Of all the many questions fans have asked themselves since they first fell in love with the original Ghostbusters—“Why can’t you look directly in the trap?”; “Does Venkman just carry thorazine with him when he goes on dates?”; “Why did Dad leave? Was it my fault?”—one of the least pressing has been, “What—or rather who—is Slimer?” The floating green gallstone is identified in the 1984 film as a “focused, non-terminal repeating phantasm, or a Class 5 full-roaming vapor,” but this is mere taxonomy, the sort of dry scientific recitation you’d expect after Dan Aykroyd hoovered blow off a parapsychology book. Slimer wasn’t even called that until the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, and the Real Ghostbusters Marvel UK comic books further attempted to humanize him as the ghost of “King Remils,” a gluttonous, conveniently named monarch who ate himself to death. But this isn’t considered official canon. The closest Ghostbusters’ creators ever came to explaining Slimer’s origin was Aykroyd saying this fat, ugly, disgusting creature who gobbles everything in sight, leaves a trail of slime everywhere he goes, and apparently died in a hotel was a loving tribute to his late pal John Belushi, much like The Blues Brothers 2000.
Fortunately, we live in age where no lingering pop culture mystery is left to be bungled by our dumb imaginations. It’s why screenwriter Max Landis, in his Ghostbusters 3 pitch gone viral, began his hypothetical film with a pre-credits flashback where Ivo Shandor murders an overweight associate to “protect his cult after he has a moral objection,” dooming him to a life of scraping room service trays within the Sedgwick Hotel. And it’s why Paul Feig and Katie Dippold set out to give Slimer their own backstory with their 2016 remake.
As Feig explains to Wired, their script initially had a scene in which the nascent Ghostbusters encounter Slimer in a restaurant, and—at last—the reason Slimer likes food is given the epic, Mario Puzo crime saga it has always demanded:
“Many years ago, some famous gangster had come in and was demanding lots of food, big giant guy, and the waiter screwed up so he ended up killing the waiter. He was sent to jail and executed. So we liked the idea that the ghost of this gangster had come back and was sort of raiding the kitchen in this hotel in this restaurant. When the Ghostbusters come in, they haven’t quite tested their equipment yet, so they haven’t got the levels right … The proton beams are too hot, so it blows his legs off. Then it turns him green. He starts to distort, and so he becomes Slimer. Then he escaped out into the world. We just liked the idea that Slimer had some sort of disreputable past.”
However, somewhere along the way, as Dippold tells Cinema Blend, they balked reinventing someone else’s intellectual property, in this particular instance. “It was just like, ‘I don’t know if it feels right to answer what Slimer is when it was created before.’” Dippold says. Instead, it felt right to include Slimer simply as one of the film’s many familiar nods to the original Ghostbusters iconography—the reasons why once more going unexplained. And also to give him a Lady Slimer, whose own history and motivations are similarly unknown.
What bonds tie these two, how did their after-lives become entwined, and what are their goals for the future, as they lie whispering them to each other upon their shared ectoplasmic bed? Who are these Slimers and why do they slime, and is it because they never learned to love? Alas, these are personal matters that are not ours to pry into, at least until a future sequel.