“You are about to go on the greatest Easter egg hunt of your life”
– Jason Reitman
Writer/Director Ghostbuster Afterlife
Bringing a new Ghostbusters to the screen was always going to be a daunting task, made harder by an uninterested original cast, the passing of time and a studio that has no clue on how to do it. Ghostbusters is one of those franchises that is looked back on with reverence by its fans and disappointment by one of its cast members. The original Ghostbusters had it all; characters that kids could aspire to be, cosplay, a funny script, brand new special effects. Soon after its release, the inevitable sequel was green lit and produced. Only Ghostbusters 2 had a problem… Bill Murray. History shows that Murray felt tricked into doing Ghostbusters 2 and was disappointed with the film, so he distanced himself from any future projects, stating at a New York press conference:
“So there’s never been an interest in a third Ghostbusters because the second one was kind of disappointing … for me, anyway.”
So, Columbia pictures, did what any self-respecting media company would do and cashed in, creating an animated series, books and even a few games. Then with interest in the franchise at an all-time low everything went quiet. That was until the MCU became a thing and suddenly every studio on the planet was looking in their dusty wardrobe of IP. In this case, studio executives thought that it was time to unleash more Ghosts. In 2015 an office was opening within Sony pictures; a sign was stuck up that said Ghost Corp. Some creatives were hired in secret to work out what do next. A grand plan was formed, comprising of a new shared universe of Ghostbusters movies and cartoons. Then, in 2016, the studio released…. Ghostbusters ‘Answer the Call’ (its full title only recently being decided). Ohhh but it was not the Ghostbusters the world wanted. The problem… well you could say that misogynistic internet idiots brought the film down, but it is worse than that, it was a poor film. It hit the wrong tone, and most importantly, appeared to have no connection to the previous two films. Project Ghost Corps had been busted! It took a highly motivated Jason Reitman (son of original director Ivan Reitman) to convince Sony to get back into busting ghosts again. So, in July 2019 Ghostbusters Afterlife started filming and due to the pandemic was not released until October 2021, does it right the wrongs? Does bustin’ make me feel good?, let’s find out
Produced by Ghost Corp (Sony Pictures) Co-Written by Gil Kenan & Jason Reitman based on characters created by Dan Aykroyd and directed by Reitman. Ghostbusters Afterlife continues the story created in the first two films. In that sense it is both a direct sequel and a reboot, as so much time has passed since the first two films
When a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind
Callie (Carrie Coon) lives with her two children, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and is struggling financially. When she finds out that her eccentric father has just died, believing that she has just inherited an estate of some worth, she moves herself and her teenage kids to a remote sleepy ex-mining town. Whist Callie is concentrating on sorting through the remnants of her dad’s estate, a hormonal Trevor is attempting to date a girl he just met. Geeky science super nerd Phoebe makes some life changing discoveries and together with new friend Podcast (he calls himself that as he makes a podcast), the group go on a mission to find out what is going on and save the world.
Phoebe: “What does a hamster have in common with a cigarette?”
“They’re harmless, unless you stick ’em in your mouth and light them on fire.”
Mckenna Grace plays Phoebe the nearly teenage daughter of Callie. Grace is somewhat of a child star, her work including appearances in Designated Survivor, Young Sheldon, and more recently, the Handmaid’s Tale.
Phoebe fast becomes Ghostbusters Afterlife’s most important character. She is written as a socially awkward genius, as adept at reading seismic readings, as she is tearing apart electronics. It’s a captivating performance from Grace who finds ways to emulate the late Harold Ramis’ personality without losing the fact that she is on a journey of discovery. Grace is unrecognisable out of costume, and I was surprised to learn that she is also a singer and has provided the closing credits song. .
Grooberson : [Showing them a video of The Ghostbusters going to battle Gozer] ” None of this rings a bell?
Phoebe : “It happened 20 years before we were born.”
Podcast : “Well I believe it.”
Logan Kim plays Podcast. Podcast is a believer of the paranormal and runs around town with a microphone calling himself ‘Podcast’. Whilst the use of stick microphone thrust in every face, he sees may be questionable, Podcast provides some superb comedy moments. Kim skilfully avoids making Podcast annoying and I suspect that younger views may warm to him.
Podcast befriends Phoebe and is used to explain what’s going on. Taking Phoebe to the disused mine and telling her and us about the town’s history. As a viewer we start to join the dots with what he tells us.
The fact that this is Kim’s first ever major film displays a talent, that hopefully has a bright future.
Phoebe : “I found this in my living room.”
[Mr. Grooberson picks up the ghost trap]
Grooberson : “Whoa! Killer replica.”
Phoebe : “A replica of what?”
Grooberson : “A ghost trap.”
An actual Avenger joins the Afterlife cast, Paul Rudd plays Grooberson. A schoolteacher that prefers to let his students watch films (inappropriate for their age) whilst he charts mysterious seismic activity. Those that have seen Rudd’s work before will not be surprised with his performance as he brings his own comedic style to screen. I have to say that his on screen rapport with the young cast is great and he not only educates Phoebe and Podcast in Ghostbusters lore, but also becomes a love interest for Callie – an important plot point.
As you would expect from a movie of this calibre, the sound mix is spot on, and spatial sound is present in the form of ATMOS. Reitman has ensured that the team reproduce the sounds from the original films, with the famous siren of ECTO-1, sounding like a 1960s police siren crossed with a baby that needs feeding, wahhhh whaaahhhh. The famous boot-up sound of the Proton Pack is also present (spoiler – they have now found the switch!) This is sure to please fans just as much as the easter eggs thrown in each scene.
Rob Simonsen has replaced the highly regarded late Elmer Bernstein as Ghostbuster’s composer. It is Simpson’s first major motion picture as lead composer, so it must have been a tough call to answer. Bernstein was so perceptive in his compositions, matching both the humour and the dark aboding scenes with big brass chords and that famous theme tune. Director Reitman wanted to re-record Bernstein’s work, but after reading the script, Simonsen realised that this was going to be a distinctive style of Ghostbusters compared to the originals, so he decided to attempt to use cues from the original and create some new pieces.
It is some effort by Simonsen, even going as far as studying film scores of the 1980’s, buying a Yamaha DX7 Synthesizer (that was used extensively in the 80s for film scores) and bringing on board Bernstein’s son to help orchestrate the score thus keeping the Ghostbuster lineage alive.
Simpson’s score goes from simplistic Piano melodies such as ‘Nice Replica’ through to fully orchestrated track like ‘Trap Him’. But for all this effort Simonsen is not quite as successful as he could have been. Listen to the score on its own and you could be listening to any action movie of the 1980/early 1990s era. Simonsen also seems to be obsessed with using a few chords that are part of the Ghostbusters theme but stripped down and used in this context sound exactly like the opening chords of the A-Team theme: Dur Dur Dur, stopping short of the Da Da Daaa. These Chords appear all over the soundtrack, slowed down, sped up, quiet, loud. What is worse is that once I noticed it, that’s all I could hear, and it became so annoying it took me out of the film. Listen to the track ‘Laboratory’ and tell me I am wrong!
The films visual effects also pay homage to the original films. In Ghostbusters Afterlife the creative team have not solely focused on using completely digital effects. Instead, they have used a mix of practical, digital, and photographic effects. Skilfully finding ways to merge 1980’s techniques and style with modern digital processes. The result being effects that are instantly recognisable as Ghostbusters yet feel fresh. It is great to see the effects team did not go down a totally digital route. While on the subject of effects, the films big action finale contains an amazing sequence that sees Reitman literally put the Ghost in Ghostbuster. One small disappointment is the lack of ghost variety. Muncher is the practically the only main ghost we see before things turn evil.
Reitman’s quest to make the film as authentic as possible was to bring back the original Ecto-1 car. The problem, Ecto-1 is based on a 1959 Cadillac Miller Meteor Futura Duplex, only 100 were ever made. Luckily though Sony had the original Ecto-1a sitting in a backlot in a very dilapidated state. Reitman turned to specialist vehicle company, Ghostlight Pictures Vehicles for help. Through their industry contacts, Ghostlight obtained a further two vehicles and spent two and half months stripping them down and refabricating them. Ghostlight created two working cars capable of 100mph with custom steering that allowed the cars to slide. The third car became cut in half and used for effects shots. Ghostlight did an incredible job, not only making the cars look like a typical barn find rusty hulk, but Ecto-1 now features two upgrades for this film. A gunner seat and a small remote-control vehicle both of which may be new to the car but are crafted in such a way they look like they are original and belong on the car
Eric Steelberg is director of photography for Ghostbusters Afterlife
Steelberg as some nice character moments and often favours focus on the foreground with quick switches to focus on whatever is going on behind the character. The colour grading seems a little inconsistent veering from a blue tint for the night shots, through to using a warm tint for the daylight scenes. This may be deliberate to make full use of Dolby Vision. Bright colours pop and it has a good amount of contrast between the darker shades.
The image is sharp, clear as you would expect for such a high-profile Hollywood film.
In one of the films highlights, Ecto-1 gets a great run out in this film, and Steenberg’s team have created some lovely action sequences that really make use of the car’s new features.
I suspect that Steelberg is pleased with this film, if not, he should be!
Reitman has not created just another Ghostbusters film, this is amazingly thought-out love letter to his father, original cast and fans. What I like about this is that you can tell he has really considered how to move the franchise forward. Providing much needed experience to first time cast members and creatives such as the composer.
Afterlife may suffer from some pacing issues, and lean in heavily on Spielberg style for inspiration, and have a slightly annoying score, but these points are easily forgiven as the attention to detail that has gone into this production is simply mind-blowing. Ghostbusters Afterlife says a fond farewell to the original cast and passes the baton onto a new generation without managing to upset anyone in the process, and for me, Yes Lemme tell ya something. Bustin’ makes me feel good!
Directed by Jason Reitman
Gil Kenan & Jason Reitman
Based on “Ghostbusters” written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Carrie Coon as Callie
Paul Rudd as Grooberson
Finn Wolfhard as Trevor
Mckenna Grace as Phoebe
Logan Kim as Podcast
Celeste O’Connor as Lucky
Bill Murray as Peter Venkman
Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz
Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore
Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz
Josh Gad as Muncher (voice)
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Gozer (voice)
2 hours 4 minutes
An office worker by day and blogger by night. Garry is the creator and writer of The Silver Hedgehog. A Sci-Fi geek (don’t mention Terry Pratchett or Isaac Asimov unless you have a spare hour) and avid film fan (noted for watching Titanic 8 times at the cinema 🤩). Enjoys writing reviews and blogs in his spare time, and is waiting for the day he gets paid for it!