Do you know what we need more of in this word? Nostalgia for the eighties, injected into our eyeballs via a reboot of a classic film franchise from the decade that gave us neoliberalism and the Iran-Contra Scandal. Thankfully Ghostbusters: Afterlife is here to address this pressing issue.
Set in modern times, the action follows the estranged offspring of OG Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, now deceased). We find out Egon moved to the middle of nowhere, abandoning his daughter (Callie, played by Carrie Coon) and leaving her with daddy issues she can’t help bringing up at every opportunity. I understand therapy can be prohibitively expensive in the States, but I can’t help but think this entire movie could have been avoided had she just talked to a professional about her feelings of abandonment.
Callie’s daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) is just like her granddad, although she doesn’t know anything about him (see: her mum’s abandonment issues). When a twist of fate (or, you know, capitalism using the blood of workers to grease its wheels) means the Spenglers are evicted and need to move into Egon’s old farmhouse, the story begins in earnest.
The first thing to say about the film is that in a lot of ways it doesn’t make sense. I don’t mean in a ghostbuster-y, disregard for the actual meaning of the word ‘plasma’ way. I can suspend my disbelief with ease; after all, for months in 2021 I thought anti-vaxxers would eventually stop acting like the massive, stupid babies they are. I mean in terms of simpler things.
For example, when Callie’s son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame, playing essentially the same character he does in the Netflix show) leaves a roller-skating burger joint after trying to impress waitress Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), all the staff are outside jeering at him, including Lucky herself. Did they all suddenly finish their shift? Does everyone take a break at the same time? Or is this just the laziest way of reminding us Trevor is an outsider?
Perhaps focusing on these smaller details when reviewing a big blockbuster-style film is a bit unnecessary, but even when it comes to the action viewers crave from this sort of thing Ghostbusters: Afterlife falls short. The first half is spent on exposition, and the latter building up to a crescendo that never quite arrives, even though it’s earmarked as doing so by big special effects.
The film isn’t completely unenjoyable. The soundtrack has some bangers on it, and the performances from Grace and Logan Kim (playing Podcast, Phoebe’s eccentric classmate) are worth savouring. Paul Rudd is a welcome addition to any cast, even when he is slightly miscast as he is here. If you love Ghostbusters, the call-backs and easter eggs (and the brief screentime we get with the original crew) might make seeing this worth it. And as a family blockbuster it isn’t offensively bad, simply middling. But if you’re looking for something that lives up to the original, you’re out of luck. Maybe, like video-store clerks and Walkman engineers, Ghostbusting is a profession consigned to the past.
Sandeep is a writer based in London. He recently completed his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Edinburgh and was longlisted for the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize 2021. He loves all kinds of beer, from cheap lagers to stouts so dark they would fight for Sauron.