Ghostbusters: Afterlife is finally upon us. After several delays caused by an actual doomsday plague (let’s not read any more into that), the long-awaited sequel to the beloved comedy franchise is sliming theaters around the world with its ectoplasmic goo. And the verdict is in! It is, without question, a movie.
But I’m not interested in talking about whether Ghostbusters: Afterlife is “good” or “bad,” or to nitpick the film’s many beats of shameless fan service, such as "How is that 60-year-old ambulance still operational?" or “Why would Egon build himself a pole when he was sacred of sliding down the one in the firehouse?” No, G-Buddies, I’m here to talk about Ivo Shandor (J.K. Simmons), the mad architect behind the events of the original film who returns in Ghostbusters: Afterlife to execute a multi-decade thirst trap that blows up in his face instantly.
Shandor is an important character in the original Ghostbusters, although he never appears onscreen. He’s the guy who built Dana Barrett’s haunted-ass high rise as an antenna to the spirit realm, meant to summon Gozer (Olivia Wilde) and bring about the end of the world. We don’t learn too much about him apart from the fact that he loathed humanity and engaged in shady cult behavior. Oh, and he super loves Gozer. That bit is important.
Shandor returns in Ghostbusters: Afterlife as a dusty corpse in a glass coffin. Turns out he had an ore mine out in Oklahoma that he used to harvest all the spooky metal he needed to build his ghost tower. Furthermore, the mine is a literal portal to the world of the dead, which is both an alternate dimension and in the center of the earth. (Do not ask any further questions, because the answers simply do not exist.) The workers in his mine gradually succumbed to madness and threw themselves into this gateway pit one by one, with their souls fueling Gozer’s resurrection. Then, Shandor built an elaborate shrine to Gozer and had himself boxed up like Snow White when he died, so that his body would rest comfortably next to the hell portal to wait for her prophesized return.
Shandor built this whole operation with Love, note the capital L. My man is head over heels, and he wants nothing more than for all the cool shit he did for Gozer to be the first thing she sees when she finally strides into this dimension. (Canonically, Gozer is neither male nor female, but the Sumerian demon god presents as female in both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters: Afterlife.) He even put on his finest outfit before locking himself in his dead body aquarium. He’s dressed like a zeppelin thief. He looks like a guy trying to get a steampunk circus off the ground. He looks like one of the Nutcracker’s understudies. He’s dressed like Cogsworth. Ivo Shandor breathed his final breath dressed like the cruise director of a Prussian casino ship.
And when Gozer finally arrives, conjured into being by the anguished souls of countless sacrificial worshippers, Shandor springs back to life and arises from his crystal coffin to profess his literal undying love. “Check it out,” he says (I’m paraphrasing). “I built you this rockin’ cave full of your favorite things – spooky carvings and the screams of the damned. And I had my finest suit pressed and dry-cleaned back in the Truman administration. Perhaps we could smooch, and rule the world as a supernatural power couple? Like Boo-oncé and Jay-Zombie?”
Without a word, Gozer grabs my Shandude by his skull whisps and tears him right the hell in half. Just pulls him apart like a Fruit Roll-Up. Shredded straight down the middle like Superman bisecting the Yellow Pages because some kid at the bus stop asked him to do something cool for their TikTok. The failure of Shandor’s 70-year thirst trap is so immediate that my brain barely had time to register Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons in that fancy lad costume.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife doesn’t make too many big offers – it’s a safe sequel/reboot that seems content to pacify its audience for most of its two-hour runtime by making extremely loud references to the original film and its accompanying toy line. (The Ecto-1 has a gunner seat, which it never did in Ghostbusters but was a prominent feature of the official Ecto-1 toy, and the camera dramatically zooms in on Bokeem Woodbine in one scene as he says, “Who you gonna call?” to a room full of imprisoned children.) That Ivo Shandor getting dolled up for his crush only to step on the most gigantic rake in history should be the film’s biggest offer is a revelation that will delight me to the end of my days.
There’s an entire movie around that moment, sure, but I don’t give a shit about it. Watching Ivo Shandor spit terrible game at a demon with a Brigette Nielsen haircut while dressed like an SNL sketch about Beefeater Gin was worth the price of admission all on its own. He meets the immediate and untimely end that every close-up magician deserves, and I cannot wait until Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available on home video so I can watch that part and only that part over and over again until the sun becomes black as sackcloth, and the moon becomes as blood.
They also reveal what was the toughest shot for each of them to pull off and why.
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