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WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS for Ghostbusters: Afterlife ahead...
Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife is an all-out celebration of the entire Ghostbusters franchise. It not only pays homage to the first two movies directed by Ivan Reitman (he produced Afterlife and just so happens to be Jason's dad), but also to the dedicated fan culture that has sprung up around the cinematic property over the last 37 years.
Afterlife (in theaters this Friday) represents an unabashed love letter to the audience members who love busting rogue spirits — and Jason said as much in a special, pre-recorded message that preceded the press screenings: "If you are a Ghostbusters fan, you’re about to go on the greatest Easter egg hunt of your life."
And boy, was he right — the movie is chock full of callbacks to the *ahem* ghosts of Ghostbusters past. So, poke a straw into a box of Ecto Cooler as we unpack all of the Easter eggs and references we were able to spot.
This should go without saying, but the following does contain major plot spoilers for the entire film. It's also worth noting that our list is not 100 percent exhaustive. We're only human (for now) and things can and do slip through the cracks of observation, especially when you're feverishly jotting down notes in a dark movie theater. With all of that out of they, let's heat 'em up!
From the get-go, Afterlife composer Rob Simonsen wastes no time in honoring the iconic work done by the late Elmer Bernstein for the 1984 original. The musical vacillation between unnerving and quirky is unmistakable — and very 1980s. Click here to listen to a sample of the soundtrack.
Egon's P.K.E. Meter
The movie begins with an elderly Egon Spengler trying to vanquish Gozer the Gozerian once and for all. When his farm-based trap doesn't work as planned, he rushes into his farmhouse and grabs his trusty P.K.E. Meter, a handheld device from the first movie that detects nearby spiritual entities. The nifty piece of ghost-hunting tech is later used by Egon's granddaughter, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and his estranged daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon).
Arm chair (literally)
Just before he's killed in the opening prologue, Egon sits down in a ratty old chair. A spectral presence sneaks up behind him and rips through the chair with a demonic arm — recalling the attack on Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) in the original.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife takes place in the sleepy Oklahoma mining town of Summerville. We later learn that Egon moved there because it was constructed by Ivo Shandor, the apocalyptic cult leader who designed the Manhattan high-rise where Gozer entered our dimension back in 1984.
Not only did Shandor mine Selenium — which he then used to build metal girders for supernatural construction purposes in New York City — but he also erected a temple for Gozer on the outskirts of Summerville. Hoping he would one day rule the world by the Mesopotamian deity's side, Shandor (briefly played by J.K. Simmons) kept himself alive in a strange, coffin-like device.
The Spengler family farm
Egon's rundown farm (aptly named "Dirt") contains a laundry list of Easter eggs and callbacks beyond the expected Proton Pack, Ghost Trap,and dirt-encrusted Ecto-1. When Callie and her two children — Phoebe and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) — arrive at the property, they're greeted by a number of corrugated metal signs bearing the apocalyptic prophecy laid out in the Book of Revelations — something that's discussed between Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) in the first movie. Indeed, you can see that Ray has the exact chapter and verse tattooed on his arm when Phoebe rings him up later in Afterlife.
Upon entering the detritus of Egon's dilapidated farmhouse, one of the characters picks up a statuette of a Terror Dog, a small hint of what's to come. Later on, Phoebe discovers Egon's secret lab, which is only accessible by sliding down a fireman's pole (a nod to the firehouse headquarters once occupied by the OG Ghostbusters in New York).
She finds a cabinet full of old jump-suits, one of which has an old Nestle Crunch bar (a snack given to Egon by Bill Murray's Peter Venkman in the original). And that's not the only sweet treat — there is also a lone Twinkie in Ecto-1's glovebox (Egon used the cream-filled Hostess cake as an analogy for "the normal amount of psycho-kinetic energy in the New York area").
The lab is also home to a number of strange devices, including the psychic helmet (basically a colander stuck with a bunch of electrodes) worn by a Keymaster-possessed Louis Tully.
Another bit of narrative foreshadowing comes courtesy of Mr. Grooberson, a summer school teacher and seismologist played by Paul Rudd. Mainly interested in studying the strange earthquakes that plague Summerville from time-to-time, Grooberson helps his students pass the time by showing them old horror movies. The two we see in Afterlife are Cujo (heralding the arrival of Zuul and Vinz Clortho) and Child's Play (most likely alluding to the mini-mayhem caused by the bite-sized Stay Puft Marshmallow Men).
We ain't afraid of no...
Ghosts! Afterlife doesn't deviate too much from the apparitions we know and love from previous installments. Instead, it offers little tweaks on the established spooks and specters. Rather than a giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, we get a whole army of mini Stay-Puft men who love to run around, causing all sorts of Gremlins-esque chaos. Speaking of, you can also see an advertisement for Stay-Puft painted onto a brick wall after the young heroes steal back Ecto-1 from the police station.
By and large, the pair of Terror Dogs remain the same. Once the Gatekeeper takes over Callie, she says: "There is no mom, there is only Zuul" (a callback to the line uttered by Dana in the '84 original). Callie also dons the same glittery dress worn by Dana and seeks out Mr. Grooberson's Keymaster, whom she finds lying sensually flat on a rock (a reversal of Louis finding Dana on her couch).
Once the town is overrun with spectral activity, the residents of Summerville find themselves terrorized by a number of different ghosts like an undead miner and a floating ghost with a wide mouth and a giant eyeball on its forehead. The latter ghost has to be a deep-cut nod to Bug-Eye from The Real Ghostbusters animated series that ran from 1986 to 1991...right?
Who ya gonna call?
After Phoebe, Trevor, and Podcast (Logan Kim) are arrested for destroying half of Summerville's main street during a chase to capture Muncher, Phoebe asks for her one phone call. Knowing that he's in a Ghostbusters film, the town sheriff (played by Bokeem Woodbine) asks: "Who you gonna call?" in a nod to the hit title song written and performed by Ray Parker Jr. Phoebe decides to call Ray Stantz, who is running the occult bookstore he opened in Ghostbusters II.
The denouement of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is almost a beat-for-beat recreation of the original, especially once Ray, Peter Venkman, and Winston show up to lend a hand in the fight against Gozer (whom Peter jokingly refers to as "Flat-Top").
Ray delivers a similar monologue, asking the inter dimensional being to "cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest parallel dimension." He then gets a shot at redemption when Gozer once again asks him: "Are you a god?" He answers "yes," but only after Peter and Winston give him crap about it.
After that, the streams are crossed, Gozer is defeated, and the Terror dogs turn to stone, freeing their human hosts. And yes, someone does get coated in marshmallow fluff.
Co-written by Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan, Ghostbusters: Afterlife arrives in theaters everywhere Friday, Nov. 19.