GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

November 18, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. There is a reason musical acts like The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, and The Rolling Stones continue to pack arenas. We love our nostalgia and prefer it familiar and easily recognizable. The fans don’t show up to hear the new songs, but rather those ‘oldies-but-goodies’ that bring back pleasant memories. Writer-director Jason Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan fully understand this psychology as they deliver what amounts to a sequel of the original GHOSTBUSTERS movie released 37 years ago (and directed by Reitman’s father Ivan).

The hook in this updated version is that Callie (Carrie Coon), the adult daughter of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (originally portrayed by the late Harold Ramis), has been evicted from her apartment. She packs up the car and her two kids, and heads to the dilapidated farm house she inherited from the father she never knew. Callie has lived her life bitter and hurt that her father never reached out, choosing instead to isolate himself in Summerville in the “middle of nowhere”. Her kids are Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), an awkward teenager, and Phoebe (a stellar McKenna Grace), a science whiz who seems to be a near-clone of the grandfather she never met.

As they adjust to a new life, Trevor swoons over local girl Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), while Phoebe befriends another outcast self-named Podcast (Logan Kim), and Callie gets closer to Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a Seismologist “teaching” summer school with help from some age-inappropriate movies on VHS. As great as Coon and Rudd are (and both are great), the real fun comes from the youngsters exploring grandfather’s workshop and the mysterious mountain at the edge of town, which is actually a long ago abandoned mine run by the town’s founder.

Supporting actors include Bokeem Woodbine, JK Simmons, and Tracy Letts. Many of the elements will seem familiar as the kids begin to uncover the ghostly creatures unlocked thanks to Grandpa Egon’s research and tools. As with the original, busting the ghosts is fun, but it’s the one-liners and crackling dialogue that make this a joyous ride from beginning to end. A battered Ectomobile (Ecto-1) plays a key role, as do ghost traps, crossing streams, and a new generation of Stay-Puft Marshmallows.

Jason Reitman is a two-time Oscar nominee for UP IN THE AIR (2009) and JUNO (2007), but it seems clear his mission here was to provide a fitting tribute to the original film, his father, and the late Harold Ramis. He’s assisted along the way with some special effects and even more special appearances, though the missing Rick Moranis is notable (and expected). The original blockbuster spawned sequels, re-boots, toys, an animated series, video games, documentaries, and now … another sequel (one that mostly disregards everything but the original). There is a Spielberg feel as the scene is small town instead of NYC, and perhaps with this family-friendly focus on the kids, the best comparison might be THE GOONIES. It’s nostalgic, yet new and fresh, and we do get a look at Hook and Ladder #8, and the familiar tune of Ray Parker Jr’s iconic theme song. Hang on for the mid-credit and post-credit scenes, and just remember to take this for what it is … a rollicking good time.

Opening in theaters on November 19, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER


DEVIL (2010)

September 18, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness. For those of us who enjoy trying to make sense of the unexplainable, M. Night Shyamalan is one filmmaker for whom we always hold out hope. Wisely backing away from the director’s chair this time, Mr. Shyamalan created the story and produced the film. While not extraordinary, it is one of his best in quite awhile.

The beauty of the story is its simplicity. It is actually presented to us in the form of folk legend through the narrator. Basically, the devil sometimes takes human form and proceeds to steal souls … often in the process, innocent (and not so innocent) people are killed. Here five seemingly random people end up in the same elevator and all hell breaks loose (literally). The detective called to the scene is battling his own internal demons and, of course, that plays a major role in how the story develops and ends.

A mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green), a young woman (Bojana Novakic from Drag Me To Hell), an old woman (Jenny O’Hara), a security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) and a mattress salesman (Geoffrey Arend) are joined together in the claustrophobic nightmare of a stuck elevator. One by one, each is affected. All the while, distrust abounds. Chris Messina plays the talented detective trying to rescue them and fruitlessly apply logic to the unexplained happenings occurring right before his eyes.

The film begins with an extended, disorienting upside-down view of downtown Philly, and then proceeds to take us through some unusual camera angles into the building, down the elevator shaft and into the lobby. This is our initial intro to the unlucky five. It’s a very interesting start to an entertaining thriller.

The director is John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) and he does an effective job of creating fear within the confined space of the elevator. He manages to create camera angles despite the lack of space. The use of the security camera and booth is brilliant and allows the viewer to be both inside and outside … both are frightening in their own way. Welcome back, Mr. Shyamalan!

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: You can suspend disbelief and enjoy a creepy thriller OR if just the thought of being stuck in an elevator makes you queasy and weak in the knees.

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF:  Your idea of a great weekend is a documentary festival OR if just the thought of being stuck in an elevator makes you queasy and weak in the knees.