Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows the daughter and grandchildren of the late Egon Spengler as they inherit his old property way out in the countryside of a small Oklahoma town. They soon discover remnants of their estranged grandfather's past as ghosts begin to emerge from the town's old mines.
[This movie was viewed (a rent purchase) via the Vudu at the time of this review.]
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is, as I predicted from the trailers, a nostalgia-fest. Nostalgia-focused content in movies is a (mostly) turn-of-the-century trend, as that is when a majority of horror remakes picked up steam. Yes, there were a chunk of memorable remakes we can recall from the 80s. The Thing, obviously, and The Fly easily come to mind. But as many can easily picture, they were remakes in the true sense of the word. They were inspired by the previous content, but took the concepts in new and fresh ways, taking advantage of the cinematic improvements of their time. These films were less focused on nostalgia and homage, and more-so on making something new from some healthy bones that haven't been fully fleshed out. So when it comes to the nostalgia and homage-heavy remakes of the 2000s and onward, we get a different perspective. We get more " 'memberberries" than fresh, exciting takes. Is that always a bad thing? Ghostbusters: Afterlife, for the most part, is an example of, "No, it's not always a bad thing."
The film is certainly heavy on the nostalgia, right down to the fun and familiar soundtrack. The sequel managed to do a fantastic job of capturing that original vibe of funky, creepy, goofy, scary, and funny that overlapped and bled into each other. There was a dance in play in the original in which it rarely took itself seriously. Afterlife probably takes itself seriously a little too much, treating itself like a hardcore fan that got a hold of a camera and a budget to personally impress the original cast. But it actually succeeds at impressing at least the fans of the originals most of the time.
Yeah, it's not perfect. I stand by my original concern from the trailer becoming an actual critique. The marshmallow men were nostalgia for nostalgia's sake. I tried my best to exercise my brain into accepting them into the plot, but they simply don't add up. The premise around them was a comedic scene taken to epic proportions within the original film in which the primary antagonist (which is the primary antagonist of Afterlife as well), Gozer, lets the Ghostbusters team choose their own destruction. And, Ray, incapable of clearing his mind, incidentally summons a Godzilla-sized Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to kill them. It's hilarious and somehow terrifying at the same time, but it also feels like an enclosed moment within the film. Bringing them back into Afterlife into this miniaturized approach where they behave more like gremlins than a conjuring of destruction...it felt cheap and uninspired.
That was by far the most egregious misuse of homage in the film. Despite my slight disappointment for recycling the villain from the first film, it was also purposefully built into the plot. It did a fairly good job of skimming the elements we already understand, even as new characters need to orient themselves to the villain's plot that is familiar to the audience, and then turning the attention to the how and why of the sequel's plot. I found myself engaged emotionally more than I normally am to the nostalgic elements. And I must admit that the film's climax grabbed at my heartstrings. All of it, in my opinion, felt more respectful than "cash-grabby". I appreciated the respect paid where it was due.
But I have to speak to this...How about that role for JK Simmons? He has, what, one line? He spends all but 15 seconds sleeping before getting ripped in half? Normally such a cameo-level performance wouldn't bother me, but it felt like such a waste of an actor that has had such a quality slate of late. But...Not that big of a deal, let's move on!
**Brief SPOILERS END**
As far nostalgic sequels go, Afterlife is towards the top. The child actors, which have been a great trend of late, did a fantastic job, especially Mckenna Grace in the role of Phoebe Spengler. And Paul Rudd was his usually lovable self. But the editing was particularly and noticeably choppy between its transition from the second to third act, so much so I rewound the movie just to make sure I didn't miss something. There was a void of the classic "b-roll ghost mayhem" that simply wasn't filled enough. There were moments, but not near enough. It didn't establish much of a local threat, let alone a global threat, beyond what we know of Gozer's obvious endgame. We needed a bit more collateral damage beyond the Slimer clone's rampage at the midpoint.
Afterlife was behind the eight ball to start. Belated sequels don't tend to do well, and that's not just in the horror genre. It's hard to grab the magic of the original(s) and still tell your own story. Afterlife sacrificed originality in its plot to focus on the homage and characters, and for what it set out to do it succeeded. I enjoyed this movie, despite the apparent flaws, because it rose above the problems it faced to be charismatic and heartwarming. It will end up being a good "gateway movie" for many horror fan parents that are bringing their kids into the genre, for those so inclined at an age they designate appropriate!
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 7/10
Film Quality: 7/10