Review: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” – Who are you gonna call? Nostalgia!


Ben Kaiser, News Editor

Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for the “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” movie. 

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is what I would call (if there is a better term for it, I don’t know) “generation reboot.” Basically, it’s a brand new series that is separate from the original movies but is still continuing the story from those earlier films. In this case, the story starts off nearly 40 years after the first two movies, focusing on new characters and acknowledging the past movies as background elements.  The new “Star Wars” movies did this, too, with the original characters returning as minor characters to support the newer cast. Other films that I can think of doing this are “Candyman” and “Halloween.” The new “Spider-Man: No Way Home” movie could be one, too, if the online rumors are true of former Spider-Man actors returning.

The earlier “Ghostbusters” films are about paranormal exterminators that go into business in New York to capture and remove ghosts. In both films, a great evil force threatens the end of all life as we know it. When the city is running mad with ghosts and demons, only the Ghostbusters can stop them.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is directed by Jason Reitman. Jason is the son of Ivan Reitman, the director of the original “Ghostbusters” films. I like how the Reitmans are keeping ghost-busting in the family. It’s ironic Jason once laughed at the idea of doing a “Ghostbuster 3,” claiming it would be only about talking about ghosts if he was directing. Reitman tends to blend generational gaps between older and younger characters in his films. He also uses relationships between parent and child as a big part of his films. Both are combined in this film.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” stars Mckenna Grace (“Gifted”) as Phoebe Spengler, Finn Wolfhard (Netflix’s “Stranger Things”) as Trevor Spengler, Celeste O’Connor (“Freaky”) as Lucky Domingo, Paul Rudd (“Ant-Man”) as Gary Grooberson, Carrie Coon (HBO’s “The Leftovers”) as Callie Spengler, and Bokeem Woodbine (FX’s “Fargo”) as Sherriff Domingo. Logan Kim stars in his feature debut as Podcast. J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) appears in a cameo as Ivo Shandor, the occultic architect responsible for building Gozer’s temple from the first “Ghostbusters” movie.

Decades after the original Ghostbusters saved New York (twice) from ghosts, Egon Spengler’s daughter, Callie, receives a call about her father dying on his dirt farm (I swear that has to be a joke; are there really dirt farms?) in Oklahoma. She takes her children, Phoebe and Trevor, to Summerville in hopes of starting over. Soon, Phoebe finds Egon’s old ghost-busting equipment just as ghosts begin attacking the small town. Armed with ghost-busting proton packs and the Ghostbusters’ beat-up vehicle, the Spengler family will have to defend the town (and the world) from an ancient evil returning.

Right off the bat, this is a way better film compared to the 2016 gender-swapped remake. It feels like Ghostbusters again. It’s also loaded with fan service, which I find interesting that critics would drop their score on. For me, I find it more enjoyable when they do that. There’s a scene where the characters are looking at shelves loaded with jars of fungus, and diehard fans will remember the line “I collect molds and fungus” from the original film when the Ghostbusters’ secretary, Janine, asked Egon what some of his hobbies are. A more obvious one is when the kids get arrested and demand a phone call, the sheriff asked: “Who are you gonna call?”

Hard to tell if this would be a big spoiler, but the movie trailers spoiled it multiple times, so why not? The surviving members of the Ghostbusters are back! It’s an awesome moment to see them in character again, especially since Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were trying for decades to make a third movie. Unfortunately, a big dispute between Billy Murray and Ramis made it unlikely. After Ramis passed away, it became almost certain that it would never happen.

Harold Ramis died in 2014, so his “Ghostbuster” character was handled carefully to make this story work. I like how they made his spirit live on through his grandchildren, with Trevor handling car repairs (although that is more Ray Stanz’s thing) and Phoebe having his smarts. I didn’t get the same feeling for Egon’s daughter, Callie, so I guess it skipped a generation.

Some would argue that what goes on with his character in the film (spoilers, spoilers) could be insensitive to Ramis and his family, and others would fire back that it is in honor of both Ramis and his character. I personally felt it’s more the latter. Especially with both Jason and Ivan Reitman personally handling this, everything felt like it was done in good faith. Hopefully, I’m proven right.

Ernie Hudson’s character, Winston Zeddemore, also gets a bit of redemption. As the fourth Ghostbuster, Zeddemore was always out of the loop when the other three went into science discussion (so was Peter Venkman, but he always faked through it, though). He was also always put more to the side while the others had more story to their character. To be fair, he had some great lines, like “when someone asks if you’re a god, you say YES!” or “That’s a big Twinkie.”

At the end of the film, Zeddemore gets the whole scene to himself, explaining that after the Ghostbusters disbanded, he went into finance and became a very successful businessman. He managed to buy the old Ghostbusters’ firehouse (apparently, Starbucks wanted to buy it) and keep the property intact. It’s nice to see Winston be important to the Ghostbusters’ name instead of just being the fourth one asking questions about everything.

“Ghostbusters” was a big deal to me growing up and I’m glad to see the franchise making a comeback. 2016’s “Ghostbusters” just didn’t have the same chemistry or formula (it’s weird to have two science-y words to explain a movie structure). The jokes didn’t land well, and it screamed “cash grab.” The spirit of the Ghostbusters wasn’t there. At least with “Afterlife,” I could feel that they wanted to honor the franchise, while still being a “cash grab.” It IS a franchise, after all.

There is a mid- and post-credit scene at the end. Possible chances of sequels. Both are worth staying in your seats for.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is currently in theaters.