Musings About Music In Film


I didn't quite know what to expect with Ghostbusters. I know Theodore Shapiro is a very capable composer, especially given that scorers of comedy are generally ignored - although two of his most acclaimed scores were decidedly non-comedies - The Invitation and Trumbo. But Ghostbusters is a strange beast, not least given the animosity shown towards it since announcement. One thing for sure: Shapiro's Ghostbusters is not Elmer Bernstein's Ghostbusters, in the same way that I imagine Feig's picture is not Reitman's. Bernstein scored the 1984 film as symphonic but with a jazz main theme, underlining the craziness of something that back then was unique, whereas the ladies of 2016 are surrounded by spaceships and superheroes, particularly in New York City.

Ghostbusters is a hugely effective and fun score, a very modern symphonic action fantasy piece. What's great about Shapiro's music is that it's played totally straight, and never feels like it's concentrating on the comedy but instead the story and the genre trappings, which leaves the dialogue and visuals to contrast with it for the humour. And it has some excellent moments that help push the horror agenda, such as the creepy and methodical strings of 'The Aldridge Mansion' that provide an evocative opening for the score.

The main Ghostbusters theme is a fine heroic piece, which does have a bit of development across the score, with a minor version in 'Never Invited' before it moves to a more triumphant rendition in 'Distinct Human Form'. The latter is one of many tracks that features Ray Parker, Jr's original theme, something which could have been just dropped in but works very well, with tracks such as 'Ghost In A Box' and 'The Fourth Cataclysm' using the "I ain't afraid of no ghost" refrain from the song. It doesn't detract from the score in general, which still feels like it's own thing.

One thing I'm not crazy about is the use of choir. There's a fair amount of choral elements and it still feels like Hollywood shorthand for "epic", and I think maybe it would have been better left for the final moments when it is effective, such as 'Into The Portal', where it turns from the scary and shrieking type to a triumphant rendition that backs the main theme. The Ghostbusters theme returns in the finale - the brief 'NY Heart GB' and it's a fittingly warm resolution to the score.

Ghostbusters is firmly its own thing and is a lot better for it. It's a fine genre score and Shapiro again displays how easily he's able to work with big pictures. Here's hoping he gets even more opportunities for working outside comedy, but at the moment he's doing just fine. As are the Ghostbusters. -CB

Ghostbusters is out now from Sony Classical