If there's one subgenre guaranteed to make sound commercial sense come rain or shine, then surely it's the ever dependable teen horror movie. Slap a few unknowns together on a shoestring, regurgitate a choice selection of tried and tested scenarios and characters, add a generous dosage of blood and guts, and you're away. Time has proven consistently that movie-going teenagers like nothing more than seeing their peers sliced 'n diced on the big screen (even if those alleged teenagers are invariably more like late twenties). It is, to quote a pubescent Eddie Furlong, “easy money”.
It comes as no surprise then that Final Destination, somewhat of an unexpected sleeper hit at the turn of the millennium, should now have yielded a further two sequels. An original and enjoyable take on the conventions of the slasher, the original hinged on an innovative concept that fate itself was the harbinger of doom, and used this setting to despatch its hapless teenage victims in a variety of gruesome and inventive ways. Unsurprisingly then, original director James Wong returns for this second sequel with very much of a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' mindset, which sees the now familiar concept trotted out for a third time.
The main promotional image of the movie is the rollercoaster set-piece which opens the film, and provides the most memorable set piece. The ride itself is somewhat of a fitting metaphor for the movie itself. It's an exciting and enjoyable thrill ride. But it's also calculating, and entirely predictable and conventional. As a streamlined and efficient piece of commercial filmmaking I really can't fault it. But there is an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu, of going through the motions one more time. There's nothing here that deviates from the template set out in the original movie. If anything, the film appears to be striving to crowd please by fitting the archetype of genre in every way. There's a knowing documentary included in the bonus features detailing the standard conventions of the teen slasher, and when watching this movie it's difficult to imagine Wong and company weren't sat clipboard in hand with a list of stereotypes and giving each one a big red tick once they had shoehorned them into the runtime.
Whilst the sheer predictability of the format compromises the film on an artistic front, Final Destination 3 certainly delivers in terms of undemanding popcorn entertainment. With a virtually non existent plot, the movie is carried along by a string of gruesome set pieces, and thankfully these don't disappoint. Wong is extremely adept at meticulously building up the carnage and when it arrives it satisfies unreservedly. The only sticking point is the movies over-reliance on somewhat ropey CGI effects. Allegedly, an extra million dollars was spent on creating the additional scenes for the gimmicky “choose their fate” version of the film, and you can't help but feel the money could have been better used tidying up some of the sloppy visual effects. Whilst everything moves along nicely, the concept of the film is not without its problems. Because of the nature of the storyline everything becomes incredibly predictable, and it's possible to pretty much guess scenes before they even occur. The film's technique focuses more on the intricate glorification of the deaths, and any tension within is created not through the thought of what will happen, but more the wait for it to occur. What this creates is an aesthetic that is a real hoot to watch, but the knock-on effect is that the movie plays more like a twisted comedy of errors than delivers any of the scares associated with the genre.
Final Destination 3 is what it is, and certainly pulls no punches. It's convention itself, and so anyone expecting a fresh approach to the genre will be sadly disappointed. It does however have a great awareness of the expectations of its core audience, and the movie unashamedly plays to the gallery and delivers exactly what you would expect in a clinical, but nevertheless enjoyable fashion.
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