Bar none, the biggest surprise of 2021’s New York Comic Con was getting to see the long-awaited reboot/sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife! While I was planning to skip the panel and actually in the midst of leaving, a text from a friend clued me in on this screening shocker. I rushed to Empire Stage at the Javits Center, where I thankfully came back just in time for what can only be described as the best theatrical experience I have had this year. The booming sound design enveloped the eager audience of fans that cheered at even the slightest mention of the Ghostbusters of yesteryear. A talented young cast (led by Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, and Finn Wolfhard) is cherry-picked for their prospective roles—Grace specifically, who has already impressed me in both Annabelle Comes Home and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, carries the film with her crackling sarcasm. Ghostbusters: Afterlife embraces the Amblin vibes and dark comedy of the originals while paving a fresh road of ghostly terrors for a new generation.
After a tragic death, the Spengler family relocates to piece of property eventually dubbed “the dirt house” that was owned by the grandfather, Egon Spengler. The mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), was somewhat estranged from Egon, and has little love for someone she felt neglected her during her childhood. As Trevor (Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Grace) adjust to their new surroundings, Phoebe befriends a local kid named Podcast (Logan Kim) “because [he has] one,” while she and Trevor snoop around the property to uncover family secrets. The mysteries loom large as Trevor, Phoebe, and Podcast are forced to team up (and utilize some newfound equipment grandfather Egon left behind!) in order to take down a looming threat with a deep connection to the first two Ghostbusters films. Surprises abound elicited uproarious applause to the packed Comic Con crowd, but I will not spoil any of them here. Suffice to say, Ghostbusters fans both new and old will be delighted.
A sharp script that evokes Amblin and classic Ghostbusters allows us a decent chunk of time to become acquainted with our new roster. Phoebe is a well-defined and honestly pretty badass female lead. The movie recognizes how likable and charming Grace remains, and gives her the most to do. Finn Wolfhard’s Trevor does more than bring a Stranger Things cred to the cast, as he is largely responsible for unearthing the Ecto-1 car as you see in the trailer. His friend, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), also becomes wrapped up in the action, though she does not make as big of an imprint as other characters. Previously mentioned Podcast was my favorite newbie after Phoebe—he is constantly commenting about things he can use for his show, and is both hilariously naive and fiercely intelligent. The exposure to the story of the first film is revealed by Paul Rudd’s Mr. Grooberson, a teacher who instantly recognizes a proton pack. His relationship with Callie is awkward and hilarious, with their importance to the horrors increasing as the movie progresses.
That said, the question on everyone’s mind will be how exactly Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Venkman (Bill Murray), and Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) tie into the mix. All three originals are vital to the endgame and have extremely satisfying appearances. Having waited to so long and experiencing the vitriol that the 2016 reboot received, I have to commend director Jason Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan for the way they handle the legacy element of this story. It takes a sure hand and the perfect mixture of elements to bring it all together harmoniously, and I think this is exactly what they manage to accomplish with this new Ghostbusters film. A heartfelt and meaningful tribute to Harold Ramis was a must, so worry not—Reitman and company did not forget this either! The strong attachment to the Spengler family is the emotional core of the entire movie. For hardcore fans, it may indeed drive them to tears.
If you know the main lore in the first two Ghostbusters, this is the one for you. It ties into the previous movies in a big way, and includes numerous winks and nods. This channels all the way down to the stunning special effects (which remain practical whenever possible) and the fantastic ghostly demon action. The first proper ghost-fighting scene sets the stage for fun and chaos. There was a very clear consensus when Ghostbusters: Afterlife ended to a packed auditorium. Everyone cheered (the mid-credits scene and after-credits scenes both must be seen to be believed, respectively), and then sounds of joy erupted as Ray Parker Jr.‘s “Ghostbusters” played over the audience leaving for the night. On the admittedly laboriously long walk out of Javits afterward, I heard not a single negative comment as the praise was pretty much unanimous across the board. Surprise-screening your film to an overeager audience of nitpicky fans more than a month early is a true stroke of genius. I know I am excited to see this again in theaters to spread the joy (and the ectoplasm) for years to come!
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters answers the call, exclusively in theaters November 19th.