Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) Review

 Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) Review

A Nostalgia-Filled Flick That Honours the Originals 

One of the most iconic films that were ever developed during the ’80s was, of course, Ghostbusters (1984) – how could it not be? Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, it had a great mix between comedy and mystery, some spooky and undead visitors, some oddly sexual demonic possessions (I still laugh at the scene where Sigourney Weaver opens and shuts the door asking “Are you the key master?”), a giant walking marshmallow man (I’m not joking!), and of course, a damn catchy theme song (who ya gonna call?). And for a time – for many years, in fact – there was no need for any reboots, remakes, or continuations – the movies had cemented themselves as timeless classics; everything was great…

That is, until another Ghostbusters film was produced (money, money, money!). Fast forward to 2016, where a new direction for a Ghostbusters movie was made, with no actual connection to the originals and kind of serving as a remake/reboot of sorts (because when you’re a Hollywood exec with no original ideas, it’s what you do). What was different about this version of the Ghostbusting gang, I hear you ask? Well, this time around it was an all-female team (an interesting approach); then you had the soundtrack by 5SOS (5 Seconds of Summer) and a new and modernised look at the Photon packs and Ecto-1 (which was now a hearse – very meta for a film about the dead). Was it any good? Hell no. Although doing moderately well at the box office, this was a hot mess of a film, and in terms of being a Ghostbusters movie? I would rather have sat and watched paint dry.

So, with the Ghostbusters image partially stained by such a messy movie, a lot of fans were left disappointed and without hope. That was, until Jason Reitman, son of the original director Ivan Reitman,  decided to make a movie that continued from the originals. Enter Ghostbusters: Afterlife! Set 30ish years after the original films, Ghostbusters: Afterlife connects the bridge between the original two films and the modern-day, rehashing the apocalypse idea from the 2016 version into a format that makes more sense and is in line with the lore of the Ghostbusters universe.

After much anticipation for the arrival of this movie, and having a decent expectation of what the film might be like, Ghostbusters: Afterlife certainly does more than impress – it brings out all of the best qualities of the original films and lets you live them, the little bread crumbs of past nostalgia, going back to a familiar story, and adding the right blend of comedy, adventure, danger and farewell. So, as always, let’s have a look-see into how this flick revived the name franchise of Ghostbusters. 

The Plot 

When single mom Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) are forced out of their apartment due to not having enough money, they move to a small town to stay in their recently deceased grandfather’s old barn house. However, Phoebe slowly discovers their connection to the original Ghostbusters – more specifically, Egon Spengler – and after accidentally letting loose a captured ghost and awakening something that her grandfather was trying to stop, it’s up to her and a new generation of Ghostbusters to take down the evil that lurks below before it’s too late.

The plot was definite and clear from the start, though it is a gradual telling of the story, which may seem a bit too slow at first, but it’s done for its reasons. The story is a  heartwarming and heartbreaking one, getting better and better as it goes along, and as the ending arrives, the tale takes a lot of good turns and unleashes that satisfactory and touching finale. The musical score is going to be very familiar; many of the tracks from the past will have you diving back into the realm of the original movies. It adds to some of my favourite moments, and I loved the quirky tracks trying to lighten the mood before we dive into the realm of the occult and the dark denizens that play in it. Finally, you can’t beat the original Ghostbusters song for me, and thankfully they did not try and let the classic track run free for us to enjoy. The CGI, effects and the usage of puppetry add to the ’80s feel to this movie; it was like rediscovering Ghostbusters all over again. 

The Characters 

Mckenna Grace (Phoebe Spengler) steals the show with her fantastic performance of a living relative of Egon Spengler. It feels entirely believable that she is his granddaughter. I found myself rooting for her early on considering she was the nerd-type character, but it’s her development that does it for me – from being told not to be herself to her personality and smarts being the sole reason the town is saved from an invasion of ghouls. 

Finn Wolfhard – It’s kind of ironic he is now starring in a Ghostbusters film not long after he dressed up as a Ghostbuster in Stranger Things season 2! Wolfhard’s character serves as the slightly annoying, pubescent older brother that seriously can’t take his eyes off of Lucky. However, when he’s not too busy trying his luck, he’s being a somewhat responsible sibling (well, maybe not, he does drift the Ecto-1 in a field) and looking out for his sister. 

Paul Rudd, being Paul Rudd, plays a very well done side character to the movie, though despite not a lot of screen time compared to some of the younger actors, he’s there as an on-screen representation of inner Ghostbuster love and appreciation, and of course, his comedic appeal simply works with this film. Appreciation for other side characters include the mum, Podcast and Lucky. 

The Ghosts 

We can’t have a Ghostbusters movie without some ghosts now, can we? The original designs for returning ghosts are given a nice layer of polish that isn’t too much in terms of CGI, and there does seem to be mostly practical effects and puppetry so the visual appeal of ghosts holds up very well. New ghosts have an appealing ghoulish design that fits in line with the original style without being too scary or cute.

Though I’m a little upset that we didn’t get to see Slimer this time ’round, we do get introduced to a new type of ghost: a blue, multiple-legged sloth-type entity, nicknamed Muncher by Podcast and Phoebe. As his name suggests, and much like a variation of Slimer, he is a hungry fella – though not for food, but rather, anything metallic. And rather than attacking with ectoplasm, Muncher has the terrifying ability to shoot metal pieces from his mouth like a machine gun (nothing says dangerous ghost than having metal pellets fired at you!).  

Returning ghoulies, the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper, are still as terrifying as always, and it’s great to see that a mixture of CGI and animatronics were used – it felt like a great callback. Terror dogs were probably the most frightening thing from the original Ghostbusters, and it’s nice to see that even in a family movie, these beasts are still able to be equally as scary and intimidating as their original ’80s counterparts. 

Gozer is one of the OG villains and ghosts, this time around being played by Olivia Wilde (albeit uncredited). I enjoyed how sinister they made them this time around, capturing the evil scene from their debut in the original film. Their costume is a little different in this movie, though the hair and eyes and general mannerisms stay the same. 

Not all the ghosts in this film are for busting, as one in particular is quite important to the entire story. Though it’s pretty obvious, Spengler is a ghost in this too! It makes sensev- after all, he passes away and yet still needs to protect everyone, so he helps guide his granddaughter; and near the end, helps her defeat Gozer once and for all. And when you see him on screen at the end, the dedication to Harold Ramis is truly something that’ll make you tear up.

The Nostalgia

Aside from the characters, the ghosts, the settings and the story, how exactly does this film connect with the originals? Well, by bringing back the original crew, equipment such as the Photon Blasters, the ghost traps, and Ecto-1, of course! Seeing the slow reveal of everything reminiscent of the original franchise was like being given a piece of chocolate, then another piece, and so on. I felt myself seizing up in the excitement, and I even gasped a little bit when they brought back the classic colours for the stream from the photon pack, as well as the amazing and consistent detail of the Ecto-1.

Sure, this movie does rely a lot on nostalgia, but why exactly is that a bad thing? Afterlife reuses the classic spooky music scores from the original and it fits amazingly well considering the whole backdrop has changed from the streets and locations of Manhattan to a dusty old town that could have been used in several western flicks. The plot is a modern-day rehash of the original, reintroducing Gozer, God of the Underworld, as well as some other memorable faces, including the Gatekeeper and Guardian, and some mini versions of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!  

That brings us to the inevitable reunion of the original team members who, despite admittedly looking old, still manage to rock the jumpsuits and proton packs (especially Ernie Hudson, aka Winston, who looks amazing for his age). And of course, on a more sensitive and deeper note, this movie was the perfect send-off for the sorely missed Harold Ramis. 

The Future of Ghostbusters

Well, the overall premise of this film – aside from a lot of call-backs and nostalgia, and the introduction to a new generation – seems to set up the next line of Ghostbusters. And I think, with the original crew being advisory figures, this could work pretty well. For one, Phoebe is a direct relative of Spengler, and even shares his mannerisms (it’s seriously uncanny); then we have Rudd, who is a super fan of all things ‘buster; Podcast with his supernatural expertise for such a young kid; and Michael being old enough to keep an eye on Phoebe. It just works! 

Now, I feel sorry for those souls (ha, ‘souls’, how convenient!) that left the cinema when the film “finished”, because there were two post-credit scenes! The end credits, in particular, sets up the return of the cast – for what spooky reason is yet to be seen! Here’s hoping, though, that they bring ghosts like Slimer back. As much as Muncher was both adorable and frightening, seeing Slimer and some other familiar ghosts would be interesting. Here’s to hoping! 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

My Overall Thoughts on Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife kind of reminded me a little bit of the films like The Goonies in a way (maybe from the younger cast), but it’s great to see a modern film with ’80s vibes. This movie invites all age groups (minor cursing) and has a healthy mix of comedy and scary movies. Is this one better than the originals in the ’80s? No. However, it belongs in the trilogy. It earned its place among the previous two. For fans of the original, all I will say, without spoiling anything, is that this is a must-watch. And I know you may have been hurt from the God-awful 2016 Ghostbusters film, but I promise, this is nothing like that. This film is worthy of the Ghostbusters name. For those who want to watch this but haven’t seen Ghostbusters (1984), I think it’s probably best to watch the first film at least, then come back to this, as it will make a lot more sense. 

Looking for more film reviews to read? Why not have a read of my review for Eternals, a cosmic movie with powerful characters and not as powerful of a story. Or perhaps you want something less sci-fi and adventure and more down to Earth? Read my review on Spencer, a dramatisation of Christmas in Stanborough in 1991, with Kristen Stewart portraying a rather mentally unstable Princess Diana. By the way, if you like reading my articles and the content I push out, why not support me by buying me a coffee on Ko-fi!

Andrew Campbell

A book worm and film enthusiast, looking for more ways to make an impact within the creative industry. Andrew has gained experience through copywriting, blog writing, social media marketing and developing video trailers.

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