Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 – “Nostalgia is Going To Kill Us”

The blog’s been extra quiet lately as I’ve been writing my book (ahhhhh! yay!) but I decided to give myself a night off from book work tonight.  Why?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  I could read for pleasure.  I could enjoy watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and then go to bed early.  I could spend the whole night with the Doctor.  All of those would be excellent uses of my night.  However, instead, I’m using it to vent a little frustration.  You see, Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite movies and one of my all-time favorite storytelling universes so when I recently read Jason Reitman’s plans for Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 I had FEELINGS.  As is so often the case, this piece was born in a conversation I had with Jeffrey (of The Imperial Talker).  The title of the piece – Nostalgia is going to kill us – was his exact quote when I told him of the sequel story.  I couldn’t agree more so I was super excited when he said I could nick his observation for this piece.  Shall we dive in?  Are you ready?  Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh…let’s go.

As is probably implied, this piece will have lots of spoilers for Ghostbuster: Afterlife.  Also, lots of angst.

I didn’t like Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  That was weird for me.  I think Ghostbusters (1984) is one of the greatest movies ever made.  While it traumatized me at first, I’ve come to adore Ghostbusters II (1989) as well.  I grew up watching The Real Ghostbusters cartoon show (1986-91).  I loved running around pretending to be a Ghostbuster with my brother, David, and our cousins when we were little and we played with Ghostbusters toys all the time.  As an adult, I adored IDW’s Ghostbusters comic and I loved the new spin and fresh life Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) gave the universe.  When I first began watching horror movies, I’d manage my anxiety attacks by watching the story play out on screen while also imagining a different story in my head where they call the Ghostbusters who arrive to take care of Annabelle or the Overlook or Damien or the Bride in Black or Buhguul or whatever demonic entity was terrorizing some poor family for 100 minutes.  It worked!  I can now watch horror movies without imagining the Ghostbusters arriving to save the day and not get full blown anxiety attacks…but it’s always more fun to imagine a happier movie where the Ghostbusters arrive to save the day.  All this is to say, I adore the Ghostbusters and I’ve happily spent A LOT of my life thinking about them.

Allow me to submit for your consideration, photographic proof of a young me enjoying some of my Ghostbusters toys. David’s in the Bigfoot t-shirt :).

But I found Ghostbusters: Afterlife insulting.  It was just another lazy legacy sequel where they retell the first movie but with a new, younger cast in a way that says what happened before (re: the story everyone first fell in love with so much it warranted a sequel) wasn’t the real threat.  This threat is the real threat and you’ll feel nostalgic while you watch new characters really defeat the same threat your old heroes faced (the implication being the heroes we love weren’t any good at what they did nor as important as we all thought – all they did was kill time until new writers cut and pasted new characters into that old story to really solve it).  I grant the frame for Ghostbusters: Afterlife was interesting – setting the story in the mining town where Gozer cultist Ivo Shandor got the materials to build the building Dana Barrett lived in the original Ghostbusters (1984) which served as the conduit for Gozer the Gozerian to enter our realm and destroy the world.  In the original film, Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) explain to Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) how no one ever built a building like it before.  Its construction materials were chosen specifically to open a gateway to bring about the end of the world.  I was legitimately interested in seeing how he did that. 

The idea of Egon’s daughter, Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon), and her two children Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) moving into her father’s old farmhouse and being dropped in the middle of this paranormal adventure had promise.  And who wasn’t excited to see Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) join the Ghostbusters universe?  But it was a lazily recycled plot which also desecrated Egon (who was always my favorite Ghostbuster!)’s memory.  We’re supposed to believe the Egon Spengler we followed through Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II abandons his partner and daughter, robs his friends of all their gear, and runs off to Oklahoma to live life as an eccentric hermit while burning every bridge in his life?  And we’re supposed to believe – after everything they’ve seen and done together – Ray, Winston, and Peter wouldn’t follow Egon to talk it out and/or believe him that something big was going on down there?  HARD PASS.  It makes no sense and, again, is insulting to me as a lifelong Ghostbusters fan.

You know what?  Here’s Ryan George’s Pitch Meeting for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  If you’ve already seen the movie, you can appreciate his deconstruction on its ridiculousness and if you haven’t, well if you haven’t and you’ve read this far you’re clearly cool with spoilers and watching this is better than watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife in every way so I’m saving you the 2hrs 4min it would take you to just be disappointed.

Anyhoo, I can never imagine the circumstance where I’d ever willingly watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife again.  But because a) money, b) it’s a recognizable/bankable franchise, c) money, d) fans were excited about it on social media as it had nods/Easter eggs/nostalgia and that’s what people get excited about on social media, and e) money, there’s already talk about sequels.  Dan Aykroyd has said he thinks they should do at least THREE more sequels to Ghostbusters: Afterlife![1]  While he didn’t discuss three sequels, Ghostbusters: Afterlife co-writer/director Jason Reitman – son of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II director Ivan Reitman – already has plans for a sequel.  I recently read Apeksha Bagchi’s piece, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 – All About the Sequel,” on Giant Freakin’ Robot.  Of the sequel plans Bagchi writes:

Reitman has also revealed that after bringing back Gozer the Gozerian, he plans on revisiting the franchise’s best villain i.e., Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2. During his appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Reitman teased that the sequel may see the comeback of Vigo, the major force of evil in the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II.

By the end of the film, the sinister painting of Vigo had vanished and replaced with the one symbolizing the four Ghostbusters protecting baby Oscar. But according to Reitman, there is a “lot of time and opportunity for Vigo The Carpathian to make his return.” In case the director does bring Vigo back, he plans on basing his return on the fact that his painting in Ghostbusters II was not the only one. “Maybe, he’s riding a horse in another one, maybe, impaling someone in another one,” he explained. [2]

No.

NO.

Just…no.

Ghostbusters Afterlife 5

In this instance, McKenna Grace represents the studio with their eagerness for more money and Carrie Coon represents me, with my apprehension and fear at their making even more movies like this. / Photo Credit – Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife

It was completely clear in Ghostbusters II that Vigo was living in THAT PAINTING not that he just lives in ALL PAINTINGS.  That one was possessed!  The Ghostbusters beat him not a painting!  It was clear!  WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL???

YOU CAN’T JUST KEEP REDOING THE OLD MOVIES WITH YOUR NEW CAST.  THIS DOESN’T COUNT AS AN ORIGINAL IDEA AND IT’S NOT EVEN A STORY THAT ANYONE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO TELL.  THE GHOSTBUSTERS DEFEATED GOZER IN GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) JUST LIKE THEY DEFEATED VIGO THE CARPATHIAN IN GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989) AND EVEN IF YOUR DAD DID DIRECT THOSE MOVIES YOU SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO USE ALL THE PLOT POINTS IN A FAR WORSE WAY AND PRETEND IT’S SOMETHING ORIGINAL OR ENTERTAINING.  IT’S LAZY.  IT’S BORING.  IT’S INSULTING.  IF I WANT TO SEE THE GHOSTBUSTERS BATTLE GOZER OR VIGO I WILL WATCH THE MOVIES MADE OVER THIRTY YEARS AGO WHERE THEY LITERALLY DID THAT EXACT THING SUCCESSFULLY.  WRITE AN ORIGINAL STORY WORTH TELLING OR JUST.  DON’T.  TELL.  ANY.  STORY.

How is this ok?!!?  And people LOVE THIS.  How?  How?!?  I just don’t get it.

Once I realized what sort of sequel this was, there wasn’t a single surprise for me in the entire last hour of Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  I mean that sincerely.  This isn’t emotional ranting.  As soon as I realized Gozer was coming back, I knew Callie Spengler and Gary Grooberson were going to be possessed by the Gatekeeper and the Key Master.  I knew they’d have sex.  I knew streams would be crossed.  Callie even says, “There is no ‘mom,’ only Zuul” when Phoebe calls her “mom.”  I know there is comfort in the familiar.  Heck, as someone with an anxiety disorder I often prefer to rewatch favorite TV shows again and again and again as opposed to always trying new ones.  I know what’s coming.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t love new stories.  I adore novels and comics and movies and TV shows.  This whole blog celebrates that part of my life!  But I have no desire to see the same story repackaged and resold to me time and time and time again, getting worse and worse each time.

Ghostbusters Afterlife 6 (2)

See how Mr. Grooberson and Phoebe are lookin’ at the trap but they’re wearing safety goggles because they’re worried something bad may happen? I have that same feeling about more Ghostbusters: Afterlife sequels. / Photo Credit – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

As Jeff said, nostalgia is going to kill us.  It’s certainly killing any chance we have of new entertaining and original stories with characters we already know and love.  This is not a unique ailment to the Ghostbusters universe, either.  It’s a plague and it’s spreading.  Just off the top of my head I can think of…

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Halloween (2018)

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Scream (2022)

I’m not saying they are all bad movies or bad stories.  There are a few exceptions that prove the rule.  But they are few and far between.

Ghostbusters Afterlife 7 (2)

McKenna Grace was AMAZING as Phoebe Spengler and was the only thing I really appreciated about it. I adore Carrie Coon as an actress, too, but she just wasn’t given anything really to do in this movie. / Photo Credit – Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The bitter irony is we’d never even have had Ghostbusters (or any of the other films that spawned the sequels listed above) in the first place if not for original writing!  Ghostbusters was a horror/comedy mash-up unlike anything that came before it!  I loved it as a kid and, as I began to explore the horror genre as an adult, I learned how many brilliant nods the film contained.  It was one of a kind.  And yes, I understand no sequel can ever measure up to such an original, beloved film.  Any sequel by definition is going to be derivative.  But we aren’t even getting attempts at original sequels anymore.  Ghostbusters II at least had something to say that was different from Ghostbusters (which, to be fair, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call did, too).  Now no one’s even trying to make sequels like Ghostbusters II anymore.

You know, until Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 comes around.

SIGH.  I guess we can all start looking forward to Ghostbusters: Afterlife 3 where Gozer and Vigo inevitably team-up to fight the Ghostbusters.


[1] Anthony Lun, “Dan Aykroyd Believes Ghostbusters 4, 5, and 6 Should Feature Original Team,” MovieWeb, Published December 18, 2021.  Accessed February 2, 2022.  https://movieweb.com/dan-aykroyd-ghostbusters-4-5-6/

[2] Apeksha Bagchi, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 – All About The Sequel,” Giant Freakin’ Robot, Accessed February 2, 2022.  https://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/ent/ghostbusters-afterlife-2.html

5 thoughts on “Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2 – “Nostalgia is Going To Kill Us”

  1. The thing that get me about Afterlife and this sequel (which I hadn’t heard of until now) is that the cartoon proved that out of all the old franchises you can keep running with this. New spooky monsters each week. New equipment, new locations, new ghostbusters. Sure predator was one and done and you could even argue the same for things like Terminator but Ghostbusters showed you could keep coming up with new events for our heroes to face.
    I recently finally got the 80’s rpg to the table for a one shot with my gaming group. I just ran the scenarios included where they faced down the ancient Aztec god of sugar who was using breakfast cereal mascots to return to our world and take over. I’m not saying this should be the plot of the next movie but at least it’s something. You’d think after the reaction to the new Star Wars movies they’d learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right?? You put this perfectly! Can you imagine them adapting some of the cartoon villains, like that Boogeyman who haunted Egon from his childhood? Or, like the cartoons, just designing so many new foes and gear. As you pointed out with the RPG (which I would 100% watch a movie with the scenario you described – that sounds awesome!), there are so many avenues to expand. IDW’s comics did a pretty good job with that, too. I remember one series in particular, ‘Ghostbusters International,’ where they travelled around the world investigating ghosts. There’s SO MUCH global folklore and mythology to draw from! Every studio seems interested in finding the “forever franchise” and, as you put so perfectly, this could be it…if someone had the vision and courage to be bolder with their storytelling instead of repeating Star Wars’ mistakes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t see it. I never want to see it. I had no desire before reading this, and now it’s actually more terrifying than any horror film. Egon was my favorite (that hair swoosh in the cartoon! And, I mean… Harold Ramis… just yes!) You described my childhood – I even had the glow in the dark sheets. My sister named her doll “Oscar” after Dana’s son in GB2.

    The idea that they just redid the whole movie without actually bothering to redo it is just kind of… I hate lazy story telling in things that I loved as a kid. It’s like they’re paid not to entertain but paid to create assaults on our memories. Ick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Egon was your favorite, too?!? I love that! And OH MY GOSH, YES. The hair swoosh!!!!! I love that we have this Ghostbusters bond. Also, I’m happy that I could fall on this sword, watching this movie you had no desire to see and confirming your worst fears about it. I suffered so you don’t have to!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course he was my favorite! They all brought something to the table (although I always felt that they kind of made Winston just to be there so it wasn’t an odd number of GB, so they didn’t bother to make him an actual personality. Everything that was personality was simply something that Ernie Hudson managed to put in with just a look). But Peter was too…Hawkeye (from Mash) lite. Ray was somehow too soft and child-like. Egon just struck the perfect chord: scientist, skeptic, believer, brilliant, serious and ridiculous at once, loyal, kind, cold and aloof – all at once. He was the character they seemed to have decided would literally be as convoluted as a real person while the other two were caricatures, and the 4th was basically able to raise his hand and say “here” during a GB roll-call.

        A Ghostbusters bond 🤣 I love that. I literally just thought of those fights where both people hold the cloth while beating the other to a pulp, the first one to let go loses. The wrap is an old remnant of the glow-in-the-dark bedsheets 😂🤣😅

        And thank you. Your assessment of that movie truly confirmed my worst fears, and now I know to avoid it completely, no matter how much my aunt torments me to watch it. So truly, thank you for suffering and impaling yourself just to ensure that others don’t have to suffer too.

        Like

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