There was a lot of negativity surrounding the 2016 Ghostbusters movie and the introduction of a new all-female team of Ghostbusters. I personally didn’t feel before seeing the movie that any of that negativity was warranted or necessary, even though the trailers really didn’t do it any justice, but I actually ended up quite enjoying what I saw in the cinema, even giving it a 4 in my CineChat review. My only criticism of it at the time was that I was kind of disappointed they felt the need to try and squeeze in so many references and nods to the original movies – cast members, Slimer, Stay Puft and so on. I felt the movie stood up perfectly well as is, without any of that thrown in.
So it’s interesting that we now have Ghostbusters: Afterlife, with director Jason Reitman taking over the reins from his father Ivan, who directed the original two movies back in the eighties. The trailers certainly played on the nostalgia aspect, finding and uncovering the beaten up old ECTO-1 from the original movies that’s been sitting in storage ever since, and teasing the return of the original team who drove it back in the day. Despite also introducing a much younger new team of busters in the trailer, Afterlife also felt like it was going to be a much more natural successor to the movies from my childhood, and I was really excited for that. Strangely though, Afterlife is actually guilty of all the things that I criticised the 2016 movie for, yet for the most part, it all just feels so right. And so, so good.
Aside from a dark and spooky opening scene, the first hour or so is pretty light on ghosts and special effects, focusing instead on developing the characters who make up the family at the heart of the story. Callie (Carrie Coon) is a single mum, broke and facing eviction. She has inherited a house, along with the land it occupies, from her recently deceased father, who she hasn’t seen since she was a very young girl. Hoping for a place that’s actually worth some money and that will hopefully offer a chance to escape the financial difficulty she’s in, Callie drives her two children, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), out to the small town in Oklahoma where there they find the run-down old house (or ‘murder house’, as Trevor describes it) and a whole load of clutter to go with it.
While Callie deals with the house, the kids attend summer school, where they meet their new teacher Mr Grooberson (Paul Rudd, the sexiest man alive!). Mr Grooberson enjoys introducing the kids to old horror movies, courtesy of an old TV and VHS player that he wheels into the classroom. He also has a keen interest in science and is impressed to discover that science nerd Phoebe also shares that interest as he shows her the abnormal seismic readings behind the many earthquakes the town has been experiencing recently. Phoebe also makes a connection with another boy in the class called Podcast (Logan Kim), who… has his own podcast, while Trevor manages to secure a job at the local fast-food restaurant where Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), a girl he’s interested in, also works.
It’s this focus on the family, and the individual characters, that really sets things up nicely for what’s to come later on. Individually, Phoebe and Trevor, along with their newly found friends, begin to uncover different secrets within the house and its grounds, learning more about their grandfather as they do, while Callie gets closer to Mr Grooberson. When their individual findings and efforts do eventually come together later on, when it’s time to start busting some ghosts, that setup really does pay off. It also really helps that McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard are both excellent and accomplished young actors, making those early scenes that much more believable and enjoyable.
I mentioned earlier that before seeing Afterlife it already felt to me like a natural successor to the original movies, and that feeling is definitely present when watching, right from the outset and even before we begin to enter familiar plot territory. You’ll have seen from the marketing material that Paul Rudd has a hilarious encounter with some cute little Stay Puft marshmallow men, but on top of that, there is just a constant, warm familiarity throughout Afterlife, aided considerably by the regular use of the 1984 musical score along with other references to the previous movies. For the most part, I felt Afterlife successfully managed to keep that fine balance of delivering something new and fresh while still appealing to fans of the original. But, as we reach the final act, it did start to shift considerably, distracting from the new cast and everything they’d earned so far, in preference of hitting us with more familiar, nostalgic beats.
Overall though, Ghostbusters: Afterlife certainly managed to push all the right nostalgia buttons for me, while delivering on a great new set of characters and enjoyable storyline, so that shift was just a minor issue for me. Bustin makes me feel good!
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.