It seems that the future can be an uncertain place for a single mother and her two children. Even by relocating to a decrypt farmhouse in Oklahoma, it’s almost as if their bad luck has followed them. This is because their new home is a town reeling from unexplained earthquakes. However, an even darker secret lies buried in the children’s grandfather’s barn. Asleep under dusty sheets, the children discover a hearse from another time. Filled with paranormal technology, maybe it can hold back the ghosts that are now busting out of the ground? Because when it’s 36 years later and Gozo the destroyer is looking to lay waste to the earth, who you seriously gonna call?
… this movie isn’t a cash-in or slavish fanservice reheated into being exactly the same story.
Well, Ghostbusters III now Ghostbusters: Afterlife is has been a long time in answering that question. Seemingly forever stuck in development hell, then misfired in 2016 as an all-female reboot and later usurped by the likes of Stranger Things, the Ghostbusters franchise looked like a busted flush. Yet, original director Ivan Reitman and son, Jason Reitman, who helms Ghostbusters: Afterlife never let go of the light – and you’ll be glad they didn’t.
Relocating and rebooting in the franchise in the fictional sleepy town of Sommerville, Oklahoma, this movie isn’t a cash-in or slavish fanservice reheated into being exactly the same story. This Ghostbusters story is new. Never keen to show its hand too early, Ghostbusters: Afterlife brings on the details slowly and succeeds in being entertaining for both those new and old to the Ghostbusting scene. Built around the presence of the kids, you’d think that Stranger Thing‘s Finn Wolfhard as Trevor would be centre stage but in fact, the limelight and film itself belongs to Mckenna Grace as Phoebe. Glasses permanently perched over an enquiring gaze, she asks the tough questions, makes the tough decisions and drags Paul’s Rudd’s school teacher into their paranormal quest. Every inch a Ghostbuster out of uniform but not out of time, she is the rightful heir to the franchise’s science-meets-spooks, comedic appeal.
The parents flap and flounder around amusingly with Carrie Coon as the kids’ mother and the aforementioned Paul Rudd decently channels both hopelessness and haplessness whilst sporting some really deft drop-dead lines: (“History is safe. Science is giving yourself the plague and gambling on survival” – which if you think about it, is a hell of a brave joke in the current climate). Nevertheless, that is atypical of the whole movie. Whereas Bill Murray‘s Dr Peter Venkman thumbed his nose as at authority in the first two Ghostbuster movies, Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman’s script doesn’t give a damn about the “now” we find ourselves in and just goes all out for entertainment.
The film is beautifully shot and refreshingly airy and light in its choice of colours and daylight-lit scenes. The CGI effects are an improvement on the previous Ghostbusters movies and much like the film itself, they know how to draw a line between showing off and deliberately winding its neck back in. As a concertina of pay-offs and sly name-checks, the action breezes towards its conclusion, all the while with one glaringly, noticeable omission. -Where’s the music? Where is Ray Parker Jnr’s “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost”? Don’t worry. It’ll be there plus some genuinely heartwarming surprises along the way.
So, if you want to some astutely judged fan service with a side order or home-schooling tips from Paul Rudd (i.e. just drop the kids in front of a VHS of Cujo or Chucky in Child’s Play) then I think I know who you gonna call…