I first realized that other people had different ideas about it as a cultural touchstone when the 2016 remake, featuring an all-female cast, was received with violent rhetoric usually reserved for religious extremism and SEC football. It seems that a relatively significant group of teenagers from the 1980s consider it one of the greatest motion pictures of all time, right up there with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Our Town Cinemas was packed with those die-hards, their children, and (gasp!) grandchildren last night.
Apparently, they got what they came for since they gave the movie a standing ovation at its completion. Me? I thought it was a perfectly decent effort with a couple of funny lines, some earnest performances, and a touch of whimsical nostalgia. But, much like the original, nothing was vaguely frightening, and very little of the plot made any sense.
Okay, here's where the SPOILERS kick in.
The movie starts with single mom Callie and her two children, 15-year-old Trevor and 12-year-old Pheobe, evicted from their home and relocating to a farm in small-town Oklahoma Callie inherited from her estranged father. The farm is a ramshackle mess, and her father was known to the townspeople as the "Dirt Farmer" because he constantly worked the land but never planted anything. Pheobe, a quiet studious girl, for reasons the script doesn't bother to explain, goes to summer school, where her teacher Mr. Groobereson is going through the motions by showing the class VHS tapes of horror movies he found in the teachers' lounge. The 10-second snippets of Cujo and Childs Play are by far the scariest things in the film.
Mr. Grooberson takes an interest in Callie, Pheobe is "haunted" by the chess-playing spirit of her grandfather, and Trevor develops a thing for the sheriff's daughter. With the help of that grandfatherly spirit, Pheobe figures out that a shuttered mining operation nearby connects to the skyscraper in the original film - which has become an urban legend by this point - and that Egon Spengler of the original Ghostbusters is her grandfather. She figures out how to use ghostbusting technology that was nonsensical in 1984 and hasn't improved much with age. They save the universe from some sort of demonic... I don't know; it's all cartoon gibberish. The original Ghostbusters, including a ghostly Egon, help out, and Callie comes to understand that her father loved her in his own way.
Look, if you adored the original Ghostbusters, God bless you. You're going to eat up Afterlife with a big ol' spoon and ask for seconds. I get that. If you thought, as I did, that the original was a good bit of summer blockbuster fluff, that (minus the summer part) is exactly what you're going to think about this one too.
I was originally a Radio/Television Communication major at Ohio University before switching to Business Administration. One of the core RTVC classes was "Interpretation of Film," which I took Fall Quarter of my sophomore year. It remains my favorite class of all time. Every Friday at 2:00, we would gather in the theater at Baker Center and watch a classic movie, then discuss it on Monday and Wednesday of the next week. A few of us from the class would go out for a beer or two before the screening and that became known as our "Friday Matinee." Fittingly, I award movies mugs of beer as follows:
🍺🍺🍺🍺🍺 - A modern classic. Entertaining, with no significant flaws.
🍺🍺🍺🍺 - A great viewing experience, with just a few minor issues.
🍺🍺🍺 - Well worth watching, but some significant quibbles.
🍺🍺 - Watchable, but not worth your time unless a fan of the director, actors, or source material.
🍺- Save your money.