The arrival of a belated sequel to Ghostbusters is the cause of excitement for many. Completely ignoring the divisive 2016 reboot, writer-director Jason Reitman’s Afterlife is filled with nostalgia for the original film (which was directed by Jason’s father, Ivan Reitman). Part and parcel to this is a wealth of fan-pleasing nods to the 1984 supernatural comedy classic. If you haven’t seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife yet, beware of spoilers ahead as we head out on an Easter egg hunt…
20. Demon arms bursting through the armchair
The eerie opening sequence of Ghostbusters: Afterlife shows us the final moments of Egon Spengler, with actor Bob Gunton standing in for the late Harold Ramis. After an intense confrontation, Egon fails to catch the fearsome ghost he faces off against – then, whilst the now-elderly Ghostbuster catches his breath in an armchair, demonic hands burst up and grab him.
Anyone familiar with the original Ghostbusters will be sure to recognise this as a direct recreation of one of the scariest moments in the 1984 film, when much the same fate befalls Sigourney Weaver‘s Dana Barrett. Of course, in Dana’s case this was a precursor to her becoming the earthly vessel for Zuul, the Gate-Keeper, whereas in Egon’s case in Afterlife the attack kills him.
19. The Book of Revelations quote
When the Spengler family – Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) – arrive at the unsightly home of the recently deceased Egon, a passage from the Bible’s Book of Revelations is written on the fence: “And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair; and the moon became as blood.”
You don’t have to be a biblical scholar for those words to sound familiar. This very passage is recited in full in the original Ghostbusters by Ray (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston (Ernie Hudson) whilst the duo are driving back to headquarters in Ecto-1. Later in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we see that present-day Ray has the name of the passage – Revelation 6:12 – tattooed on his forearm.
18. The stack of books
There’s another nod to the original Ghostbusters when the Spenglers make their way into the ‘murder house’ of the reclusive eccentric whom the locals dubbed ‘Dirt Farmer.’ Amongst all the dust and strange artefacts cluttering the walls, there is also a free-standing piles of books near the wall, reaching almost as high as the ceiling.
Early in the original Ghostbusters, Peter, Ray and Egon encounter a similar pile of books shortly before their very first ghost sighting in the library. This prompts Bill Murray‘s Peter to dryly remark, “no human being would stack books like this.” With this in mind, the presence of such a book pile in Egon’s house might also be considered an early hint that his ghost is still there.
17. ‘Spook Central’ appears in the hieroglyphs
After Phoebe starts summer school and befriends Podcast (Logan Kim), the conspiracy-obsessed youngster proceeds to fill her in on all the local legends – many of which, we soon learn, are very much based in fact. Most impressively, Podcast shows Phoebe the entrance to the old mines, which look more like the archaeological site at Petra than anything originating in America.
Attentive audience members should note the name Shandor Mining Company, and the mining of the metal selenium: as discussed later in the film, Ivo Shandhar designed and built Dana’s Manhattan apartment building, and selenium was a key component of its construction. Watch closer, and we can also see the design of the building and its rooftop temple in the mine’s hieroglyph-like carvings.
16. That red thing in Egon’s basement
While some of the clutter around Egon’s house is just random stuff we’ve never seen before, a lot of it is also items left over from earlier ghost-busting adventures. When Phoebe ventures down to her grandfather’s secret basement room (via a firefighter’s pole, of course), eagle-eyed viewers may recognise one item in particular.
This is a certain red electronic device, pushed around on wheels in much the style of a school TV back in the 80s. Exactly what this device is meant to do, we still have no idea – but we see it briefly in the original Ghostbusters, among the many pieces of equipment removed from their facility at the university when the department of parapsychology is shut down.
15. Egon’s favourite snacks
As much as Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a continuation of the original Ghostbusters story, it’s also a deeply affectionate tribute to the sadly missed Harold Ramis, putting the character of Egon Spengler centre-stage in a way he never was in the original two films. As such, Afterlife contains a few nods to one of Egon’s little quirks: his love of sweet treats.
When Phoebe first finds her grandfather’s Ghostbuster overalls, there’s a crumpled Nestle Crunch wrapper in the top pocket: the exact same candy bar that Peter gives Egon as a reward in the original movie. Viewers should also remember the moment from the original Ghostbusters where Egon uses a Twinkie to illustrate the level of psychokinetic energy in New York, so it’s hardly surprising the kids also find a Twinkie in Ecto-1’s glove compartment.
14. “Switch me on”
After young Phoebe discovers her grandfather’s ghostbusting gear and big brother Trevor fixes up Ecto-1, we see them venture forth on their first ghost hunt with much the same uncertainty that Egon, Peter and Ray had when they first caught Slimer. Listen closely, and you’ll spot a little callback to the original when Phoebe first dons a proton pack.
As Phoebe gears up to try the pack out for the first time, she asks Podcast, “switch me on” – the very words Ray uses when he first asks Egon to power up his pack for him in the hotel elevator. Not unlike Egon and Peter, Podcast naturally looks nervous when the pack starts to hum loudly. In addition, we can’t fail to note at this point that Podcast has claimed Ray’s old Ghostbuster goggles as his own.
13. “Ray’s Occult”
After Phoebe, Podcast and Trevor wind up in the local jail when their first ghost-busting mission trashes half the town, Sheriff Domingo (Bokeem Woodbine) drops one of the most obvious Ghostbuers references of them all by asking the kids, “Who you gonna call?” Rather than call her mother, Phoebe dials the number she noted down earlier from the old Ghostbusters commercial she saw on YouTube.
This call gets Phoebe through to Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz at his Manhattan bookstore, Ray’s Occult Books. This marks one of Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s few overt references to Ghostbusters II, as in the 1989 sequel Ray has opened this place of business to get by after the events of the original saw the Ghostbusters sued into bankruptcy.
12. The transformation of the Key Master and the Gate-Keeper
By the final act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the plot starts to hit some very similar beats to the original film, as the stage is set for the dreaded Gozer to once again venture forth into our dimension and kick-start the apocalypse. A key part of this is, of course, the earthly manifestation of the Key Master and the Gate-Keeper, who this time around possess the bodies of Gary (Paul Rudd) and Callie (Carrie Coon).
In the temple, Gary and Callie are struck by mystic purple lightning and transformed into giant devil dogs. Observant viewers will note that this moment is captured from the exact same camera angle used in the original Ghostbusters. Earlier on, there’s another overt nod to the original when the possessed Callie tells her children, “there is no Mom, only Zuul” – a play on Dana Barrett’s line, “There is no Dana, only Zuul.”
11. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Men
It’s debatable whether or not the presence of Mr Stay Puft in Ghostbusters: Afterlife can really be called an Easter egg, considering how prominently the scene in question has been featured in the film’s marketing. Even so, it would feel wrong not to mention it here, as it’s a very clear callback to one of the most beloved scenes in the original Ghostbusters, but with a fun twist.
Rather than facing off against a single gargantuan marshmallow man, Paul Rudd’s Gary finds himself under attack from hordes of actual marshmallow-sized men. While the conclusion of Ghostbusters: Afterlife doesn’t involve quite as much melted marshmallow as the 1984 film, we do at least get to see Podcast covered in fluff in the finale after a struggle with the cute-but-deadly little blighters.
10. Some familiar sound effects can be heard
As Ghostbusters: Afterlife is co-written and directed by the son of the original film’s director, it enjoys a closer familial connection to the source material than some sequel/reboots. In this spirit, the filmmakers tried to utilise as much from 1984’s Ghostbusters as they could, right down to using some of the exact same sound materials.
Sound mixer Will Files tells Variety that the proton pack noises used in the movie come from digitised copies of the original master recordings used for the original film, with a little trickery to make them sound as though they hadn’t been used in 30 years. As if that wasn’t enough, when Phoebe slides down the pole into Egon’s basement, the squeak we hear is the exact same sound from when Ray first slides down the pole in the original.
9. Egon’s toaster
While the plot of Ghostbusters: Afterlife may draw most heavily on that of the original Ghostbusters with no direct reference to the events of Ghostbusters II, there are still little hints of the 1989 sequel to be found. Look very closely, and you may spot one key memento of the Ghostbusters’ battle with the evil Vigo and his river of slime in the kitchen of Egon’s farm house.
The artefact in question is the very same toaster featured in a key scene from Ghostbusters II. It may just sit there looking like a normal toaster in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but in the 1989 film it was filled with the ‘psycho-reactive’ slime as part of Ray and Egon’s experiments. Memorably, they prompted the toaster to dance by playing it Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher.
8. Spores, moulds and fungus
Amongst the wealth of bric-a-brac cluttering the ‘dirt farmer’s humble abode, there is evidence of the one leisure activity that Egon was known to have enjoyed. Fans of the original Ghostbusters will doubtless remember Annie Potts’ Janine asking if Egon has any hobbies, to which he replies, “I collect spores, moulds and fungus.”
Watch closely when Phoebe ventures down into Egon’s personal sanctum, and we can see some petri dishes bearing such labels as ‘microconidia’ and ‘penicillium sinus,’ alongside jars containing what appear to be large mushrooms. That’s right – Egon’s collection of spores, moulds and fungus is still alive and well even after his demise.
7. Tobin’s Spirit Guide
When Dana Barrett first enters the Ghostbusters office and tells them her bizarre story about the eggs frying on her kitchen counter, the void inside her refrigerator and the demon dog roaring “Zuul,” Egon says he will look the name up in what refers to as “the usual literature – Tobin’s Spirit Guide.” We’re given to assume this is an indispensable compendium of all things occult.
So, when our new young heroes in Ghostbusters: Afterlife need to do some research of their own into Ivo Shandhar, Gozer and their associated ghoulish entities, no prizes for guessing where they look: Egon’s old copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Perhaps unsurprisingly, an actual book bearing this title has been released as part of the merchandising for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
6. A nod to Ivan Reitman’s very first movie
This particular Easter Egg is a little different, as it doesn’t refer back to the Ghostbusters films themselves – but even so, it’s still a reference that very much keeps things in the family. When the Spenglers first make their way up the sleepy main street of their new home Summerville, they pass what looks like a small, old fashioned movie theatre, with the names of its current features written in removable lettering on the banner above.
One of the titles listed prominently on this board is Cannibal Girls. Sounds like a creepy, trashy old B-movie; in fact, it’s a madcap 1973 comedy horror which was the directorial debut of one Ivan Reitman, the man who would call the shots on Ghostbusters eleven years later. Bonus trivia: Cannibal Girls was also an early film for actor Eugene Levy (American Pie, TV’s Schitt’s Creek).
5. Paul Rudd loves Baskin Robbins
Here’s another curious Easter Egg which doesn’t refer back to the earlier Ghostbusters movies, but rather the earlier work of one of the film’s best-known figures. Gary Grooberson actor Paul Rudd is best known for a) barely ageing a day since his breakthrough role in 1995’s Clueless and b) playing Scott Lang/Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the original Ant-Man, we meet Rudd’s Scott as he is released from prison, and lands his first job as an ex-convict in a Baskin Robbins ice cream parlour. It seems like more than a coincidence, then, that when Rudd’s Gary hits the supermarket in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, he picks out a tub of – you guessed it – Baskin Robbins ice cream.
4. The brain scanner
In the original Ghostbusters, Louis Tully is nothing more than Dana’s somewhat overbearing neighbour until midway through, when a demon dog attack transforms him into Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer. When he inevitably ends up in the Ghostbusters office, Egon scans Louis/Vinz’s brain using what suspiciously looks like a basic kitchen colander with a bunch of wires attached.
This is yet another of the mementos from the old days which Egon kept afterwards, as young Podcast (surely the film’s closest equivalent to Louis) tries it on for size at one point. This, alas, is about as close as we get to a Rick Moranis cameo, as the largely retired actor declined to return for a cameo alongside his fellow surviving cast members of the first two films.
3. Gozer asks, “Are you a God?”
Everyone remembers when the Ghostbusters first faced off against Gozer (then portrayed by Slavitza Jovan). When Dan Aykroyd’s Ray steps forward and asks her to go home in a polite but overly verbose manner, the malevolent deity asks, “are you a god?” When Ray replies no, Gozer almost blasts the Ghostbusters off the roof.
This time around, when the three surviving Ghostbusters again face Gozer (now played by Olivia Wilde) and are again asked, “are you a god?”, Peter and Winston immediately look at Ray wearily, recalling Winston’s earlier rant, “when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say ‘yes!'” This time Ray answers in the positive, although he doesn’t seem too confident in that.
2. Ivo Shandor finally appears
This particular Easter Egg is just a little different to the others, as it presents us with something we haven’t seen before – but which we might have, had events played out a little differently back in the original Ghostbusters. Wealthy apocalyptic occultist Ivo Shandor, the man responsible for unleashing Gozer in the modern world, is finally seen in his mortal form, portrayed by actor J.K. Simmons (of Jason Reitman’s earlier hit Juno).
Only the most obsessive Ghostbusters fans may be aware that, originally, the plan wasn’t for the Ghostbusters to immediately face off against Gozer in the grand finale of the 1984 film. Instead, the god was initially intended to take the form of Ivo Shandor, a role in which the filmmakers intended to cast Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman). This may have never happened, but now we have finally met Shandor himself.
1. Dana tests Peter’s psychic ability
As the end credits roll on Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Sigourney Weaver‘s name comes up in the cast list, prompting the audience to collectively say, “hang on, when was she in it?” Then we get Weaver’s cameo in a mid-credits scene, in which she and Bill Murray’s Peter – presumably in the home they now share – sit at a table with Peter wired to an electric shock cable, while he tries to see the images on test cards facing away from him.
This is, of course, a call back to the very same alleged experiment that Peter was performing when we first meet him in the original Ghostbusters. That time around, Peter kept giving shocks to Steven Tash’s nerdy male student, whilst pretending Jennifer Runyon’s pretty female student has given only correct answers. Dana belatedly dishes out justice by deliberately giving Peter numerous shocks of his own.