Written by Jonathan Wojcik
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS
Most Memorable Villains!
We've looked at a lot of Real Ghostbusters entities, and my personal favorites are usually nameless, background one-offs, but I have to admit when I'm almost the only person who cares about something I really want to write about, so while I could go on forever about things like this absolute work of art and this precious baby, we're going to put them to rest for the time being and skip ahead to the Real Ghostbusters most high-profile, distinguished advertised. We've certainly talked about some ghosts who were focal to whole episodes, and even some ghosts of demigod-like power, but the following are some of the "big name" creatures best remembered by the series fandom!
Episode: Slimer, Come Home
Antagonist in only the fourth episode to ever air, Ghash is a huge, corpulent spirit with a really classic sort of feel; his floppy hat and almost clown-like face reek of the child-eating goblins and demons from old folk tales, and if his episode wasn't so cheaply animated compared to others, he might have been a hell of a lot more terrifying - though he's still pretty damn creepy as-is.
What makes Ghash really stand out is the huge mouth in his stomach, though it curiously disappears when he shows off his ability to absorb other ghosts and grow larger. It would make sense for the mouth to swallow them up, but instead, they simply phase into his slimy belly and writhe visibly under his skin as he swells and grows, an effect that grossed me out as a child, but probably planted some fetishistic seeds for other viewers. Actually, I know it did.
You're weirdos, but I still love you.
Well, some of you.
Episode: Mrs. Roger's Neighborhood
Wat - which is pronounced the same as "what," and yes, the writers have fun with that - is the first high-ranking demon the guys ever contend with, and part of the first "haunted house" adventure we really get to see them in, though it's all part of an elaborate trap. Disguised as an adorable, tiny grandmother, Wat calls the busters to investigate "strange things" going on in her picturesque, fairy-tale cottage, which is itself a ghostly manifestation created to capture and destroy the Ghostbusters for good.
We only get to see Wat's true form a couple times, but it's a wonderful design, hovering perfectly between a naked rodent and a dinosaur. Even better? It still talks with an old lady's voice.
Also wonderful is Wat's minion, Precious, disguised as Mrs. Roger's pet canary until it shows itself to be a fire breathing, bloated kookaburra-like hell-bird, and likes to perch on the head of anyone possessed by its mistress.
This is an episode you remember the strongest, whether or not it's actually one of your favorites. The grotesque, multi-mouthed spirit at the heart of it all is never given its own name, but by possessing a mortal chicken, it creates a werechicken, and yes, anyone bitten by it transforms into a werechicken themselves.
This is exactly what befalls our own Egon Spengler, and honestly, did you have any idea he'd look this killer turned into a big chicken-man? Humans undergoing this transformation initiate the next step in the ghost's un-life cycle, mindlessly climbing the highest point they can find (parasitologists have heard that one before) to lay a gigantic, pink egg. What hatches from this egg is yet another werechicken, but this one housing another of the green phantasms, and thus capable of transforming many more humans into egg-layers. Left unchecked, the true werechicken also eventually grows to titanic proportions, because why not throw a little kaiju-size destruction into the mix, while we're telling a chicken monster story?
The werechicken is a goofy, jokey idea, but in a fashion typical of this series, it was handled with enough deadpan humor and moments of sincere horror to really work.
Episode: Mr. Sandman, Dream Me a Dream
Sandman himself is one of the show's more famous villains, even if he only had one major appearance. His huge, pale face and reverberating speech are amazingly creepy, and his motivations a little deeper than just wanting to eat people or destroy the planet. Apparently an outcast among his kind, this Sandman is saddened and disgusted by our endless violence, hate, war, waste and destruction, and thinks the world would just be a nicer place if our species took a quiet, half-millenium nap while our dreams roamed the Earth in our stead.
It's really kind of sweet, and hard to disagree with from a being who's already had to spend tens of thousands of years watching us screw things up, but what happens after the 500 years are up? We all wake up to a world of overgrown, crumbling buildings and rusted-out cars? He thought the chaos and violence were bad before? If you're a supernatural being with a sleep-based scheme, you can't half-ass these things. Just pay the extra cash for an eternal sleeping curse.
Episode: The Boogieman Cometh
With at least two major appearances, the Boogieman is often remembered as the most major adversary of the Ghostbusters, particularly the fact that in the series canon, Egon Spengler's entire interest in paranormal investigtion stems from his own childhood encounters with this creep, though we're explicitly told the Boogieman is actually not a ghost. The Boogieman is simply The Boogieman, an ancient monster who preys on the fear of children and can access any child's closet in the world.
Now, when I was a kid, I didn't think Boogie was at all scary. I just sort of thought he looked silly, even though a lot of other "silly" designs creeped the piss out of me. It's only now that I'm older that I can really appreciate how unwholesome this thing looks with its gigantic, outrageous head, exactly the kind of head a child doesn't want coming out of their closet, and made even worse by a gasping, wheezing sort of voice.
Episode: When Halloween Was Forever
Rivaling The Boogieman as a "main villain" in the eyes of fans, Samhain is the spirit of Halloween itself, and worshipped like a god by almost all other ghosts...at least in the two episodes where he appears.
There's not a whole lot to Samhain beyond what you'd expect from a spooky pumpkin-faced villain, but there doesn't need to be. His huge head is expressively animated, he speaks with a subtle Irish accent, he commands an army of ghosts and he plots to extend Halloween night for eternity, a pure and righteous cause cruelly thwarted by the evil Egon Spengler in his senseless lust for vengeance against the supernatural.
Episode: Flip Side
The heroes of an alternate "Boo York City" - also known, of course, as The Big Pumpkin - these doppelgangers are possibly the most beloved villains to have appeared in only a single episode of this series, and we can owe a lot of that to their gorgeously deranged aesthetic. While most ghosts in this series have a cartoonish aspect to them, these guys have an all-out wacky look with a more Burtonesque sort of ghoulishness, a term I don't use often and few people use correctly, but I really feel like I can rightfully use it here. These guys totally look like they could have also appeared in the Beetlejuice cartoon.
Flipside Egon is the weirdest, of course, with a thin, nearly skeletal head, and a suckered tentacle hanging off his cheek like a bizarre blemish.
Also, note the fly. The tentacle EATS that fly.
Flipside Peter and Ray aren't quite as weird as Egon, but Ray has a great stapled-together, ape-like look to him, while Peter is a yellowed, withered corpse who sometimes needs help standing up, and can barely keep his eyeballs contained in his sockets. Strangely, their flipped world doesn't seem to be the same "ghost world" we've seen before, as humans in "Boo York" have ghost-like properties and vice-versa. The Ghostbusters' weapons even fire ghosts in this dimension, while the Peoplebusters are armed with slime-cannons.
The Peoplebuster's also have their own Janine, though this was one of those later episodes where Janine had been ruthlessly gutted by the shockingly sexist demands of network executives. Funny enough, this turned Janine into almost the polar opposite of her original, fearless and sarcastic personality, so the only real difference between her and "Flip" Janine at this point is how much cuter she is with a decomposing face.
Boo York even has what might possibly be a flipped version of Slimer rooting around in the peoplebuster's refrigerator, though it's rather open to interpretation. You would assume that, since Slimer is a ghost who's friendly with humans, this would be a little pudgy human who hangs out with ghosts. Instead, it's some sort of savage tentacle monster, which raises a lot more questions about Slimer than I think anybody is prepared to answer.
By now, unfortunately, you may have realized the one great failing of this episode, and a point of contention for a lot of fans.
They've got Egon, Peter, Ray, Janine and maybe even Slimer, but where the hell is flipside Winston? Human Peter even calls his name when the three enter Peoplebuster headquarters, since he was left back home in our world. So was Janine, though, so that can't be the reason the only black Ghostbuster didn't get an awesome Boo York double. BOO INDEED.
Episode: The Grundel
We're going to end on not only one of the most talked-about ghosts in the series, but what many seem to nominate for the single most unsettling. As a monster taken at face value, the Grundel is just plain cool, resembling the end result of a mandrill making love to a moray eel and only interested in having "fun" by ruining and stealing shit. What the Grundel metaphorically represents, however, is not cool. It's not cool at all. The Grundel has the air of a grizzled old man, it dresses all in black, it comes out only at night, and it attempts to "befriend" human children, creeping around their bedrooms and imploring them to come "play" with it. If you're not the least bit grossed out by how that sounds, you're either unbelievably innocent or belong on some kind of community watch list.
It's a lesson that never feels like some hokey "very special episode," but like a stern, serious cautionary horror story. Every time a child "plays" with the Grundel, they're encouraged to do increasingly evil deeds, working their way up from petty pranks to dangerous criminal acts, and every night, they become a little less human. A little bit greener.
This was a monster so chilling to so many who grew up with this show, it even carries the unique distinction of reappearing as a major antagonist in the Extreme Ghostbusters sequel series, which aimed to be as mercilessly horrific as it could possibly get away with in a children's cartoon. Artist Fil Barlow changed very little in the design, mostly only exaggerating what was already there, like the oddly stretched skull and slimy, sinister lips.
The Grundel is a cold-hearted stalker driven to prey on defenseless innocents, draws a twisted satisfaction from corrupting them, and forces them to essentially "grow up" before their time in a wholly unnatural fashion, maturing into another monster instead of a human being. This is a "monster" that exists for real, and that's exactly what it does. Many of us kids who saw this episode for the first time had no idea what it was really referencing, since through all the "STRANGER DANGER" propaganda shoved down our throats, not many adults were willing to be straight with us about why we had to be so wary, or what these people were supposedly going to do. Still, we got a clear impression that there was something even more unwholesome and disturbing to the Grundel than just nocturnal vandalism, and if Ghostbusters fan forums are any indication, some fans still find the episode too skin-crawling to watch even in their adulthood.
Can't really blame them.
This is more than a little darker than I really wanted to get into for a mere Halloween cartoon post, but The Real Ghostbusters seriously wasn't screwing around, and it taught some of us some pretty important shit back when our only other options were more blatantly 11-minute toy commercials like G.I. Joe and Transformers, which may have their charms, certainly, but compared to the Ghostbusters, seemed to be written by people who didn't know the intellectual difference between a child and a block of wood with googly eyes glued to it.
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