Despite its 35-year history, the Ghostbusters franchise only boasts three feature films to its name. Why the meagre cinematic output? Well, Ghostbusters III – which was known as Ghostbusters in Hell, Hellbent, New Blood, The Best and the Brightest, and Alive Again at various points of the scripting stage – was (fittingly enough) trapped in development hell for decades.
Fortunately, Jason Reitman (son of original director Ivan) is set to helm a new sequel, Ghostbusters 2020 – or Ghostbusters: Afterlife, if the rumor mill is to be believed – that reunites the surviving core cast members from the first two films. Obviously, we’re super excited at the prospect of a new adventure with the old gang, but we’re also kinda bummed that Ghostbusters III never happened, because (as this list makes abundantly clear) series co-creators Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis had some crazy stuff planned for that flick!
10 Welcome To Manhelltan
As you might’ve already guessed from several of Ghostbusters III’s working titles – specifically, Hellbent and Ghostbusters in Hell – early drafts were set predominantly in Hell. However, Ackroyd and Ramis’ vision of the underworld had a decidedly contemporary bent, as it was essentially a twisted version of New York City dubbed “Manhelltan” (…sigh).
Intriguingly, Manhelltan differed from other representations of the realm of the damned in another significant way, too. Apparently, its inhabitants were demonic doppelgangers of the good people of Manhattan – regardless of whether they are deceased or not. So really, Manhelltan is more of a mirror dimension than a place of perpetual post-life punishment, which is a little strange, to say the least.
9 Ghostbusters Inc?
Remember how Ghostbusters II opened with our quartet of heroes out of business, their ghost busting days seemingly behind them? Well, it seems like their efforts to rescue New York City from nefarious sorcerer Vigo the Carpathian didn’t go unrewarded, as the screenplay for Ghostbusters III: Hellbent kicks off with the Ghostbusters well and truly thriving.
Indeed, business is so good, and the team’s operations have expanded so much, they’ve gone from being a threadbare outfit to a fully-fledged corporation! Not only does this mean a raft of new recruits, but an entire fleet of Ectomobiles to ferry them around – something fans of iconic movie vehicles would no doubt have been onboard with.
8 The Original Team Isn’t Fit For Duty Anymore
A recurring plot device in the later Ghostbusters III treatments is the notion of the foundation team members passing the torch on to the next generation. It’s not hard to see why, either: stars Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson were starting to get on in years and weren’t quite up to the physical demands of lugging proton packs around set.
2011 treatment Ghostbusters: New Blood certainly pulled no punches in depicting this, either. Here, the Ghostbusters’ familiar starting line-up is described as being in very poor health – notably, Egon Spengler has gained a stack of weight, while poor Ray Stantz isn’t just partially blind, he’s hampered by dud knees, as well!
7 Hell Is Endless Gridlock
The initial decision to set Ghostbusters III almost entirely in a fantastical re-imagining of Manhattan would have necessitated a lot of visual effects, which in turn require a big budget to realize. This hefty projected price tag was a major stumbling block for Columbia Pictures, which led Ackroyd to rework the Hellbent script, dialling back the more outlandish (read: costly) elements to make the picture less expensive.
Of these revisions, easily the most dramatic was how Manhelltan was portrayed. Now, it was virtually indistinguishable from its real-world equivalent, except that its mundane qualities were magnified to excruciating levels. For instance, nobody speaks the same language and (worst of all) the traffic remains in a perpetual state of gridlock!
6 Ghostbusters Gone Bad
As we touched on earlier in this list, the Manhelltan location that factors heavily in the Ghostbusters III: Hellbent script was more of an alternate dimension then Hell in the traditional sense. This is most evident Manhelltan’s residents, who are essentially evil duplicates of those who call Manhattan home – and yes, this includes the Ghostbusters!
That’s right: Hellbent would have seen our awesome foursome confronted by villainous versions of themselves, which would’ve given Ackroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson the chance to reinterpret their iconic performances through a more dastardly lens. This sounds like it would have been a real hoot to us, especially the idea of an even more morally dubious Peter Venkman…
5 RIP Peter Venkman
It wasn’t just Ackroyd and Ramis who were busy churning out pitches for Ghostbusters III – back in 2012, director Ivan Reitman spearheaded yet another potential sequel, Ghostbusters: Alive Again. Ironically, Reitman’s narrative bumped off one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, with team leader Peter Venkman kicking the bucket early on in proceedings, only to rematerialize as one of the very spooks he’d spent his career pursuing.
Luckily enough for the rookie Ghostbusters introduced in this script, Venkman’s benign spectral form didn’t require busting, and he served as their sardonic mentor from beyond the grave. All told, it would have been a relatively small part for actor Bill Murray – more of an extended cameo, really – but the comedy legend wasn’t keen on reprising the role in any capacity, which effectively put the kibosh on the entire production.
4 The Plot Revolved Around…Particle Physics?
Hands-down the most off-the-wall suggested concept for the Ghostbusters III narrative to hinge upon surfaced in 2013’s Ghostbusters: The Best and the Brightest, which centred around…particle physics? Seriously: Ackroyd decided to pivot away from the infernal iconography of prior drafts like Hellbent in favor of a story that saw the very planes of existence itself in jeopardy.
Ackroyd’s reasoning was that a cosmic dilemma like this one – which was influenced by research conducted at Columbia University at the time – could only be solved by a younger breed of Ghostbusters, justifying the introduction of a new, fresh-faced line-up. Now, all of this sounds brilliant in theory, but we’re left to wonder where the actual ghosts factor into this iteration of Ghostbusters III!
3 A Devil We May Already Know
Having already seen off an immortal deity and an ancient warlock, it was perhaps inevitable that the Ghostbusters would finally come face-to-face with none other than the Devil himself – which is exactly what was supposed to happen in Ghostbusters III: Hellbent.
Going by the handle Luke Silfer (groan), this incarnation of the Prince of Darkness reportedly shared several similarities with a certain business tycoon-turned-president. Heck, Silfer even resides in an opulent, impossibly tall apartment building, just in case the similarities between this made-up Mephistopheles and his real-life inspiration were in danger of being lost on anyone.
2 Meet Venkman Junior
Let’s return to the Ghostbusters: Alive Again treatment again, and take a closer look at its roster of novice poltergeist pinchers. See, it turns out that one of this new guard was going to be Peter Venkman’s son, Chris – not to be confused with his on/off girlfriend Dana’s child (and his presumptive stepson) Oscar from Ghostbusters II – who was on hand to take up his pop’s mantle.
Whether or not Venkman having a kid would have been a positive plot development is up for debate, but everyone involved seemed to think it was a good idea. Ivan Reitman and the studio execs at Sony had even begun evaluating candidates to play Chris, with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day and Zombieland’s Jesse Eisenberg emerging as the frontrunners.
1 Hell Is Overflowing With Ghosts
We’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating: we straight-up do not understand how the Hell presented in Ghostbusters III: Hellbent works. After all, Manhelltan is meant to be a dark inversion of Manhattan rather than a place where the damned souls of the living are sent for eternal torment.
Yet despite this, Hellbent’s inciting incident revolves around Manhelltan being jam-packed full of ghosts, to the point where excess spectres start to leak out of that dimension and into ours. So, we get that people in Manhelltan must be able to die and become ghosts just like in the prime Ghostbusters universe – but why are they dying at such a higher rate than their Manhattan analogues?