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Non-Review Review: Ghostbusters – Afterlife

In the final act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, young Phoebe has a sudden realisation about the farm that her family has inherited from her eccentric grandfather. “This isn’t a farm,” she boasts. “It’s a trap.”

She could just as easily be talking about the film itself. Afterlife is a belated sequel to the original Ghostbusters, consigning Ghostbusters II to a weird continuity limbo where Ray still owns an occult bookstore but there’s no way that that the film’s climax could have happened. The film follows the family of Egon Spengler, his estranged daughter and her two grandchildren, who take ownership of his farm shortly after his death. Inevitably, the family unit learns that the eccentric patriarch who abandoned them in the middle of the night with no explanation really did love them all along.

Blast from the past.

Afterlife is suffocated in a reverential nostalgia that treats the original Ghostbusters as a fetish object. Sure, a casual audience member might watch Ghostbusters as an irreverent mid-eighties comedy that was cleverly skewing Reagan era values, but Afterlife instead sees an earnest classic of American cinema that deserves to be venerated and celebrated as a monument of popular culture. Much like Ivo Shandor erected the skyscraper at 55 Central Park West as a tribute to the Cult of Gozer, Afterlife has been erected as a monument to the cult of Ghostbusters.

It’s telling that the movie’s subtitle is “Afterlife” rather than “Resurrection.” This is not a movie about breathing new life into an existing property. It’s not about finding anything new or interesting to do with these characters or concepts. Instead, it’s about finding a way to tap into the audience’s desire for Ghostbusters nostlagia as a way to wring a few more dollars. In its own way, Afterlife is as cynical as Peter Venkeman in the original Ghostbusters, but at least Venkeman had the decency not to disguise his ruthless pragmatism as earnest sentiment.

Kidding around.

Afterlife is a nightmare coloured in shades of sepia-tinted nostalgia. It is a story about how the best that children can ever hope to accomplish is to emulate their forebearers, foresaking any identity of their own as they grapple with problems that their grandparents singularly failed to resolve. It is a story about how even death is not enough to remove a respected actor and writer from his obligations to a piece of intellectual property, and a reminder of how easily the dead can be animated to serve the demands of the living.

In the world of Afterlife, the dead exist to satisfy the living. This isn’t nostalgia, it is necrophilia.

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