“I just don’t exhibit emotions like everyone else, on the inside, I’m vomiting.”
With Harold Ramis’ death in 2014, it seemed unlikely that a long-planned Ghostbusters follow-up would ever happen, moreso after the 2016 reboot, and yet it eventually arrived in Afterlife, which is dedicated to Ramis. The film hands the reins down to a new generation — literally in the case of Jason Reitman, who steps into his father’s director’s chair — as Egon’s family inherit his farm and learn about his work. Stylistically, Afterlife often feels like an 80s family movie with a glossier sheen (much like Super 8), its soundtrack peppered with welcome callbacks to the original score. Finn Wolfhard may be more recognisable but Mckenna Grace’s performance as Phoebe is the heart of the film, a 12 year old struggling with neurodivergence and every bit Egon’s granddaughter. The action is nonsensical as the children inexplicably know how to trap ghosts with 30-year-old equipment or use a tiny remote control car that outpaces a regular one, but Ghostbusters action was always more about a flashy lightshow than choreography. There is plenty of fan-service with Paul Rudd’s character fanboying over the the original Ghostbusters and a host of cameos, but Afterlife delivers more than just nostalgia. Its formula of running either toward or away from ghosts may become repetitive, but the character relationships have much of the warmth that made the original work. It may not be an unqualified success but, with another sequel in production, Afterlife has proved that the legacy of the Ghostbusters is far from dead.
“People are sometimes afraid of things they don’t know.”
This is the second high-profile adaptation of Pinocchio in 2022 alone. Whilst Zemeckis continued Disney’s creatively barren attempts at live action remakes of its beloved animated features, Guillermo del Toro’s is a true retelling of the story in his own inimitable way. Within the framework of a family film, it feels as though del Toro has crafted a companion piece to Pan’s Labyrinth with shared themes of death and fascism. Pinocchio’s very creation is an act of grief — after Geppetto cuts down his dead son’s tree in a drunken fit of rage — and his early moments of life are reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, inspiring fear in both his creator and the villagers. Although the familiar story beats remain intact, del Toro’s sympathies have always lain with outsiders struggling to find their place in society, as everyone’s ideas for Pinocchio are exploitative — a father wishing to replace a lost son, Christoph Waltz’s wonderfully mercurial circus owner (“You may have no strings but I control you”) sensing profit, and the fascists who wish to turn him into an undying soldier. Stop motion is perhaps the perfect medium for Pinocchio since it turns all the characters into stringless puppets. There is a genuinely handcrafted feel to Pinocchio, roughly hewn with nails sticking out of his back, and the physical sets scale wonderfully with the puppetry. Although there is a slew of high profile actors, there is no stunt casting and only Ewan McGregor’s narration as Cricket was distractingly recognisable. The musical numbers are the film’s weakest aspect, interrupting the pacing and entirely forgettable. To explore what it means to be human, however, Pinocchio is a rich and satisfying adaptation.
A surprisingly enjoyable (rather than scary) experience, It is filled with a series of beautifully shot and creatively weird scenes, having more in common with Stranger Things‘ blend of nostalgia and the supernatural than most contemporary horror. Jump scares are few and far between, in favour of steadily building atmosphere. Where modern horror tends to focus on individual isolation (a reflection of current anxieties), It is told from the perspective of the Losers Club, a group of unpopular adolescent outsiders. Disquiet arises through the group’s collective isolation from the community and particularly the adults in their lives. Like much of Stephen King’s work, It explores the loss of innocence and the murky underbelly of small town American communities. The film is slightly too long for its content (a cinematic streamlining of the book’s first half) and splashing through identical sewers becomes repetitive. Despite the recently released sequel, this first chapter feels complete if not always cohesive — perhaps due to its extended gestation period under multiple directors — and its most striking imagery will certainly linger in the mind.