehensive look into Ghostbusters that any fan could want. As Ghostbusters: Afterlife continues to garner criticism for being too much in service of pleasing the fans, Bueno’s thorough research and the documentary’s very existence signify how valuable and loyal fans have been to the series and what the Ghostbusters have meant to them.