By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The first Ghostbusters film is a beloved introduction to a ragtag group of scientists kicked out of university for their questionable belief in ghosts. They gathered enough spectral data to realize its possible to contain these spirits, and turn their idea into a business since they are considered ‘pests.’ Their first client, the lovely Dana Barrett hired this team to figure out why her apartment is spook central, and the god they prevented from appearing closed off the movie. Paranormal activity still took place throughout New York State, but it wouldn’t really pick up again until five years have passed.
It wasn’t until Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, Peter Venkman and Winston Zeddemore had to deal with the spirit of a mad despot trapped in a painting when things truly quieted down. Spengler wasn’t ready to rest and even after this case, he knew there was a grande scheme happening while his teammates believed it was over. Flash forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, not everyone remembers the events from decades ago and we see him out on his own, dealing with a huge supernatural threat.
Elsewhere, Callie (Carrie Coon) gets evicted from her home, and with no place else to go, returns to the Spengler family farm. When we get more details, like in how her father has recently passed and isn’t ready to grieve. Her kids take after their deceased grandparent because of the way they look, and pretty soon, the paranormal activity that pops up send them on a path of discovering their roots. It’s easy to know who’s haunting the old abode, as none of the poltergiest activity is malevolent.
This film is a perfect continuation of that universe. Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) has Egon’s (the late Harold Ramis) nerdy love for science, and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) is more of the charmer. He takes an interest in a local girl, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), and easily wins her over when he’s not trying. It’s funny that in the original films, nobody knew Egon had a wife; the man probably left her when the team assembled and didn’t think telling his mates this fact.
This lack of backstory is forgivable. We may get more info should there be new movies or a novelization. It’s doubtful Titan Books updated anything in their re-release of these books to suit this latest. I’m personally excited that we have a proper passing of the torch that works. The trailers showed Phoebe, Trevor, and Podcast (Logan Kim) learning how to use the tools of the trade. The Goonies influence isn’t as noticeable in all the teaser material, but when coming into seeing this film, this third wheel is a riot. What they discover has more of a directorial Speilburg spin.
The new ghost, Muncher, may well have a purpose (to be spoiled in a separate article posting later today), but as for the marshmellow men we see, they simply exist in this film for nostalgia’s sake–and as merchandise for kids to squeeze.
What the Ghostbusters did in the past was merely putting a cork on top of freshly opened wine bottle. It’s bound to explode again and the ancient threat is material perfect for a Call of Cthulhu role playing game campaign. But for cinema buffs, the years to develop a tale that dealt with the real life fact Harold Ramis passed away and meant waiting for the someone at Ghost Corps (or as part of this filmmaking family) to pitch the right idea that’ll honour Ramis, the legacy of this franchise and pave the way for the future.
Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman succeeded at laying a new foundation to which this series can move forward. There’s no feasible way to have the original team back, and it’s wryly acknowledged. The appearances of the original team is appropriate and written to suit who they are 30 years later. Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009) is an unofficial third film that fits into the events taking place in Afterlife. Even there, the spirit of Ivo Shander was a continued threat. His reach is everywhere, and I’m sure he’ll be back. He may be more powerful than ever before since his physical connection to this plane is finally severed. If this new generation can deal with him, kudos to them, but it’s safe to say they’re gonna have to call on somebody–mentors to educate them about the occult–if they’re to deal with the next baddie.
4 Stars out of 5