'Ghostbusters' Re-Introduces An Original Bad Guy

The fun doesn't stop when the credits begin in the new Ghostbusters movie. Audiences are treated to a few bumper scenes while the end titles roll, including a cameo by Sigourney Weaver as Holtzmann's mentor and Chris Hemsworth's possessed secretary Kevin leading the NYPD, SWAT, and other response teams in an on-point dance number. And I sincerely hope you got the memo to stay for the post-credits scene. In less than a minute, the stage is set for a potential Ghostbusters sequel. All four women are in their lab, working. Patty (Leslie Jones) uses headphones to listen to a taped recording; she stops the tape and asks, "What's Zuul?" A gasp went around my screening at that line, followed by a laugh. But if you're asking yourself who is Zuul, and why is he significant to the Ghostbusters fandom? Basically, he started it all.

The name Zuul might ring a bell, even if you've never seen the original 1984 Ghostbusters. One Zuul-related line in particular found a pop culture foothold. It's been 30+ years and I still see "There is no Dana, only Zuul" in memes. But context helps, so here's the deal with that character and that joke.

Sigourney Weaver plays Dana Barrett, a classical cellist who lives alone in an apartment on Central Park West. She becomes one of the original Ghostbusters' first real clients when she finds a being haunting her kitchen. ("And this voice said 'Zuul.' And then I slammed the refrigerator door and I left. That was two days ago, and I haven't been back to my apartment.") The men check "the usual literature" to find out what they're dealing with and learn that Zuul is a Sumerian demi-god who reached the height of his popularity in 6000 B.C. And though Zuul is said to have been powerful in his own right, he's also a servant of a bigger deal god: Gozer.

Bill Murray's character Dr. Venkman goes with Dana to her apartment to get a reading on any paranormal activity and to needle her about going out with him. He can't find any sign of a ghost or demon, so Dana moves back in. When Venkman picks Dana up for their date, she's been possessed by the spirit of Zuul. He refuses to engage with her possessor, repeatedly asking to speak to Dana. Hence the oft-quoted line above. Zuul has taken over a body in order to mate with "the Keymaster," who moves in to the form of Dana's geeky neighbor, Louis. Their physical consummation is required to bring Gozer onto this metaphysical plane and bring about the destruction of the world. Obviously, the Ghostbusters foil this plan and save New York City. The spirits vacate Dana and Louis, who aren't seriously harmed.

Since this year's Ghostbusters is a complete reboot of the property, technically, none of this ever occurred. The 1984 Ghostbusters V. Gozer showdown happened in a different reality. Otherwise, amateur New York City historian Patty would certainly have heard of Zuul. Screenwriters Paul Feig and Katie Dippold were smart to establish a new villain in the first film and wait to pull in a familiar baddie once their take on the franchise was established. The Wrap reported that Sony is planning on developing a Ghostbusters sequel, so it's only a matter of time before Patty and her colleagues get up close and personal with Zuul. Maybe they should invest in refrigerator locks, just as a precaution.

Images: Columbia Pictures; Giphy (2)