If you’ve been to Comic-Con, Dragon Con, Wizard World, or any of the hundreds of other fan conventions across the country, you’ve probably seen them — people who dress up as characters from their favorite movies, cartoons, comic books and video games. It’s called cosplay (costume role-playing), and it’s huge. Cosplayers spend tons of time (and money) recreating the costumes and outfits worn by their heroes. Some of them compete in costume competitions (as shown on the SyFy series Heroes of Cosplay) while others are content to simply show off their hard work.
Some cosplayers are drawn to specific franchises (see Star Wars’ 501st Legion as the most well known example). Another such group are the Ghostheads, super fans of Ghostbusters who, for various personal reasons, are so enamored with the franchise that they feel compelled to dress up as Ghostbusters, network with other Ghostheads, attend conventions, and even perform community service.
In Ghostheads, director Brendan Mertens and producer Tommy Avallone introduce us to a few of the movies’ biggest fans, each of whom has a reason as to why the franchise is so important to them. Tom Gebhardt, the product of a broken home, bonded with his grandfather through the movie. Today Gebhardt makes pizza by day, but spends his free time as a Ghosthead, driving around in his replica Ecto-1 (the “Ghostbusters Car”) and filling his backyard shed with Ghostbusters toys and memorabilia. Then there’s Abigail Gardner and Craig Goldberg, members of the Atlanta Ghostbusters. Three years ago, Abigail was a struggling alcoholic. “Now I have a reason to live,” she says, after discovering Ghostbusters and other Ghostheads. “The movies are a lot like a family member. They’re better than family members in some ways,” she says, before breaking down in tears. Finally there’s Todd Whalen from Vancouver, British Columbia. Whalen calls himself the “Journeyman Ghostbuster,” and enjoys traveling around the world meeting other Ghostheads and making friends. Nothing wrong with that.
In an attempt to convince us that the Ghostheads aren’t crazy a clinical psychologist is interviewed, but her credibility is undermined moments later after she mentions that she also cosplays, and describes the Ghostbusters’ proton packs as “pretty bad ass.”
Several other Ghostheads are introduced throughout the feature and each one of them has their own personal reasons for becoming Ghostheads, but more amazing than that is the number of people officially associated with the Ghostbusters franchise that Ghostheads was able to interview on camera. Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ivan Reitman, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton, Kurt Fuller, Joe Medjuck (producer of the original films), Ray Parker, Jr., and even Dave Coulier (the voice of Peter Venkman on The Real Ghostbusters) along with others are interviewed. The only major people missing are Bill Murray and Harold Ramis — you’re equally as likely to get either of them to appear in a documentary about Ghostbusters, and Harold Ramis is dead (although we do get a touching segment from his daughter, Violet). We also get Paul Fig, director of the 2016 Ghostbusters film, which might explain how they got everybody else.
On his 30th birthday, after putting on his Ghosbusting costume, Ghosthead Tom Gebhardt gassed up his replica Ecto-1 and drove to New York City to visit Hook and Ladder 8, the firehouse that served as the exterior of Ghostbusters Headquarters in the films. “I feel like I’m a member of the cast,” he says as pedestrians gather round to take pictures of him next to his car. Later, a chance encounter with a production crew members gets Gebhardt the opportunity to see the new Ecto-1 being used for the 2016 reboot. Many selfies are taken on what must be Gebhardt’s best birthday ever.
Ghostheads is a fun look into the hearts and minds of super fans. Some, like Todd Whalen, admit that they won’t be doing it forever, while others, like Peter Mosen (known as the Original Ghosthead) have been dressing up as a Ghostbuster for thirty years now. Some of them do it because they loved the films, some do it for the comradery, and all of them seem to get something out of making people — whether they’re sick kids in a hospital or simple pedestrians — smile. Some are more obsessed than others, but all of them seem to be enjoying themselves. It’s hard to fault so many people having good, slime-free fun.
Not only should you not be afraid of no ghosts… you shouldn’t be afraid of the Ghostheads, either.