There's something strange in the neighbourhood, and it's a brand new Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer. Director Jason Reitman adopts the mantle of his father Ivan, continuing the legacy and timeline of the original Ghostbusters movies from 1984 and 1989, while passing the baton to a newer, younger generation of characters.
The story this time involves a single mother and her two children who move into a creaky old farmhouse in a small American town. As it turns out, these kids have important familial connections to the original Ghostbusters team who blazed a trail through New York City battling pesky phantom left, right and centre.
Good thing too, because latent evil is about to be unleashed on their new home, embodied by cutesy Stay Puft marshmallow men and a whole lot more. Cue the appearance of the Ecto-1 station wagon, the proton packs and many more segments of fan-favourite imagery. But we wanted to delve a little bit further beyond the obvious surface pleasures and get to grips with the more fleeting, subtle Easter Eggs present in the trailer. In the process, we may have found several connections to the original 1984 movie...
1. Janine's return
Those of a certain generation will recognise Annie Potts' character immediately. But given that this new Ghostbusters movie is targeting a younger audience who may not have seen the original, it's incumbent on us to provide an explanation. This is Janine, the former Ghostbusters secretary who attended the front desk at their New York headquarters in the first and second films.
She eventually developed feelings for geeky Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis), the father of Carrie Coon's Callie Spengler, and the grandfather of both Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Are we to assume that Janine is Carrie's mother, and the childrens' grandmother? It doesn't make it clear in the trailer, and Janine is credited as still having her maiden name Melnitz (at least on Wikipedia), so we might assume that she didn't marry Egon after the events of the second film. We think there are some more family-related gaps to fill in...
2. The devil dogs
The original Ghostbusters is a surprisingly menacing prospect, particularly in the scenes involving cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver, who's set to appear in this film), and the dreaded ghost dogs. This particular haunting was pivotal to the storyline of the original Ghostbusters movie as Dana reached out to the team for help, bringing her into contact with the loveably sarcastic Pete Venkman (Bill Murray, who's set to cameo in Afterlife). A tentative relationship started to develop before Dana was possessed by the evil spirits lurking in the fabric of her apartment building, primarily embodied by the dog-like creatures who manifest in her fridge and then, frighteningly, through her armchair.
In the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we witness Paul Rudd's teacher Mr. Grooberson fleeing a shopping mall pursued by one of the devil dogs. It's a clear signal that this Ghostbusters movie is hewing close to the mythology and legacy of the original film, unlike Paul Feig's controversial 2016 reboot that half-heartedly tried to steer away from it. Are we about to see the Force Awakens of the Ghostbusters world, serving up the imagery and iconography that the fans want? Fingers crossed the monstrous dogs play a significant as opposed to a cosmetic role in the storyline.
3. The pink protoplasm
This is a fleeting detail, but another bit of imagery that's derived from the original 1984 movie. When Trevor and his new group of friends appear to awaken supernatural evil from deep underground, it manifests as whirling, pink streams of energy. This was seen in the first film when bureaucrat Walter Peck (William Atherton) mistakenly had the Ghostbusters protection grid shut down – as in, the storage facility containing the ghosts they had captured from all over Manhattan.
The ensuing explosion sent pink streams of energy gliding towards Dana's apartment to the eerie sounds of 'It's Magic' by Mick Smiley, a neat depiction of how to generate otherwordly dread in the midst of a scene set in broad daylight. Whether this visual motif is a mere nostalgic nod in Ghostbusters: Afterlife remains to be seen.
4. A possible Gozer statue?
It's hard to dissect this shot without proper context (roll on the November release date, frankly). But it appears that Phoebe and Trevor have located some kind of subterranean cavern distinguished by a looming statue. Look closely at said statue and it definitely appears to sport the signature "flat top" (so dubbed by Dan Aykroyd's Ray Stanz) of the demonic Gozer from the first movie. Nostalgics will remember that this demonic force was embodied in distinctly eighties fashion by Serbian actor Slavitza Jovan (dubbed by Paddi Edwards).
Given the thematic connections with the original film that we've already discussed, we wouldn't be surprised if the legacy of Gozer played a significant role here. It might be a strategic move to wipe out the bad taste left by Feig's 2016 movie, a deliberate ploy to get the die-hard fans back on board as they possibly introduce the heritage of the original film to their own children.
5. Dan Aykroyd
As Phoebe, Trevor and Mr. Grooberson dig up the original Ghostbusters commercial ("We're ready to believe you!"), presumably, because their small town is under siege from spirits, it leads them to the team's original phone number. Clearly, Dan Aykroyd's Stanz hasn't gone ex-directory since the 1980s rolled to a close – we hear his voice as he picks up the phone in response, another nostalgic puzzle piece that locks into place.
Look carefully at the window of Stanz's establishment – reversed, it reads 'Occult Books', perhaps signalling that Stanz has converted his ghostbusting knowledge into a new, altogether more literary kind of business. Whether his academic and characteristically nerdy prowess will help this new generation of Ghostbusters remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it will be great to see Aykroyd drawn back into the fold, and more than a little poignant given that his Ghostbusters screenwriting/acting cohort Harold Ramis (they developed the original concept together) is no longer around.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is released in Cineworld cinemas on 12th November 2021.