Film Review by Cliff Homewood

Slime or sublime?  Let’s find out.  Your reaction depends on expectations.  Specifically, your opinion of Ghostbusters: Afterlife: people who love that film are disappointed in this, which is more like an old Ghostbusters movie. I found Afterlife over-rated, I enjoyed the well-done nostalgia, but like Star Wars: The Force Awakens before it, the film was more of a ‘greatest hits’ than original in it’s own right. Its plot looked back too much instead of forward.

Afterlife’s finale regurgitated the original as did Ghostbusters II with its Statue of Liberty doing the Stay-Puft walk. It seemed more focussed on family life than Ghostbusters, with the stars’ return tacked on to beat Gozer, it felt as if they strayed into the original movie. With Frozen Empire they are back in the old Fire Station in New York. There’s a big bad to be defeated, with atmospheric scenes and some laughs on the way … but this is not a retread, and that’s what I want from Ghostbusters. I enjoyed the female led version of Ghostbusters, it hit this criteria.  Frozen Empire however is more a child-friendly horror film in tone.  You know its child friendly when Patton Oswald says ‘Fudge!’  Who in real life says fudge instead of a proper swear word?

The film starts with a great flashback setting up the enemy. Tension and mystery hang in the air like ice. There’s some great visuals frozen like a moment in time. And then this prelude is never referred to again (alright then, once, in an aside). The Ectomobile has a new cool addition, each film seems to need to add something to the vehicle to make its mark.

The film has three plot threads. The ghost storage unit is getting old and full in the basement. James Acaster (now a Ghostbuster!) is in a new facility, with a surprising amount of screentime.  I can’t think of a better comedian to replace the gruff aloof comedy that Bill Murray bought to the franchise.  However, Acaster doesn’t get great lines here and is actually a nod to the The Real Ghostbusters’ (so-called as there’s a Filmation cartoon called Ghostbusters) blond Egon Spengler. Actor Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Nadeem Razmaadi, the Louis Tully type character in the film, tweeted, ‘The filmmakers wanted to make a long episode of the animated series.  So, if you love that show as I do, be excited.’ The Real Ghostbusters writer whose villains this films is reminiscent of, J Michael Straczynski, commented ‘Would have been nice if my phone had rung somewhere along the way.’

The third storyline is the main one, following our hero, Phoebe Spengler (McKenna Grace), with a touching and heartfelt subplot.  Her brother hardly has a line. The mixture of old and new worked well.  McKenna is a likeable and believable lead and the Spenglers feel like a real family. Like Afterlife there’s some nice family work with the ever-reliable Paul Rudd trying to feel where and how he fits into this family.

There is one apparent plot hole in the film. I’ll give a small clue to those that’ve seen it and see if they can mindread. Brass and her selfish use of it. Most teenage girls have access to a foundry and have been trained by the local swordsmith so know what they are doing. This is obvious, don’t know why I’m saying it. It doesn’t stop enjoyment of the film, I’m just pointing out the fact, heck your 15-year-old probably has a smelting pot in her bedroom.  In a repeat story beat from the original, ex-EPA Agent and the now Major, Walter Peck, returns and does the same things he did last time, it’s even pointed out to him. Probably because the actor wanted to return so they just re-used the idea. With one or two exceptions the original cast appear.  Rick Moranis left acting to be a single parent a long time ago. Sigourney Weaver doesn’t appear, but there’s a return of the Ghostbusters gatekeeper style dialogue. Dan Ackroyd, as cowriter and creator of Ghostbusters (he’s always had an interest in the supernatural) we can take for granted will be in the film.  Bill Murray is quite a coup, the reason there was no Ghostbusters 3 was that he didn’t want another one. These days, he’s hard to get in touch with. He doesn’t have an agent, just an answering machine, which he listens to on a whim. Sounds like the life to me, just making a movie when he fancies it. You made all that money, why not enjoy it? Which he does stealing a stranger’s chips and saying, ‘No one will ever believe you’. Ever the prankster. He made a larger appearance than expected, with at least one funny scene. Ernie Hudson (Winston) now finances the Ghostbusters. Even the original receptionist returns as a Ghostbuster. Cameo does not appear in this film.

The film looks pretty good. I mean you don’t want them chasing a bin bag as a special effect. The cute little marshmellow men return, being delightful figures of mischief, like The Gremlins once were.

References to the original are made throughout. Ghost busting makes me feel good as a result and the film delivered. It was great seeing the original Ghostbusters reunited again on screen after two nostalgia riddled sequels.