Updated: Mar 3
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Mckenna Grace plays 12-year-old aspiring scientist Phoebe, who fires up her grandfather’s Ghostbusters proton pack, while Logan Kim as Podcast watches the action.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “Summoning the Spirit: The Making of” featurette on disc & digital
A DECADE ago, a character popped into the mind of writer/director Jason Reitman (“Juno,” “Up in the Air”) – a 12-year-old girl, who finds a forgotten nuclear-powered proton pack in an old barn. Jason is the son of producer Ivan Reitman, who directed the original comedy/fantasy classic “Ghostbusters” (1984), and its sequel, “Ghostbusters II” (1989) starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver.
At the time, Jason didn’t know who she was, but eventually, “I started to think about this story [Afterlife], and at that moment when [Phoebe] discovers who she is, what her legacy is, and why she’s unique,” he says during the “Summoning the Spirit” featurette. “I began writing a movie I never thought I would write.”
Reitman considers himself the first true “Ghostbusters” fan since he watched it being filmed at age 7. He clearly remembers the day the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man exploded and melted. “They had a stuntman there getting pelted with shaving cream.”
(1) Egon Spengler now lives in Summerville, Okla. a former mining town owned by occultist Ivo Shandor. A ghost entity attacks him and he suffers a heart attack. (2&3) Spengler’s estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two teens Phoebe and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) arrive at her father’s creepy old farmhouse after being evicted from their Chicago apartment. The ground shakes and they duck under a table. (4&5) For dinner they tryout Spinner’s diner and Trevor discovers Lucky (Celeste O'Connor), a carhop and his new crush.
During the featurette, he also explores what he calls the “inexplicable magic” of the original “Ghostbusters” and what made it special. “It’s more than just one shot, character, or piece of dialogue, it’s this magic that connects it all,” he says. His father always felt “Ghostbusters” had its own extended family, but it was broken when co-star Harold Ramis died in 2014. Ramis had written “Ghostbusters,” and starred as eccentric scientist Dr. Egon Spengler. He also directed audience favorites “Caddyshack” (1980), “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), and “Groundhog Day” (1999).
The senior Reitman feels the new “Afterlife” script brings the magic and the family back together. Co-writer/executive producer Gil Kenan (“Monster House”) says they approached the story with “great reverence and respect.” He and Jason wanted to make sure they were doing it for the right reasons.
Today, Jason considers “Afterlife” a love letter to the original. “It’s important that it honors that film in every way. It should feel like your grandmother’s recipe. The second you taste it, it should feel like, yes, that’s a ‘Ghostbusters’ movie,” he says.
“Afterlife” picks up the mythology 36 years after the Ghostbusters saved the day in New York City. Spengler’s estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) is a single mother with two teens Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”). They’ve arrived in middle-of-nowhere Summerville, Okla., to claim what Callie hopes is a decent inheritance after her father’s death. What they find is a rundown, creepy old farmhouse on the edge of the town where Spengler lived. Everyone in town called him “Dirt Farmer” and thought he was crazy. Phoebe, an aspiring scientist, and her brother find their grandfather’s old proton packs, ghost traps, and the famous Ecto-1 Ghostbuster car – a 1959 Cadillac ambulance.
(1&2) Phoebe’s new motormouth summer school classmate Podcast (Logan Kim) and she watch summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), examine a ghost trap she found at the farmhouse. (3&4) They decided to open the trap outside with an electric current from a school bus battery and a huge ghost entity escapes and they celebrate their findings.
The new sidekicks are Podcast (Logan Kim), Phoebe’s motormouth summer school classmate; Grooberson (Paul Rudd), the summer school teacher, who’s also a moonlighting seismologist, and Trevor’s new crush, Lucky (Celeste O'Connor). Summerville is hit by strange earthquakes every day, although the town has no fault lines, or fracking or volcanoes nearby. As expected, the area becomes a grand central station for ghosts and demons, the reason Spengler moved to the old mining town. An ominous, swirling cloud appears over the town’s abandoned mine, shades of Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and, eventually, Gozer return and its two Terror Dogs from the first movie return.
All references to the female-led 2016 reboot are absent, but the original Ghostbusters played by Aykroyd, Murray, and Hudson return to help the new heroes. Stick around or fast forward through the post-credits for a scene with Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver as their ghostbuster characters.
The new cast, especially the young actors, are great. The characters are memorable, with Grace’s Phoebe and Kim’s Podcast the standouts. Jason was thrilled with her casting. “We needed a young woman who was genuinely brilliant. And that’s who Mckenna is. She’s probably read more books than I have,” he says. She couldn’t stop giggling, saying, “I can’t believe I’m a Ghostbuster.” She also handles the singing for the closing credits tune, “Haunted House.”
The Spengler’s (Trevor, Callie and Phoebe)
(1-3) The family continues to adjust to living in the middle-of-nowhere.
The enclosed Blu-ray and digital include seven featurettes with “Summoning the Spirit” leading the pack featuring interviews from the filmmakers and cast members. “The Gearhead’s Guide to Ghostbusters Gadgets” explores the iconic gear and new upgrades. “Special Effects: The Ghosts of Afterlife” reveals the secrets behind the mischievous Mini Pufts and other spirits. “Bringing ECTO-1 Back to Life” highlights the resurrection of the classic Cadillac and its new, tricked-out gunner seat. “We Got One! Easter Eggs Revealed” uncovers the hidden homages to the original. The senior Reitman, Murray, Hudson, and Aykroyd return for a new interview in “A Look Ahead,” where they reflect on the new generation of ghostbusters.
Sony only forwarded the 1080p version, but we upgraded to the 4K Ultra HD to give our readers a true sample of its visual quality, and HDR frame shots. Reitman and cinematographer Eric Steelberg (“Hawkeye” TV series, “Juno”) captured the action in Alberta, Canada, subbing for Oklahoma on 4.5K ARRIRAW digital cameras. It was effectively mastered in 4K (2.39:1 aspect ratio) – except for the FX shots, which were mastered in 2K. More resolution-clarity and smoother edges are found in the 4K areas, evident by the sharper rooftop shingles on Spengler’s old farmhouse and barn, and ease in reading license plates and signs.
The HDR grading (HDR10 and Dolby Vision) is dialed slightly darker than the 1080p version, with more controlled highlights and mid-tones. Colors are very similar in both resolutions.
(1&2) Phoebe and Podcast take the nuclear-powered proton pack out for a test at an abandon factory. (3) Trevor gets the famous Cadillac Ecto-1 up and running and he takes it out for a spin around the farm. (4&5) Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast go ghost hunting and Phoebe uses the Ecto-1 side gunner seat to zap the ghost, which left a number businesses with collateral damage.
The 4K (disc & digital) provide the more active and enveloping eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, with its added vertical soundstage. The height speakers are sprinkled with quality effects – especially when a ghost moves overhead, and during proton blasts. Also, during peak music cues from Rob Simonsen’s score, which includes a number of cues from the original composed by the legendary Elmer Bernstein (“The Magnificent Seven,” “To Kill a Mockingbird”). Also, be ready for some earth-shattering bass, where subwoofers get a REAL workout.
Top critics on Rotten Tomatoes may not have been fans of “Afterlife,” but audiences loved it, as it nearly topped a 95 percent rating. It’s an old-fashioned fun ride in the vein of the Richard Donner favorite, “The Goonies,” or the “Harry Potter” series – especially for anyone age 9 and up.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Phoebe calls the old Ghostbusters telephone number for help and Raymond “Ray” Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) answers. (2-4) Grooberson makes a shopping run to Walmart and finds the mischievous Mini Pufts and one of the Terror Dogs.
The Final Showdown
(1) Phoebe, Podcast, Lucky, and Trevor find a Gozerian temple within the abandoned mine. (2) Phoebe looks into the pit. (3) Terror Dogs Zuul and Vinz Clortho possess Callie and Gary. (4&5) Callie is freed from Zuul, but Gozer tries to kill her and Phoebe, but surviving original Ghostbusters Ray (Aykroyd) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) arrive just in time.