Review of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (2021)

trailer from YouTube

Svengoolie was once again, alas! a rerun, so we borrowed this from the library for our Saturday pizza and bad movie night. Frankly, my expectations were not high (*cough* Ghostbusters II *cough*), but I was pleasantly surprised at the silliness of this kiddie sequel.


The film opens with a shot of some power shooting skyward out of an abandoned mine. Above, clouds swirl in a dark sky. A bearded old man—his face obscured in the darkness—hauls ass away from the mine, through the gate with signs reading “Do Not Enter” in a pickup that’s seen better days. He flies down a deserted rural road. On the seat next to him is a metal box with a handle at one end and black and yellow warning stripes across the top. Power buzzes across it.

A being follows him from the mine. It begins to coalesce and pushes the truck off the road into a corn field. The driver recovers and keeps going, ending up at a farm. Here, he runs up to a porch and holds the metal box up, daring the entity, and flips the power on to what appears to be a group of silos—but they’re not storing grain. The being resolves. The farmer readies a ray gun—a proton pack—to confront the approaching being. This is a trap for it. He hits a pedal, and the power dies. He runs inside and hides the metal box in his floorboards, then sits in a chair. The being pursues him inside and resolves into a wave something almost human. Before it can touch the man, he slumps over.

In another city, single mom Callie (Carrie Coon) faces eviction because she’s behind on the rent. Word comes of the death of a father she never knew, so she packs fifteen-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and twelve-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) for Oklahoma. The house is in disrepair and full of odd things. One of those things is an Aztec death whistle, which makes a god-awful noise when blown and is meant to scare off evil spirits.

Phoebe is a nerd, interested in all things scientific. Trevor is not. Their mother finds science boring. On Phoebe’s first day of summer school, she tells her, “Don’t be yourself.” It’s also the day she comes across Phoebe’s teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), whom she at first mistakes for another parent dropping off children.

Mr. Grooberson, a seismologist interested in the bizarre earthquakes gripping the area, shows his class relevant films like Cujo and disappears into his monitoring room.

At home, Phoebe sees a chessboard in her room flip over for no apparent reason. Undeterred, she rights it and sets it up by her bed. When she wakes, a pawn has moved forward. She moves a knight, gets up, and goes to school for another fun-filled day.


The film has been criticized for “fan service,” a term I hadn’t heard before. It grew out of Japanese manga, meaning material intended to please fans, and often involves nudity or suggestive settings. No shower scenes in this movie—sorry to disappoint. I think what the term refers to here is a lot of in-jokes with respect to the original film. Only an ardent fan will catch all of them. I’m sure I missed a bunch. Gozer, the Gatekeeper, and the Keymaster all return.

When Callie appears to be behaving oddly, Phoebe asks her mother if she’s all right.

“There is no mom. There is only Zuul,” the possessed Callie tells her.

This is a play on a line from the original movie. It’s goofy.

The movie is aimed at kids, so there will be a lot of kid stuff. Trevor falls for Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), a pretty carhop at the local burger place, and tries to get a job there by lying about his age. At first, she blows him off.

Phoebe makes a friend at school, a boy calling himself Podcast (Logan Kim), who seems determined to narrate the most mundane things. Later, the two display an advanced knowledge of ghosts, which is especially striking after Phoebe says she doesn’t believe in ghosts.

So much is improbable with the movie, but it matters so little. This is just good, silly fun. It’s not the original movie, but it has the same playful spirit. I enjoyed it.

The movie is dedicated to Harold Ramis, who passed away in 2014. He played one of the original Ghostbusters, Egon Spengler. His likeness is reproduced as a ghost for some brief scenes. The others arrive to battle Gozer near the end of the flick.

There are a couple of nice Easter eggs at the end of the credits.

This movie, flaws aside, was a lot of fun.

Sadly, this is too recent for a free download. We got our copy from the library.

Title: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by
Jason Reitman…(directed by)

Writing Credits
Gil Kenan…(written by) &
Jason Reitman…(written by)
Dan Aykroyd…(based on “Ghostbusters” written by) and
Harold Ramis…(based on “Ghostbusters” written by)

Cast (in credits order)
Carrie Coon…Callie
Paul Rudd…Grooberson
Finn Wolfhard…Trevor
Mckenna Grace…Phoebe
Logan Kim…Podcast
Celeste O’Connor…Lucky

Released: 2021
Length: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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