Mike’s Review: Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021)

👻👻👻 out of 👻👻👻👻👻

Directed by Jason Reitman.

Because the Scariest Things Podcast is YOUR gateway (emphasis on the gateway part) to the tropes and trends of the horror genre, we occasionally dip our toes in the kiddie pool. Sometimes we examine decidedly non-frightening fare that’s really targeted a much broader audience (read: the entire planet). Sometimes we just look at films because, well, nostalgia. 

Now 37 years in to the franchise you probably have a good idea of what to expect from the latest installment of the Ghostbusters, AKA Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Everything that you think you’re going to see is guaranteed to be seen. There are some sly and not so sly references to the original 1984 Ghostbusters film. And there are some perfectly placed appearances and irksome and cringe-worthy appearances. But, at the end of the day, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is largely an exact duplicate of its 1984 grandfather. 

Helmed by Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, and clearly not a horror director, Afterlife follows the descendants of Dr. Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis, RIP). Egon has died a lonely existence in the the middle of rural Oklahoma (Calgary, Alberta) and it’s up to his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace) to piece a part his massive collection of pseudo-science ephemera. 

From the jump, it’s clear that Egon’s granddaughter, Phoebe, is a psychically connected version of her grandfather. Well-timed corny jokes, a wry smile, and a penchant for ghost-hunting technologies. It’s McKenna’s performance as Phoebe that holds the entire film together. In large part Finn Wolfhard is barely a distraction and only serves as the older non-licensed driver to cart Phoebe and her newfound sidekick, Podcast (Logan Kim), from fright to fright. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Wolfhard, Grace, and Kim as the newly minted Ghostbusters.

In an obvious nod to the first film, Rick Moranis’ character is played by a somewhat more staid Paul Rudd but hysterically named Gary Grooberson, and Sigourney Weaver’s doppelgänger is played by Egon’s daughter Callie. Both do well in their respective roles, and while Paul Rudd is his normal charming self, neither bring the frenetic and terrifying energy brought by Moranis and Weaver. Rudd as a middling high school teacher does however get extra credit for showing his class Cujo and Child’s Play in lieu of actually teaching them. 

The remainder of Afterlife is as you’d expect, which is not to say it’s not worthy of your time. It’s filled with perfectly punctuated songs throughout the film, including the Clapping Song by Shirley Ellis, the Shirelles, Funkadelic, the Buzzcocks, and of course the eternal Ray Parker Jr. The acting performances, in particular, by McKenna Grace and Logan Kim, are stellar. In addition, the visual effects are clean, unobtrusive, and a joy to roil in. As a $75 million dollar film you’d expect nothing less, and your expectations will be met. 

The real question is not whether the latest offering hits the mark, but where, in the pantheon of Ghostbusters lore, does Afterlife fit. A haunting question for sure. But look no further horror hounds, we have the ghoulish answer. Without further ado, here’s how the Ghostbusters universe ranks from worst to first!

6. Extreme Ghostbusters (1997)

5. The Real Ghostbusters (1986 to 1991)

4. Ghostbusters II (1989)

3. Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

2. Ghostbusters (1984)

…and the best Ghostbusters property in the Ghostbusters franchise is…

1. Ghost Busters (2016)

There you have it ghosthunters! If you are a parent with a tween or a tween yourself, head out to the theater, buy some popcorn, revel in nostalgia, and have yourself a solid haunt!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is PG-13 and available everywhere.

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