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"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" returns to the world of the original 1984 film with a new generation of paranormal fighters.

One of the most iconic paranormal films has returned after a 30-year time gap.

Now that the grandfather they never knew passed away, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and their mother (Carrie Coon) move into their grandfather’s creepy house at the outskirts of Summerville, a lonely town in the middle of nowhere. Little do they know, their grandfather was a Ghostbuster in 1984 who was watching over a town that could experience a paranormal apocalypse.

This movie is, in a word, nostalgic. “Ghostbusters” is an ’80s classic film with many iconic components like props and subtle references. The producers obviously knew die-hard fans would want a trip down memory lane, and that’s exactly what viewers get. Visual references like Stay-Puft marshmallows and the Ecto-1 car are included, as well as classic catch phrases like, “Who you gonna call?” The film is placed within the timeline of the original, so there are many references to the ghost fight scene in the first one –– which they call the Manhattan ghost apocalypse, as if it actually happened. Further along, viewers see “Ghostbusters” referenced as a company, with one child watching the commercial the Ghostbusters shoot in the first film.

Not only does the film have obvious nods to the first one, but there are some nitty-gritty details that hardcore fans might notice; it could be as small as a miniature prop or how a set was designed. The producers definitely rolled up their sleeves and dug deep in the first one to bring the nostalgia to the production. The movie never recognizes the sequel from 1989, but that’s not a catastrophic issue because the sequel didn’t receive the iconic status that the first one did. Some may not have seen the second installment because of its lack of publicity, so adding references from the sequel might not have had the same sentimental value.

Along with the idea of nostalgia, the film also has a small feministic aspect. The main focus is on a young outcast girl who has a passion for science. Although she struggles socially, she does understand many concepts that most kids her age wouldn’t, such as the backstory of the paranormal issues. The film shows her connecting all the dots and taking charge. While she has help from her brother and a boy she befriends, they follow her instead of the other way around.

There are some eerie moments in the film, but it’s not terrifying, and the scary parts are balanced out with humor. The comedic portion throughout the film is both casual and purposeful — for example, the commentary from one character will make viewers laugh, as well as how Phoebe tries to break the ice with the children in her new town.

This isn’t the first time Sony has tried to hook this generation into the “Ghostbusters” fandom. In 2016, the company released another “Ghostbusters” film featuring four girls (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate Mckinnon and Leslie Jones) which was funny and empowering for women, but it almost seemed to be in another universe since it was more of a nod to the classic. Some “Ghostbusters” superfans didn’t seem to like it due to the irrelevancy between that film and the original, even though the movie wasn’t made to be related to the old films. Unlike that film, this is a movie that follows the right timeline, so it pretty much steals the title of the third Ghostbusters movie even though it came fourth in the saga.

Another noticeable part of the movie is the effects and how realistic the producers made the paranormal elements. Technology and film editing has evolved within the past 30 years, so the way things were designed when effects were needed are noticeably different. When looking back at the original, the artificial components are fuzzy and can easily be debunked as effects. However, the designers were able to actually do some special effects that would be either difficult or not as realistic in the ’80s as they are today. There’s an army of tiny Stay-Puft Marshmallow men making a mess at the local Walmart, and the editors and producers didn’t hold back with the new opportunities for special effects.

Another aspect that stood out was how the film memorializes Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spangler in the original film. Unfortunately, Ramis passed away in 2014 after having a major role in the franchise since he was one of the Ghostbusters. The writers do a great job with making sure Ramis gets the tribute he deserves.  

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a fan’s dream come true. It’s one of those films that’s good and meaningful, but not Oscar-worthy. While it’s fun for everyone, the storyline would make more sense if one sees the original film. It not only brings back a classic story, but it also genuinely exposes the “Ghostbusters” to current generations. 

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.