GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

Paul Rudd in a still from the film
  • Release Date: 19/11/2021
  • Cast: Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim
  • Director: Jason Reitman

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the sequel that we deserved in 2016

— Ambar Chatterjee

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a sequel to Ghostbusters 2 released in 1989. I appreciated this film right off the bat for erasing the atrocious and obnoxious attempt at a reboot by Paul Feig in 2016. I am not a Ghostbusters fan and yet Feig’s film grossly offended me because of its atrocious writing, unbearable cast and their coma-inducing performances, and the director’s incessant attempt at shoving unfunny, ill-placed, and terrible comedy down my throat. I can only imagine the plight of the fans of the franchise who were vociferously abused by a section of the critics when they poorly received the film and were even referred to as women-hating Trump supporters by the cast and crew of the film.

Afterlife picks up the story after the events of Ghostbusters 2 but moves years ahead in time. The legendary Egon Spengler (Late Harold Ramis) faces off against a supernatural force and after putting up a brave fight is finally killed. He had retreated to a secluded place in the rural USA and after his death, his property is handed over to his daughter Callie (Carrie Coon). Callie is just as bad with money as Egon was and is on the verge of being evicted from her home. When she learns of her father’s death, she rushes back to his house to see if she can salvage some money out of what he has left her. Unfortunately, she realizes that he has left her nothing but a house and some more debt.

Callie’s daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) has a knack for science and technology just like her grandfather. She starts unearthing her grandfather’s legacy once they move into the house. She also realizes that something is brewing underneath the peaceful town as she starts experiencing strange occurrences in their home. With the help of her newly made friend, Podcast (Logan Kim), and her teacher Gary (Paul Rudd), she sets out to unearth the mysteries left behind by her grandfather. As time passes, Phoebe realizes that her grandfather was in fact saving the entire world from another invasion of the supernatural evil, Gozer, and was in fact building a machine that could put an end to the Gozer once and for all.

McKenna Grace as Phoebe

By the time she makes the discoveries, the evil lurking in the shadows comes out in the light and the fate of humanity is threatened once again by the Gozer. The only people who could save the world were the Ghostbusters and in their absence, the mantle is passed to the next generation. Phoebe and her friends must now use all the Ghostbusters equipment at their disposal to track down the Gozer and find a way to put an end to it.   

There is a lot to like in this film. The film is a lot more serious than its predecessors and the horror elements are a lot more pronounced. The film begins with a thrilling sequence wherein we see not only the end of Egon but also experience firsthand the evil that he is up against. As Phoebe and her family move into the house, we are never sure if the supernatural occurrences that she is facing are being conjured by her grandfather’s spirit or by some other malevolent entity. It is only after we see the spirit’s exchanges with Phoebe that we realize what exactly was happening. Thus the setup is engaging and the horror elements are executed with a lot more panache resulting in some seriously scary moments.

A large chunk of the film is about Phoebe discovering her legacy and understanding the science and the magic of it. We experience the Proton Pack firing up again and it reminded me of the first time that I heard the Proton Packs firing up inside a lift in the first Ghostbusters film. The Ecto 1 also comes back into action and the scene where it is repaired and driven for the first time made me excited with nostalgia. The first time Phoebe and her friends trap a ghost, it is in an extremely well-executed chase sequence that was done better than any of the previous chase sequences even in the original.

Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim, and Mckenna Grace in a still

Mckenna Grace as Phoebe is the perfect protagonist for the film. I was wondering whether someone so young could take over the mantle from such iconic comic actors of the 1980s but having kids play the protagonists was a great idea that was rewarded by great performances from all three kids. Grace has the perfect attitude and mannerism to make the character believable and affecting. She is shown to be a brilliant kid but she is reserved and for a large chunk of the film doesn’t even know her own legacy. But when she learned of her grandfather and understands where she gets her scientific aptitude from, we can sense and even notice a stark change in her attitude towards what she does. This gives the character a wonderful arch and makes the storytelling engrossing.

Logan Kim as Phoebe’s friend Podcast is hilarious. He works as the perfect foil to Phoebe’s calm and composed self. Due credit must be given to the man who wrote his dialogs as they are hilarious. Paul Rudd may just be the most likable actor in the entire world. No matter what he does, he just looks perfect and oh! so likable. He brings that infectious charm of his to the film and adds so much to some of the most inane sequences. Carrie Coon is in her element here. She has atleast one heartwarming scene where she realizes that her father in fact adored her and kept a track of whatever she did contrary to what her belief about her father was.

In its horror elements, the film brings back memories from its predecessors. The Keymaster and the Gatekeeper are back and they are actual puppets here instead of CGI and it makes them look so much better. The Gozer is recreated keeping in mind the original and she will bring back memories from the original rendering of the character. I did have an issue with the Gozer doing nothing novel and just waiting for the Ghostbusters to find out her weaknesses and destroy her. Many possibilities could have been explored but were not.

The same can be said about the character of Ivo Shandor. He is played here by JK Simmons and seeing his name in the cast made me excited about the character. I believed that the character would be of some importance to the film as Shandor was referenced in the original but was never shown. Unfortunately, he is unceremoniously dispatched within seconds of showing up leaving the audience dissatisfied. The original Ghostbusters also make an appearance and it was great to see them on screen together even if it was only for a few moments and was not set up or executed well enough. The legendary Harold Ramis is given the kind of send-off that he deserves. I couldn’t help but feel emotional in this sequence and that just goes on to prove that it was a sequence done with subtlety and innovation.

I had an enjoyable time watching Ghostbusters. The film has a “Stranger Things” vibe to it as has been reported by many and it is a good thing. I loved the approach that the makers took to it but believe that certain things could have been done better. The ensemble cast did a fantastic job and I was surprised by how invested I was in the interpersonal drama. This film throws open the doors on a lot of different prospects that the makers could experiment upon in the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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