[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.]
Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife is packed with callbacks to the original 1980s films, not just drawing upon the iconography established by Reitman’s father but also bringing back much of the original cast, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson. It also chose to pay tribute to the fourth member of the Ghostbusting team, actor and filmmaker Harold Ramis — but went too far in doing so.
As Egon Spengler, Ramis was one of the original film’s most memorable characters, and Ramis also had a long and fruitful career as a director of films including Caddyshack and Groundhog Day; he died in 2014 at the age of 69 after an illness, and Afterlife is dedicated to his memory. Which is fitting, given that much of Afterlife is literally haunted by the presence of Egon, whose ghostly presence makes itself known in multiple scenes, as his estranged family explores the farmhouse and workshop he left behind after his passing in the opening sequence of the film.
Although it’s a bit disconcerting that young Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) is relatively blasé about the discovery that her ghostly grandfather is playing chess with her (after all, man, she’s a scientist), the practical and digital effects used to create the sense of Egon’s presence have plenty of charm to them.
Well, charm, but also a decidedly bittersweet component — after all, this ghost is trying to connect with the family he’d left behind well before his death, a complicated emotional undercurrent that a better film would explore more honestly, and here gets brushed aside for the big emotional reveal: a fully rendered CGI ghost version of Ramis, who appears during the film’s final showdown with the newly resurrected Gozer to help his old friends save the world, and hug his daughter (Carrie Coon) one last time before evaporating into stardust.