GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Jason Reitman

Stars: Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Bob Gunton, Celeste O’Connor, J K Simmons, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Bokeem Woodbine, Stella Aykroyd, Josh Gad.  

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This belated sequel to 1984’s cult classic Ghostbusters and its lacklustre 1989 sequel comes across as something of a cross between Ghostbusters and the hit Netflix series Stranger Things. And it pretends that the awful, misguided 2016 Melissa McCarthy led female take on the concept didn’t exist – in fact, the best thing about that film was Chris Hemsworth’s comedic performance as the empty headed himbo secretary. In this day and age, many film sequels seem to be merely cynical exercises in cashing in on a readily recognised name, but that is not the case here. Thankfully this sequel has been written and directed by Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan, and the pair have collaborated closely to ensure that Ghostbusters: Afterlife remains faithful to the spirit and integrity of the original. 

When the film opens, original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) dies in mysterious circumstances at his remote and crumbling farmhouse in Summerville, a small town in Oklahoma in America’s midwest. His estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon, from The Nest, etc) arrives to settle his estate, accompanied by her two children – precocious science nerd Phoebe (Mckenna Grace, from I Tonya, etc) and sullen Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, from tv series Stranger Things, etc). While Callie tries to clean up the decrepit house, which is full of strange scientific equipment and gadgets, Phoebe attends summer school under the tutelage of science teacher and eccentric seismologist Chad Grooberson (Paul Rudd, from Antman, etc), whose curriculum mainly consists of screening old VHS copies of horror films like Cujo to his students.  

Meanwhile Trevor uncovers the old Ecto-1 Ghostbuster mobile hidden in the garage and begins to fix it up. Phoebe uncovers her grandfather’s secret laboratory and several of his ghost busting paraphernalia. Trevor and Phoebe also make friends with another local science nerd in Podcast (Logan Kim), who hosts his own podcast about paranormal activity and documents everything on his little recorder.  

But then strange things begin happening as the town experiences a series of earth tremors even though it is located nowhere near a fault line. All these strange events seem connected to the old, abandoned Shandor Mining Company mine outside town. Soon ancient demons are being awakened and it is up to these teen ghostbusters to save the town, and indeed the world from a sinister spectral presence and Gozer, the powerful entity first seen in the original 1984 film. An early destructive chase through the town to capture a blue demon known as a muncher is a highlight. And there’s even some nonsense involving some very animated marshmallows which harks cheekily back to the enlarged marshmallow man from the original. 

Cowritten by Reitman and Gil Kenan (2015’s Poltergeist, etc), Ghostbusters: Afterlife is filled with Easter eggs and little homages and references to the original film that will delight fans of the series. But the film also has a more emotional quality as it deals with themes of family as well. Grace has a precocious quality and brings plenty of energy and youthful spunk to her solid performance. Rudd exudes plenty of affable charm in his role, and he develops a good chemistry with Coon. Meanwhile Kim provides plenty of laughs through his role as Podcast, another outcast and misfit. And appearances from original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and a cameo from Sigourney Weaver, lift Afterlife and give it an element of nostalgia.  

Even though Ramis passed away in 2014 his character is cleverly, and movingly, resurrected through the magic of special effects. His likeness was digitally aged and recreated using computer-generated imagery that drew upon clips and photos from the first two movies. Here the special effects largely serve the narrative, although the very busy climax does tend to be overwhelmed by CGI. 

Reitman junior comes from a background in smaller budget independent films that explore interesting characters and themes (Juno, Up In The Air, etc), so this rare foray into big budget special effects filmmaking is something of a change of pace. However, he quickly captures the same vibe of the original and taps into its mythology, and the film is steeped in 80s nostalgia.  

Coming some 37 years after the original film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a surprisingly enjoyable and worthwhile sequel that will satisfy fans without diminishing the legacy of the original. 

★★★☆ 

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