Fan Film, Fan Films

Fan Film Review: Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good

BustinThere are far more recent Ghostbusters fan films, ones that are longer and others which have something akin to plots. But it’s hard to not to like Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good—90 seconds of simplicity from the late Nineties, back when the web was the toast of Wall Street, Alternative Rock was just giving way to the hideous Nu Metal which hit its high/low point at Woodstock ’99, and 9/11 wasn’t even a glimmer in Bin Laden’s eye yet. Even as it attempts to evoke nostalgia for the 1984 blockbuster comedy, however, Bustin’ is unquestionably a product of its time.

You may recall that back in 1998, when the short was made, there were no cable modems or DSL; if you weren’t on a college campus, you were accessing the internet via a dial-up modem (56.6 K baud if you were willing to shell out the big bucks). Tiny, 15-second Quicktime movies the size of a postage stamp took hours, sometimes days, to download, and there weren’t that many of them online anyway. The flick that started the modern-day fan film movement, Troops, was an epic at 10 minutes, and had to be chopped into five segments for people to download over the course of a week or so. That Bustin’, the first Ghostbusters fan production, appeared on the net at a sprawling 90 seconds was still very unusual; in fact, while the filmmakers’ names briefly appear at the end, there’s no opening title and they never ID who played what characters, probably just to help shorten the flick.

As for the flick itself, Drs. Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler are simply sitting on a stoop in suburbia, each grimly lost in thought as they down beer and have a smoke (Smoking—How last millennium!) to unwind, having apparently just vanquished more spectral beings. Breaking the moment of silence is a beer-swilling, leather-jacketed, in-your-face jackass, bustin’ nothing but their chops while the Beastie Boys’ “Jimmy James” (from 1992′s Check Your Head) blares in the background. Needless to say, the ‘Busters take care of business—and that’s about all there’s time for, thanks to the technology limitations of the web in those days.

However, while clearly the short was an excuse to play with effects software and show off some cool Ghostbuster costumes, there’s more going on here. As children grow, they give up bottles, favorite TV shows, prized teddy bears and so on, because they identify those things as part of being younger or being seen as a baby. As adults grow older, we do the same thing, except with media, saying things like, “I used to listen to Fall Out Boy back when they were cool, but then they put out Cork Tree and sold out.” By renouncing our previous enjoyment of something, we trade it in for the current opportunity to be cooler or “more mature” by not valuing that experience now.

That’s what’s happening with the obnoxious guy; old enough to have been a pre-teen who thrilled to the movies when they came out in the 1980s, he now insults the Ghostbusters to their faces, even mocking their fluffy R&B theme song while the Beasties throw down in the background, shouting over rumbling samples and static. Sure, the guy’s an idiot, spewing urban slang that only seems even more ludicrous coming out of a suburbrat’s mouth, but what’s really at play is ’80s vs. ’90s; Old Skool Vs. New School; and the memory of childhood innocence Vs. the then-current predicament of Generation X’s Slacker reputation. The fact that the jerk and all he represents loses isn’t just a punchline, then; it becomes a moral victory.

The movie itself is also a conflict, this time of big-budget Hollywood blockbuster Vs. indie film vibe. The latter wins out, not only because there’s no budget, but also because of the editing, which is hands down the best part of the short. Even though it’s only 90 seconds, Bustin’ feels much longer because of the fantastic use of space and long shots where nothing happens. It creates tension, ennui and odd chuckles, all at the same time. Comedy is all about timing, and while the original feature films were populated by effects, frantic noise and pros who could throw a one-liner like an Olympic javelin, here, little is said and the ‘Busters themselves are wholly inscrutable. It’s the indie aesthetic of “Less is More,” taken all the way down to the molecular level.

All that said, the filmmakers had none of these ideas floating around their heads when they made the film. The main force behind it, Rob Cleaton, used the movie as an excuse to learn various editing applications and Adobe After Effects; today, he’s built a career out of making digital matte paintings for TV shows like Alias and Lost, and you can have a lot of fun digging through his work at his website,

Nearly a decade later, does Bustin’ hold up? Sure–and the grand irony is that even as it nostalgically recalls the 1980s, the short itself recalls the ’90s with equal aplomb, making it a cultural time capsule in the shape of a nesting doll–albeit one wearing a proton pack.

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