The death of a familiar looking guy on a remote, spooky farm! Odd unexplained Earth tremors! Strange activity on an abandoned mine! A 12 year old scientific genius discovering an 80’s designed Proton Pack along with a trap that catches things…..all this can only mean one thing? Who ya gonna call?
Unless you were there in 1984 and lucky for me, I was! No one will understand just how huge GHOSTBUSTERS was for that whole 12 months. The original wasn’t just a movie, it was an “event!” an instant born classic that swept the world with its infectious theme tune from Ray Parker Jr, constantly played on the radio stations, while kids ran around the streets pretending to do their own ghostbusting duites.
It became a pop culture, making stars out of Dan Aykroyd and co and yet it was because of the “feeling” it generated and believe me, back then, busting made you feel good, as the sequel showed a few years later, it felt like a “one off”, and no matter matter how hard you try, you will never get that “lightening in a bottle” vibe again, despite the best intentions of the 2016 remake, which main problem was not that it contained an all female cast, but it was just to damn slick and CGI heavy for its own good and didn’t have the heartbeat a film like this clearly needs.
Lucky for us, Ghostbusters: Afterlife may not get us singing “Who ya gonna call” long after the credits roll, but it does manage to do what every follow up failed to offer and that is transform fans back into the world of Gozo the Destructor and while the original had Bill Murray’s Pete Venkman as the Ghostbuster who instantly got the viewers onside, Afterlife owes the entire watch to the riveting performance of McKenna Grace’s 12 year old Phoebe, who really rises the very familiar plot to a surprising high.
Writing the words “familiar plot” states that this 2021 addition to the franchise while more or less a direct sequel of its original, in some ways its also a reboot of what has been done before. Much like The Force Awakens – but not so heavy handed-, the film relies at times on its own nostalgia to send love letters to those who remember the good old times.
The town itself – Summerville- is an old relic, where the local school still uses VHS Videos and while the year is 2021, this could easily be set only a few years after the carnage that occurred on top of Dana and Louis’s apartment building at 66th Street.
While it takes a good hour before the film really kicks into gear, the opening half clearly moves its chess pieces into place. A guy who looks like Egon (the late Harold Ramis who is affectionately remembered through out) fights off one last spook before he sadly passes away, only to leave his farm and belongings to a family he abandoned many years before.
His daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe all move into the small town where not a kind word is said about Egon, until Phoebe starts to discover some strange equipment around the place, with an old 1959 Cadillac that has the license plate ECTO-1 all covered up in the local barn.
A quick history lesson from teacher Gary Grooberson ( a delightful Paul Rudd) makes Phoebe discover who her Grandfather really was and soon a new version of Slimer is seen munching on any metal in sight and the sound of a Proten Pack starting up and a blast of stream containing positively charged ions is a much welcome delight.
Yes, we may trod the same written path of a “Gatekeeper” and “Keymaster” and you do wish that perhaps the script was brave enough to venture out and offer us a new threat, but if this was to reunite fans of old and then bring in a new generation in hope of further adventures, then you have to put your hands up and say that it wins hands down.
In the hands of Jason Reitman whose dad Ivan of course directed the original, the franchise has never felt in safer hands. There have been a few complaints that the film with the term GHOST in its title doesn’t contain much of them and that is true, but when it pulls on the heartstrings like it does in the final act, then how can you complain?
The not so “secret” arrival of a few well know faces only elevates the fun, but the magic of this film is that it did not need that moment for it to succeed. This new generation of GHOSTBUSTERS are so likeable that there is a sense that we are back in the golden days where The Goonies ruled and little Gremlins run amok – the new Stay Puft Marshmallow men being a welcome nod to those mischief critters.
I doubt AFTERLIFE will end up being classed in the same category as those 80’s classics, but the highest compliment I can give it is that it finally does give the franchise a worthy sequel and I’ll be more than happy to jump onboard for any further adventures – as long as they keep away from any artwork of Vigo the Carpathian which results in the Statue of Liberty walking, then I am sure it be fine!