Review: Ghostbusters – Frozen Empire

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire poster

Sony might be getting the hang of this whole “Ghostbusters” thing.

Following the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the Spengler family have moved into the old New York firehouse, and with it the mantle of protecting the city from ghostly invaders. But an ancient evil stirs, and all of the Ghostbusters need to rally against it before it threatens the whole world.

Directed by Gil Kenan (director of extremely middling movies such as the Poltergeist remake, and City of Ember (which also starred Bill Murray)) Frozen Empire has mostly arrived without much fanfare, as if there was a silent collective acknowledgement that yes, Sony will make sequels to their 2021 movie. The studio is very determined that their “Ghost Corps” universe get off the ground and, for the most part, Frozen Empire acquits itself quite well.

Getting the negatives out of the way first… 2021’s Afterlife was a love letter to the first two films, and while your mileage will vary, it was a good movie. It passed the torch from one generation to the new with enough reverence (and too much nostalgia bait) that it felt like the series could move forward to new and better things.
So why do we need more of that in the sequel? Sony jumped in with both feet; a trailer that shows everything, and posters that show how many characters there are (too many) including the return of 80s stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts, among others! The movie is bulging, ballooning out of shape like Slimer eating too much food; the amount of characters it is trying to pay lip service to. Just let the new cast breathe?

Still from Ghostbusters Frozen Empire
A cast of thousands!

There are some strange script writing decisions that make little sense. For example, Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore says to the new team that they chose the firehouse because of its significance with the astral plane. Fans of the franchise will remember that they bought the firehouse because Ray liked the fireman’s pole, and Egon expressly stated that it was not to their specifications. Moreover, this new statement of Winston’s has no bearing on the plot whatsoever.

So compared to the relatively grounded, relatively straight-forward storyline that was 2021’s Afterlife, Frozen Empire feels complex for complexity’s sake.

That was quite a lot of negativity, but the positives are still strong. Long time fans of the franchise should be familiar with the cartoon of the 1990s, The Real Ghostbusters, and the lasting impact it had with kids at the time. The cartoon really had “monster of the week” storytelling, but in a lot of ways Ghostbusters isn’t anything else. Big spooky monster shows up, regular joes arrive and dispose of it. Frozen Empire is exactly that.

Still from Ghostbusters Frozen Empire
They are cute, but do we still need nostalgia-bait like this?

The film is creepy as well. Some scenes are quite grisly, with an opening scene including a gramophone handle turning with only the hand of its operator, frozen, attached to it. While there are some fun japes, a lot of the spectres are chilling to behold.
The returning old cast might be overused, but their initial inclusion feels correct. Ray running a pawn shop and reality show about possessed objects makes sense (it also means Dan Aykroyd can mostly play himself) and seeing the Ecto-1 race around New York again with new traps and gadgets. It feels right.

There’s enough spookiness, enough investigation and ancient mythology, as well as cool action sequences, that Frozen Empire feels like a new Ghostbusters movie. It doesn’t go too heavy with the humour (ala 2016) and while there are too many characters, there are moments of character progression for our new generation. James Acaster is a god fit for this franchise as well!

Perhaps they are going for a trilogy, but Sony can stop trotting out Murry, Hudson, and Aykroyd. Or at least dial back their screen time. It is nice to see them together, but that was what Afterlife was for.

3 out of 5 stars

Additional Marshmallows: Honestly, no trailer for you. It feels like it shows too much.

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