Let’s talk about Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
The Ghostbusters reboot was an ugly point in cinema. The reaction to the news the Ghostbusters would be all women was nasty and horrific to watch. When all of that happened, many of us were really willing the new Ghostbusters on to be good. After all, it’d be a massive middle finger to the angry sexists if the film ended up being pretty good. Unfortunately, it was quite naff. A very poor script let a hard working cast down and it was just rubbish. The sexists laughed as if it proved them they were right, they weren’t as a female Ghostbusters movie is not a bad thing by right, and it seemed like the franchise was dead. But if there is some money to be made, nothing is truly dead.
Callie and her children Trevor and Phoebe are forced out of their home and forced to head to a derelict farmhouse inherited from her recently deceased father. Her children start to explore the house and the town and they soon discover that it is haunted and also that their grandfather may be something special.
This is a film themed all around nostalgia. This comes at you in two ways. Firstly, the type of film it is. With its small town setting and a lot of the film being tweens and teens going around a small town seeing what trouble they can get into, it feels like lot like some of those classics 80s films like The Goonies. You will also think of Stranger Things because the film also chooses to cast Finn Wolfhard in a casting as distracting as when they casted Finn Wolfhard in It. I think he might be getting typecast a bit. The town itself feels caught in time as well with the farmhouse looking pulled out of a classic horror while there’s a diner with rollerblading actors which I swear I last saw on the McDonalds biopic The Founder.
But the nostalgia isn’t just about a certain genre of 80s films which have come back in a big way. Surprise surprise but it is also very nostalgic to Ghostbusters itself. Unlike the reboot, this is a sequel to the original two films (No, I don’t know if the video game is still canon, please ask someone else that question), and so can trade far more off the original iconography. And it does a very good job teasing it out. It starts with some of the smaller stuff like the PK meter before it moves onto the really iconic stuff like Ecto-1 and the proton packs. If you are a Ghostbusters film who is worried that this is going to tread all over your memories, don’t be. This is a reverential film to the originals, though that’s to be expected considering the director is the son of the original director.
But for how much this film trades on nostalgia, it does feel quite new. One of the issues of the Ghostbusters reboot was that it was in many ways, just a remake. So you have a story that feels quite familiar and then you have Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy having to fill roles once filled by Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd. And while the two women are fantastic in their own right, there aren’t many that match up to the latter two. By taking the action out of New York City and placing it in what feels like the opposite of NYC, you at least get to look at some different scenery. This automatically makes the film feel quite fresh. That means when the movie decides to rehash some stuff from the original movies, it feels more like a homage than a re-tread.
I also really like the very unconventional hero in this. While the film will call itself an ensemble, it does end up with a definite lead. For a while the film positions it to be Finn Wolfhard’s character as you would expect the teenage boy with a crush to become the lead. But no, it ends up being the bit weird 12-year-old girl called Phoebe. We’ll address the fact we have a film with Paul Rudd in it that has character called Phoebe another day, but I really like this choice. It’s different, it ends up working really well with how the story progresses and I think this is what’s going to be really inspirational. Phoebe is definitely unconventional and not very charismatic. She’s awkward and often a bit offputting. There’s a lot of young children like that. Seeing a character like that on the big screen will be fantastic for them as it shows they can kick ass too.
There is a controversial moment at the end I have to tiptoe around towards the end. It is a big moment at the conclusion and it is going to be perceived very differently by everyone who sees it. Some people are going to be really touched by it and think it is a magical ending to the movie. Some are going to think it oversteps the mark and that it is exploitative. Swings and roundabouts. I can’t really go into it anymore without revealing some pretty major spoilers but this is going to be the divisive moment of the film, and one divisive moment is that it’s going to change people’s opinions.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a great addition to the series. It would have been easy to play the hits with another ghosts in New York edition but they have learned the lessons of the reboot with something that does feel original. It is drenched with nostalgia and manages to reinvoke the spirit of the original with some great comedy tinged with enough horror to make the kids scared in that classic Doctor Who type way. It never elevates to being something truly brilliant but it should serve as a very fun film for both fans and newbies to the series.