Following the icy reception to Paul Feig’s 2016’s gender-swapped reboot of Ivan Reitman’s beloved 80s franchise, it’s fair to say there’s a perceived nervousness to the latest instalment from Sony. However, with Ivan Reitman back on board as producer, and his son Jason Reitman directing and co-writing – the sequel to the originals is in great hands.
Directed by Jason Reitman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife centres on the aftermath of the death of original ghostbuster Egon’s (Harold Ramis.) The scientist had been living a life of solitude in small-town Oklahoma, often referred to as ‘dirt farmer’ by perplexed locals due to his barmy experiments and musings on a looming apocalypse. Left to sort out his possessions and estate, his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two teen kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), begin to uncover hidden artefacts, scientific equipment and newly discovered spectral activity linked to a number of suspicious seismic tremors.
Following a surprisingly tense and spooky pre-title sequence, director Reitman quickly establishes a brand new generation of ghost hunters with a loving affection for the original films. The movie is very much in the vein of 80’s Amblin-esque kid-led action-adventures like Gremlins, ET, Goonies, as Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast slowly uncover their grandfather’s secrets – and of course, discover something strange in the neighbourhood.
Lensed from the perspective of the children, Reitman frames the latest instalment as a heartwarming and empowering misfit comedy, which features some mild Goosebumps-esque paranormal elements. Paired with plenty of Easter Eggs and nods to the original, this latest outing makes for a brilliant mix of new and old – striking the perfect balance for fans of the original to introduce their younger families to the franchise. It does, at times, ride on a rush of nostalgia and fan service, but there’s still plenty of new additions and future setup to distinguish itself from previous instalments.
Grace’s science nerd Phoebe is the real MVP of the flick, with a truly fantastic arc. As she discovers more and more about her grandfather Egon, she embraces her gifts and takes on her grandfather’s mantel, gaining courage, confidence and acceptance along the way. Her terrible dad jokes are also a great addition, making for a brilliant contrast to Rudd’s loveably goofy science teacher. Kim‘s Podcast is another highlight – sharing a brilliant chemistry with Phoebe and Mr Grooberson, as outcast/misfits who find solace and friendship amongst the spooky goings on. Through his plucky character, Reitman weaves a hilarious commentary on podcasters throughout, as Kim is afforded some brilliantly relatable lines like “I really come into my own after episode 46” and “so you’re my one subscriber!”
Coon also excels as the exasperated mother, who’s time spent with her absent father’s old house and belongings opens up very raw familial wounds, causing tension in her relationship with Phoebe. In contrast, Wolfhard’s underdeveloped character is surprisingly afforded little screen time, with his inclusion perhaps a strategic move to attract the Stranger Things fanbase. However, the family dynamic evolves and strengthens throughout the film, leading to a beautifully moving tribute to the late Ramis.
Set in the small town of Summerville – which exudes a distinct quirky 80s vibe with it’s drive-in roller diner and old school cinema – Ghostbusters: Afterlife captures a magical charm. Thanks to an atmospheric and fun score from Rob Simonsen, plus a loving inclusion of the original costumes, practical puppets, proton packs, ghost traps, returning faces and the iconic car, there’s a real affection for the franchise. There’s also a number of thrilling car chases and fun moments with the adorably chaotic mini stay pufts and newbie ghost Muncher, along with plenty of family-friendly horror and surprising jump scares.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a hugely entertaining and heartfelt nostalgia trip, breathing life into the franchise with a fun hark back to the kid-lead action-adventures of the 80s. With brilliant performances from Mckenna Grace and the wider cast, and an exciting new generation established, there’s plenty for fans new and old to enjoy.