Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Written by Patrick Hao

38/100

Ghostbusters: Afterlife seems to be a particularly apt title for the franchise. For something to have an afterlife, it suggests that it must be dead and there is an attempt at a resurrection. This new Ghostbusters film was always going to be a cynical exercise of corporate resuscitation, especially after the toxic reception by “fans” to the 2016 female-centric Ghostbusters remake. Whether that film was good or not, it at least captured the feeling of the original 1984 film. This new one from Jason Reitman, the son of the director of the original film Ivan Reitman, while undyingly devoted to the lore of the 1984 film, completely misunderstands why that film works. 

The film is unrelenting in the nostalgia that it revels in. But, this nostalgia is not even rooted in the original film. Rather it is rooted in this idea of the 1980s that has become corporate currency in media like Stranger Things and the 2017 film It. The film follows the estranged daughter of Egon Spangler (Carrie Coon), the original Ghostbuster played by the now deceased Harold Ramis, a single mother of Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), whose only character trait seems to be that he is a horny teenager, and the precocious socially awkward, STEM-loving, Phoebe (McKenna Grace). They move to Oklahoma to settle the Spangler estate when they discover that there are ghosts that need to be busting or else the apocalypse will occur. Also Paul Rudd is around to be the obligatory adult and Ghostbusters fanboy audience surrogate as a summer school teacher, and there is a character named Podcast (Logan Kim), who does,,, well, podcasts. The new characters are fine if not memorable. 

The film is set in the present day, but the fashion, the technology, and the whole vibe are Amblin in the 80s including focusing on the children who are set to become the next generation of Ghostbusters. The script does some serious gymnastics to make sure that modern technology does not appear in the film. The town has no bars which explains why no one is using cell phones which already is dumb. That also doesn’t explain why everyone is using a wired landline. Why is Paul Rudd playing videos on VHS of Cujo and Child’s Play?

The film’s reveling in 80s nostalgia for a film set in the present day is unbelievably baffling, especially when the film is about The Ghostbusters. Those films were a product of National Lampoon alumni whose whole ethos was rebelling against the systems at large. The Ghostbusters partially worked due to its focus on these irreverent anti-authoritarian figures in the middle of Yuppie Reagan New York City. Dan Akroyd gets fellated by a ghost for goodness sake.

So to have a movie reverential to not only the time but to a movie in which the main character and I cannot emphasize this enough gets a ghost blowjob seems baffling. Who exactly is Ghostbusters: Afterlife for? It is certainly a competently made movie and is never not entertaining. But, does it really matter that we explore the origins of Gozer the Gozerian? Why are the stay puft marshmallows back when in the original film, that was a specific manifestation by an individual person.

I was left with more questions than none because this Ghostbusters: Afterlife is really a representation of a mode of movie-making that is incredibly disheartening. These are exercises in affirmation and fan service in a way that reduces it to nothing more than content. Movies are constantly reasserting that fandoms are important and well deserved by putting this undue importance to the silliest of things. What is left is something that the original product never truly was. A manifestation. A specter. 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Trailer

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is currently in wide theatrical release.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Jennifer’s Body

Written by Anna Harrison

70/100

You would be forgiven for assuming that Jennifer’s Body, written by Juno’s Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama, is just your average slasher movie populated by attractive women in progressively skimpier clothing; after all, most of its advertising focused on titular Megan Fox’s sex appeal as the titular Jennifer, truly taking the title of Jennifer’s Body to heart and making it all about, well, Jennifer’s body. Fox’s stardom was still at its zenith, but it was all based on her appearance: whenever she tried to be anything other than a vapid sex symbol, the press vilified her, and so the marketing for Jennifer’s Body was all about sex, sex, and more sex in an attempt to appeal to the young men that frequented the horror genre.

When Jennifer’s Body turned out not to be, in fact, a sex romp through slasher territory, it fared poorly. Mediocre reviews, bad box office turnout, and online ridicule, often misogynistic in tone. But over a decade later, as the assessment of women in Hollywood has evolved, so have the views on Jennifer’s Body, and its gifs and quotes can be found regularly making the rounds on Twitter, often tweeted by the young women whom the original marketing campaign so obviously excluded.

Despite its horror elements, Jennifer’s Body is squarely aimed towards young women, using its genre to explore all the treacherous ups and downs of being a teenage girl. Needy (Amanda Seyfried), as her name suggests, clings to her best friend Jennifer, the hottest girl in school. When Jennifer suggests that they go to a bar to see the indie band Low Shoulder (whose frontman Nikolai is played by Adam Brody), Needy ditches her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), and goes with Jennifer. The bar catches fire, and Jennifer, in shock, gets led into Low Shoulder’s van over Needy’s protests; when Jennifer comes back, dripping in blood, she’s changed. She’s more callous, more demanding, and also likes to eat people, usually men.

Jennifer becomes a devilish seductress, tempting because of the danger she poses and the beauty she possesses, but this isn’t simply your classic succubus tale wherein the hot temptress gets killed as punishment for being a hot temptress—it’s much smarter than that. Jennifer reveals that Low Shoulder sacrificed her to Satan in order to find success (“Do you know how hard it is to make it as an indie band these days? There are so many of us, and we’re all so cute and it’s like if you don’t get on Letterman or some retarded soundtrack, you’re screwed, okay? Satan is our only hope,” Nikolai explains), but the sacrifice goes awry because Jennifer wasn’t a virgin. Suddenly her killings become part of a revenge fantasy: a group of men abuse Jennifer with a lighthearted airiness at odds with the muffled screams of Jennifer herself, and then she is immediately discarded as they climb the ladder of success. It’s a story particularly resonant for Hollywood in the post-#MeToo era.

It also in many ways parallels Fox’s own career. Everyone either wanted to fuck her or be her (or both), and when they couldn’t do either of those things, they turned hostile, so at the same time that Fox became lauded for her sexuality she was simultaneously punished because of it. Fox, like Jennifer, was left stranded for little more than being hot and a woman—a woman who, admittedly, often put her foot in her mouth. Her comments comparing Transformers director Michael Bay to Hitler got her fired from the third entry in the franchise, with Steven Spielberg calling for Michael Bay to fire Fox. At the time, public opinion sided with Spielberg and Bay; now, it seems to have become a bit more nuanced: Spielberg, himself Jewish, deemed her behavior unacceptable, and while that is and should remain important, the media has been more forgiving to Fox as of late, considering that Transformers spends all of her screentime ogling her legs, her stomach, her breasts, her ass, and Bay, over twenty years her senior, had all the power on the film sets (the two have since made up). Fox was simply a thing to be looked at, and if she raised a complaint it immediately rebounded and became her fault—and while she bears responsibility for her words, the media should also bear responsibility to examine the surrounding circumstances, something that did not seem to happen in 2009.

The relationship between Needy and Jennifer also became a victim of poor marketing and bad timing: their much-hyped kiss is more nerve-wracking than anything, and while it’s certainly still framed as erotic, there’s a bit more going on to it than just titillation. Instead of a scene simply existing for the pleasure of the straight men in the audience, it is a tense, complicated moment between two girls who have become trapped in an unhealthy, codependent relationship as they try to navigate what it means to be women in a society that tries to hinder them at, if not every turn, then certainly quite a few. One of the film’s most telling scenes parallels Needy and Chip having sex with Jennifer seducing and then ripping out the intestines of Needy’s friend Colin (Kyle Gallner), and Needy sees Jennifer in her mind’s eye as her boyfriend awkwardly goes to town; Needy and Jennifer could be a love story thwarted by a patriarchal, heteronormative world. Or maybe they’re just unhealthily codependent.

Yet for all its different interpretations and commentary, the context of Jennifer’s Body remains more interesting than the content. The commentary generated from the film proves deeper than what the film actually gives viewers to work with; the premise of a young girl (especially one who says, “I go both ways”) being sacrificial lamb for an otherwise-normal-seeming group of young men intrigues, but the follow up doesn’t do as much interrogating as it should, opting instead for standard horror beats (and an infusion of high school comedy) with all-too-brief moments that reveal something more lurking underneath. It’s not quite enough of a horror film and it’s not quite enough of a comedy, though all the seeds are there.

But while it may not be profound as its cultural reassessment purports, Jennifer’s Body is a fun excursion with strong performances (and J.K. Simmons with a hook for a hand!) whose ideas at least spark conversation outside of the film, if not from within.

Jennifer’s Body Trailer

Jennifer’s Body is currently available to rent and purchase on most digital storefronts, and is available to stream on Amazon Prime and The Criterion Channel.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Written by Alexander Reams

100/100

I’ve always been a fan of DC, their comics, TV shows, and film. Yes, even the highly controversial DCEU. Three, almost four years ago when Justice League was released most, including myself, were let down by the half baked film. Now after much campaigning from the fans we have Zack Snyder’s original, uncut version, much to the glee from fans and filmmakers alike. Especially after the numerous reports coming from the 2017 Justice League set in which Joss Whedon at best behaved poorly. This in conjunction with reports of Warner Bros. tampering with other DCEU films, Suicide Squad being a major example led many to speculate just how much more grandiose and joyful Snyder’s version might be.

    Martin Scorsese criticized superhero films broadly claiming they were like “theme parks” and not “cinema”. Zack Snyder’s Justice League seems to be the closest example of what a superhero film might look like after the advent of the Avengers that Scorsese may like. There is a clear vision and style to the film. Shot differently than most contemporary superhero films and brimming with a fantastic cast who work well together. Ray Fisher has long been a big campaigner for the Snyder Cut to be released. After watching this rendition of the film you can clearly see why, as he’s it’s heartbeat.

    There’s been talk about the runtime, 242 minutes is a long film, and the longest superhero film of all time, beating Snyder’s previous record with Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut. The runtime feels completely earned, at this point in the DCEU we had not been introduced to Aquaman, Flash, or Cyborg. So this is a continuation of Wonder Woman’s story as well as a sequel to Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and an introduction to those respective characters. Something that’s easy to forget now, on the other side of those films release.

    By the end of the film, I was in tears, there are some of the best fan service moments I’ve seen. I don’t want to delve into spoilers but the last 80 minutes of the film are some of Snyder’s best filmmaking in his career. I hope to see the Snyderverse restored, expanded on, and continued in the future. This is better than any film the MCU has put out yet. I loved this film so much and I can’t say that enough. To me this film is perfection. 

#restorethesnyderverse

Zack Snyder’s Justice League Trailer

You can watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter.