Let’s see how it ends.
The final, or at least currently final, entry in the series comes a whopping 18 years after the last one. To say this was stuck in development hell is a bit of an understatement, and the chaotic nature of the filming schedule (at one point I think this was going to be a series of shorts) leaves this one as odd as the rest of the series.
Lets just get the negatives out of the way first. The special effects here are bad. Real bad. Like Windows 95 Paint bad at points. However, it oddly works. The series has relied on practical effects for so long it is a bummer to see the forced entry into CGI territory here. The cheesiness of the effects lends itself well to the fun of the narrative.
The biggest negative I have is the lingering cheeseball humor that doesn’t fit in what becomes a rather powerful commentary of mental illness. Reggie now has dementia, but it is unclear which reality is real. In one, he is in a nursing home where an aged Tall Man appears as a nice fellow patient. In another, Reggie is still sporting his badass four-barrel shotgun and his friends are all alive and kicking ass.
The first film has been hailed as a strong representation of an adolescent coping with trauma. I think the entire series showcases how we wish to be part of something greater than ourselves. Reggie, a middle-aged ice cream vendor would like nothing more than his old friend Jody to still be around, and for them to be locked in combat with an ancient evil.
Staples of teenage fantasy are abundant in the series. Reggie always (almost) gets the girl, never dies, and always manages to pull through. He imagines himself in a great story. We see the consequences of living in fantasy when he is suffering from dementia and doesn’t know how to cope with harsh reality. We see a heartbroken Mike try to communicate with him, but he seems discouraged at every turn.
The acting in this entry is probably the best of the series. Grappling with real issues allows the actors to grasp onto something with more emotion.
Of course, the other half of the movie is an over-the-top imagining of the apocalypse where all seems lost… until Reggie arrives!
As with the last several entries of the series, the divide is going to leave people liking one more than the other. I was surprised at the genuine emotion present in this entry. For me, the cheesy fun, while fun, did drag down the major points of the narrative. However, it still somehow works. Without the cheese the tragedy wouldn’t fully hit, even if it is sometimes a frustrating watch.
In a lot of ways, the finale sends off a better series than it was. Even in chaotic teenage fantasy we can find meaning. Or, we’re just idiots forcing meaning onto nonsense. I’m going to go with the former.
This series is worth watching for fans of action/comedy/horror with some surprisingly emotional moments. Despite all the flaws, this is still one of my favorites.