Never Expected to Cry That Much During A Ghostbusters Movie

Seriously, if you plan on seeing Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), bring Kleenex.

For starters, this movie is dripping with nostalgia in so many different ways. Whereas Ghostbusters (2016) was more of a franchise reboot/remake, Afterlife is a sequel to the original films from the 80s. Rather than simply referencing the older films or using them as inspiration, this story feels like it belongs in the same universe because of the style and tone. And, well, it obviously is the same universe. Unlike the 2016 reboot, where the original cast have cameos as random character, Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), Winston (Ernie Hudson), Hanine (Annie Potts), and Dana (Sigourney Weaver) all appear as themselves. And, of course, there are hints of Egon (Bob Gunton) peppered throughout the film. I was very impressed with how much they got him to look like the late Harold Ramis. For myself and others in the audience, that was one contributing factor to the tears.

As a sequel to the original two films, not only did Afterlife feel like it was in the same universe, it actually felt like I was watching a movie from the 80s. We were barely though the first scene when it occurred to me that the soundtrack was unlike anything I typically hear in modern movies, and that’s because the musical score is so similar to what I am used to hearing from 80s films. Not only that, but the cast of oddballs and outcasts led by Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) reminds me of the kinds of groups you’d find in films like The Goonies (1985) and The Monster Squad (1987), just to name a few. If I were to watch this movie on an old VHS tape rather than in an IMAX movie theatre, you would have a good chance of convincing me that this movie came out before I was born.

(On that note: I don’t know if it was just an issue with our particular theatre, but I do not recommend seeing this in IMAX. The screen was fine, but the intense surround sound for this one was too much. My eardrums were not pleased).

But you’re probably thinking, how could you be convinced this was an 80s film if it had modern CG? Because of my favouriute phrase in filmmaking: Practical Effects. When I saw the use of practical effects when it came to the ghosts and spirits, I just about lost my mind. In my opinion, practical effects should be used first and CGI should only be used to fill in the gaps and take care of the things that aren’t feasible to do practically. Afterlife did just that. There was a healthy balance of practical and CGI, meaning that everything looked like it belonged in the same world as the original films, and everything looked good.

I will admit, however, that my favourite spirits in the film were the mini Stay Puft Marshmallow men. Any scene that featured them killed me. I was not expecting things to go as far as they did in that Walmart scene, but I’m glad they did. I laughed so hard I cried. Yes, I would re-watch Afterlife, but I would also re-watch just that Walmart scene (on repeat) because it was so hilarious. In fact, unlike the 2016 reboot, all of the comedy in this film was well done. The jokes did not feel forced or unnecessary, except when that was the intention (i.e. Phoebe’s bad science jokes). And although there were funny moments, the plot didn’t rely entirely on the comedy. There was a good, entertaining story that just happened to be funny.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. This is where we get to the real tears. Now, I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre during the climax and resolution, but I didn’t just cry, I sobbed. Spoilers: When the ghost of Egon appeared, I was fighting those sobs back so that other people could actually hear the dialogue and not my wailing. My grandfather passed only about six months ago, so already this was an emotionally charged moviegoing experience for me simply due to the fact that the bulk of Phoebe’s journey revolves around her connection to her own grandfather. But to have the character referred to as The Ghost Farmer make an appearance for the final face off against Gozer (Olivia Wilde, Emma Portner, Shohreh Aghdashloo) is what broke me. The fact that he is able to have that moment after the battle with his daughter and grandchildren was incredibly moving, but it was extra meaningful for me because of my own loss. I missed my Grandpa so, so, so much while watching this movie.

So, despite the tears, did I enjoy it? Absolutely. I find it’s rare these days to find a movie that checks all the boxes and gives you exactly what you hoped for out of your moviegoing experience. And, this was a satisfying end to what is now a trilogy of films. Something tells me that this is a title that’s going to end up in our movie collection at home.

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