[Review] Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters Afterlife

Afterlife’s story picks up three decades after the events of Ghostbusters II, focusing on the antics of child genius Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and her awkward teen brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things) who happen to be the estranged grandchildren of the recently deceased ex-Ghostbuster, Dr. Egon Spengler. Together with their well-meaning but hapless single mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), they drive to the dusty, rural town of Summerville, Oklahoma to live in the decrepit farmhouse left to them by Dr Spengler.

Summerville has been plagued by a series of unexplained earthquakes, and the town was built by “Ivo Shandor” – the same person who owned the New York skyscraper at 550 Central Park West in the original Ghostbusters movie. 

When Summerville experiences a slew of supernatural events, it is up to Phoebe and Trevor to figure out the problem using grandpa Spengler’s ghostbusting tools. Together with Podcast (Logan Kim), Phoebe’s classmate who loves to talk, and Trevor’s new crush Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), the kids take on the evil that’s brewing at a nearby abandoned mine.

Fans of the original Ghostbusters will rejoice in the return of the proton packs, khaki jumpsuits, and Ecto 1 – and perhaps, also in the the return of Slimer and Gozer, the original androgynous demon from New York (now played by Olivia Wilde), together with the two dog-like demons. Playing the quirky role of Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) from the original film is Chad Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a teacher-cum-seismologist who “teaches” his class by showing them 80s horror movies like Cujo and Child’s Play.

Afterlife also sees cameos by Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz – the Ghostbusters’ original dour receptionist whose role later evolved into man-candy Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) in Ghostbusters (2016). Fans of the original Ghostbusters (1984) will also get to see cameos by the three surviving members, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson reprising their roles as Ray Stantz, Dr. Peter Venkman, and Dr. Winston Zeddemore, as well as Sigourney Weaver.

The film evokes a Goonies (or even Stranger Things) vibe in a plot where it’s up to the kids to save an entire town – because the adults are just too hapless. Afterlife is a light-hearted comedy with an awkward love story and just enough action to keep you entertained for the 2-hour duration (stay till after the first credit roll for a surprise!).

Suspend your disbelief

In order to really enjoy it, Afterlife does require you to suspend your disbelief. For instance, an avowed supernatural skeptic Phoebe suddenly finds nothing odd about interacting with a supernatural being in the house. Or how none of the locals seem to realise that Dr. Egon Spengler was the same Ghostbuster that saved New York from a supernatural apocalypse in the 80s.

Also, despite being a tiny remote town, Summerville somehow manages to have a bustling Chinese restaurant and a diverse teenage population – you’d think you were watching Netflix, not Hollywood.

The Ghostbusters canon

Unlike the Ghostbusters movie in 2016, Afterlife is actually part of the Ghostbusters canon with a story that continues directly after the events of Ghostbusters II. In fact, it even continues its legacy: Afterlife is directed by Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitmen who directed the original Ghostbuster films (and actually produced Afterlife). 

Sequels may be a hit-or-miss – Ghostbusters II was loathed by Bill Murray himself – so Afterlife tries to pick up from the original film instead of its sequel, while adding a dose of Gen Y with young leading castmembers (Phoebe is only 12).

While the film is something Ghostbusters fans look forward to, you don’t have to watch the original Ghostbusters to enjoy Afterlife. Reitman crafts a solid standalone movie that makes chronological sense, while also dovetailing in a touching tribute to the late Harold Ramis (who played Spengler in the original films).