What is a movie to me? A movie can be many things to many people; a first date, a pick me up, an awakening... Ghostbusters (1984), to me, is everything. So, in order to be able to ramble about Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), I'm going to have to take you back - waaaaay back - to the OG. The movie that started it all.
If you're simply here to read one of my incredibly witty reviews to decide whether or not to watch Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I will say this; WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY. You may like it, you may not, but it's a fun experience that will leave you feeling fuzzy good inside.
BUT, if you want to know why Ghostbusters is such a special movie for me, then by all means stick around! Settle down - maybe grab a coffee and some snacks, Creeps, because I am whisking you back to November 1985...
I will never forget the moment, in November 1985, my mum plonked me down in front of my cousin's TV with a load of My Little Ponies. I hated those Ponies with a passion. So, my auntie came in and popped a brand new VHS into the player; that VHS was Ghostbusters (1984), and that 105 minutes I was transfixed by the story playing out before me. It changed the course of my life in ways I wouldn't even have expected...
I was just 18 months old, and without a shadow of a doubt that moment is my earliest memory - clear in my mind. People say that you can't remember things from that early in your life, but I know this is an actual memory. I know because just a few short weeks later, I have another early memory; of my mum screaming at my dad who had been having an affair after being married for just 6 months.
He walked out, leaving my 18 year old mum and I alone. He never even turned up for the custody hearing, and disappeared completely out of my life until much later, when I made the effort to track him down when I was 15, and he decided to appear and disappear sporadically over my adult years...
I didn't have the best start in life. My mum had me at such a young age. My dad was a couple of years older than her. I was actually born in my grandparents house after my mum had tried to pass me off as gas for 9 months... I spent my first few nights on earth sleeping in a cardboard box, and my mum and I lived there, with my dad visiting, until they managed to get a small house in a rough old mining village. We were piss poor. My grandparents have never had money, either, so there were no handouts, although of course they helped with everything they could - in fact, they pretty much bought me up as my parents, (I was later told they were actually going to bring me up as my parents, but that's a story for another time...)
So, you're probably wondering how this relates to Ghostbusters... Well, after that day in November 1985, I became obsessed with it, as kids do, and although my mum could never afford any Ghostbusters toys or the VHS, it aired on terrestrial TV one night and she recorded it for me, adverts and all, (Mr Soft, that freaky Trebor dude who always reminded me of the Marshmallow Man, and some old PG tips ads, to name but a few classics...).
I watched it every day for MONTHS.
It became my life; my life ring, my way of surviving. I made up stories about my dad being a Ghostbuster, and that's why he'd left. As I got older, I dreamed I'd marry a Ghostbuster. My first crush, from when I was too young to have a crush - and yes, this is bizarre - was Bill Murray. Would I ever find my own witty, sarcastic, jumpsuit wearing, ghost busting hero?!
(And Bill, if you ever read this, I still have that crush 😋)
My grandparents started taking me on driving holidays around France when I was around three years old, and we went every year, sometimes twice a year, until I started secondary school, (high school for my American friends). This was in the days when kids could have time off school for holidays - we always went for two weeks during the off-season because it was the only time we could afford to go. My grandparents would strap me in the back of the car with a map and the Logis hotel guide book, tell me the general area we were driving to, and let me pick a hotel for the night. Once there, I would roam the corridors of the usually deserted hotels, recreating Venkman's sliming and trying to make it down corridors before the automatic lights went out, leaving just the eerie glow of the light switch on the wall. When I couldn't sleep or got freaked out, my nan would pretend to call the Ghostbusters from the hotel phone, just so that I would feel safe.
As I got older still, my interest in the paranormal grew, too. I became obsessed with ghost stories. I wanted to be a ghost hunter. I called myself, (and still call myself), a 'sceptical believer', which is how I would have described Venkman; I desperately want to believe, but until I have proof for myself, I probably won't fully invest in those beliefs. And I'll always remain sceptical of other people's evidence.
It's odd now to think that simply watching a movie when I was young has shaped the way I think about almost everything now, including the things I choose to believe in.
My mind had been opened and my horizons broadened by this goofy ghost movie, and it wasn't going to stop.
I dreamt of moving to New York City. I had a relationship with it in my head. For years all I planned to do was get to New York somehow. I read every travel book, watched every documentary and travel programme. Ghostbusters 2 (1989) came out and all I wanted to do was visit the Statue of Liberty. My love for NYC grew to be a love for the United States, and it will always be there. Simply because of Ghostbusters, it feels like a second home to me. These days I'm more of a Portland, OR, (I hear it's pretty arty there...), or Green Bay, WI, girl (I'd love to be close to my beloved Packers!)
As I grew older still, I learned about the field of parapsychology. I even began studying psychology at the Open University in my late twenties, with a thought to getting my degree and moving to Edinburgh where I could continue my studies at the Koestler Parapsychology department... Yes. I was THAT serious.
I still am, but of course 'real life' prevails, and I had my daughter and stopped studying - but I hope to be able to pick it up again one day. That's the joy of the Open University - it gives hope to losers like me who can't stick at one thing for a length of time 😉
Ghostbusters also made made me a huge horror fan. From the moment I saw Scream (1996) and Candyman (1992) at a sleepover my whole class was invited to, (meaning I had to be invited too...), and I was the only one still awake watching them at 4am, (I was that weird kid...), I knew that I had found my genre 🤘 I had no idea there were other movies, more grown up ones, with similar themes to Ghostbusters. Admittedly, it took me a long time after that to find my people, but thanks to the internet, once I could afford to have it, (which wasn't until I was in my early twenties), I realised that I wasn't the only 'weird' kid on the block. The horror community helped me to find myself - I felt like I fit in for the first time in my life. I found people who I could talk to about ouija boards, aliens, and who would win in a fight between the Marshmallow Man and the Statue of Liberty, (Liberty, every time).
Lots of these people, like me, had started down their horror path because of Ghostbusters.
And then Harold Ramis died.
It was the first time, other than James Gandolfini's death in 2013, that I felt personally affected by a celebrity death. I also felt a lot of guilt. I felt guilty that I felt so sad. I thought that Harold's family and friends - the people who actually knew him - should be the only people who were allowed to feel that way. I felt like a grief tourist. But I couldn't shake the sadness for a long time, and I wanted to explore why I felt that way.
I had grown up with the Ghostbusters. Alongside that, I had also followed all their careers, movies and ventures that came in the years since. It was almost a subconscious following. To me, they were still always the Ghostbusters, but many other movies, (take Groundhog Day as a prime example here), had also had an affect on my life. I had seen them growing older and growing apart - Dan Aykroyd with his vodka, Bill Murray Lost in Translation (almost literally at times), the wonderful Ernie Hudson just being his incredible self - but when one of them was gone, and gone forever, it knocked me sideways.
The Ghostbusters would never be the same again.
I felt vulnerable and exposed, and it even made me question my own mortality. It was at that moment that I realised that I, too, was getting older, and all those dreams I had, had passed me by. And they were just dreams. I may never get to New York to see the firehouse, I'll probably never get the opportunity to study psychology again, and I'll certainly never be able to move to the US as I'd always dreamed...
And this is where Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) comes in.
There had always been talks amongst the die hard Ghostbusters fans, of a sequel. Scripts were constantly thrown around, scrapped and re-written over the years. (I'm not even going to talk about Ghostbusters (2016) here...). I saw an interview with Harold Ramis once, a few years back, who said that it was the fans that wanted a sequel, and it would only be made for that very reason, (or something to that effect). To that end, when he went, I figured that it wouldn't even be possible to make a new Ghostbusters movie. What were the Ghostbusters without Egon?
How wrong I was.
Ghostbusters Afterlife, (2021), from the very moment it started, bought all of that nostalgia from the first movie back. I don't want to give away any spoilers here, but what I will say is that Harold's presence could be felt from start to finish, and that made it even more special for me. I don't think there could have been a new movie without that. The little nods to the original movies, and even the cartoons, delighted me like a child on christmas morning. That familiar soundtrack, the new characters, (and the old...). It was all there for me, and honestly? I was choked up from the moment it started; all of those emotions from the years of Ghostbusters influence came flooding over me. I felt like an absolute bellend, cry-laughing my way through it, but by the end, all of those dreams that I thought were way behind me, were very much back in focus. Those hopes that I had given up on, at almost 38 years old, were back, and I felt like anything was possible once again.
The casting was spot on - Phoebe, (Mckenna Grace), was outstanding and probably my favourite character in the whole movie, alongside Podcast, (Logan Kim). I was super impressed by Olivia Wilde's interpretation of Gozer. I'm a big Olivia Wilde fan, but trusting someone with an old favourite like Gozer the Gozerian is never an easy thing to do, and she managed it beautifully. Of course, Finn Wolfhard, (the epitomy of teenage cool), Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd, (the vampire...), also star. It was lovely to see Carrie Coon in a different light, having only really seen her in more serious roles beforehand. It certainly deserves more than the 62% it has on Rotten Tomatoes, for the cast alone.
It may not be a movie for everyone; perhaps the nostalgia of it all got to me and clouds my judgement, but I hope that it inspires a new generation of Ghost Heads. I hope that one weirdo, who doesn't yet know their place in the world, might watch it, and might be inspired by it - not to want to make up stories about being related to a Ghostbuster, nor to marry a Ghostbuster, but to actually be a Ghostbuster. To be proud to be different and interesting. To be open-minded, and to approach the world with a wide lens.
Ghostbusters has, very literally shaped my entire life; my relationships, my beliefs, my career path - even being a Packers fan comes from my love affair with the States, thanks to those dreams about NYC and seeing that firehouse. My work now, creating horror-themed art and crafts - it all comes from watching Ghostbusters that first time in November, 1985.
So, what does a movie mean to me? A movie can be something far more than just entertainment, and every once in a while, you can find one that may not only inspire you, but can also shape the way you live your entire life. A movie really can be life-changing, and I am living proof of that.
I will always be grateful to Ghostbusters for making me the person I am today, and I'm now grateful to Afterlife for reminding me of that at a time when I really needed it.
I hope you found your proof, Harold, long may you continue to haunt us ✌
My movie reviews aren't like other reviews - I won't bore you with long, drawn out explanations, reveal big spoilers, dazzle you with long words, or try to analyse the movie for you. I won't tell you if you should watch it, or if you shouldn't - all movies are made to be watched, bad or good. I'll simply tell you what I think of it. What you choose to do with that information is up to you.... But don't say I didn't warn you 😉