The Final Destination Review
"Of course there's a crash, there's always a f#@cking crash!"
The Final Destination was supposed to be the last in the series, hence the lack of a numeral and the use of the definite article. So why then, you might ask, was there a Final Destination 5 released this year? Well if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get a horror franchise back on its feet faster than an un-killable homicidal manic, it’s a good showing at the box office. Much to New Line’s surprise The Final Destination was a hit, taking more than any of the previous three Final Destination movies and ending up the highest grossing 3D horror movie to date.
Why the fourth installment in a horror franchise that had exhausted its concept before the first film’s end credits was such a success is something of a mystery. The only logical explanation was that it was shot in 3D which was still something of a novelty in those pre-Avatar days. New Line had originally planned to shoot Final Destination 3 in 3D which would have made more sense given that film’s suffix but it was deemed too expensive and complicated at the time. However with the fourth installment planned as the franchise’s finale, the studio decided that shooting in 3D would give the series an ideal send off. The plan worked, so much so in fact that Final Destination 5 was also shot in 3D and was almost as successful as its predecessor.
For those that aren’t familiar with the Final Destination films the concept is very simple, at the start of the movie there is some terrible disaster (plane crash, multiple freeway pileup, roller coaster accident, stock car crash or collapsing bridge) about which someone has a premonition. As a result of this foresight a group of people avoid their appointment with Death, who subsequently comes after them, presumably annoyed because they slipped through his boney fingers the first time. The rest of the film then consists of a series of increasingly convoluted deaths as the filmmakers dream up more and more bizarre but inventive methods of offing their cast. That’s it, and quite how New Line have managed to stretch that concept out to five films and counting is as mysterious as the popularity of the films themselves.
Any pretence of these films actually being scary has long since vanished and by the time of The (not so) Final Destination the films had morphed into out-and-out comedies. The fun really comes from seeing just what kind of ludicrous death scenes the filmmakers have dreamt up this time. The film toys with its audience, often setting up a series of dangers and then blind siding the viewer with something completely different. These setups often result in the movie looking like a demented health and safety film with Death acting like some kind of cosmic Jeremy Beadle. Half the fun comes from trying to work out how each person is going to die and giggling at the ridiculous setups.
This being the intended last film of the series the opening credits recreate a number of memorable deaths from the previous three films using an x-ray effect that is actually quite effective. After that the film begins at a stock car racetrack where we are introduced to our protagonists, the cocky, arrogant Hunt (Nick Zano) who is there because he hopes to see a crash (he’ll get more than he bargained for), his ex girlfriend Janet (Haley Webb), his friend Nick (Bobby Campo) and Nick’s girlfriend Lori (Shantel Van Santen). Whilst watching the race a technician leaves a bolt in one of the vehicles (all the better to fly out of the screen at you), which causes a racing car (bearing the number 666 of course) to crash into the stands. This provides the filmmakers with the chance to kill everyone in spectacular style before revealing it was just a premonition experienced by Nick. He convinces his friends that something terrible is about to happen and they leave the stands, dragging a few reluctant crowd members with them, including Mykelti Williamson; presumably Death came to collect Williamson's career soon after the release of Forrest Gump. Subsequently, what Nick saw happens exactly as he envisaged except that several people who should have died have escaped. After that the film becomes a series of extended death scenes, as the cast are bumped off in the order they died in Nick’s premonition.
All told there are 11 deaths in The Final Destination, the largest number of any film in the franchise. The unique selling point of these movies is the way that Death kills the protagonists in an apparently random series of coincidences that might be considered accidents if we didn’t know the Grim Reaper was after them. It is the imaginative and usually gory nature of the deaths that makes these movies fun but there are only so many ways that you can kill someone before you start repeating yourself. By the fourth film, the writers were clearly struggling and some of the deaths are less inventive than others. There is however one set piece in a beauty salon that is wonderfully creative scene where misdirection after misdirection is used to great effect. There is also a death that deliberately references a memorable one from the first film and even happens as the character who is about to die mentions deja vu.
The deaths themselves were created using a combination of both practical effects and CGI, some of which work better than others and as is common these days, there is excessive use of CG blood which never looks realistic. However the filmmakers clearly had 3D in mind as they planned the deaths, so many of them result in blood, guts and various body parts being thrown at the camera. That said, the stereography is actually quite good and despite being very gimmicky at times, it does at least spice up what would otherwise be a rather stale film. The acting and directing are both competent and whilst The Final Destination won’t be winning any awards, it is well made and delivers exactly what it promises. Unfortunately towards the end, the plot becomes as convoluted as one of its own death scenes with premonition piled upon premonition and any semblance of coherency thrown right out the window along with someone's intestines.
Thankfully the film itself is surprisingly brief, with The Final Destination providing a fun way of killing (pardon the pun) 82 minutes and if you’re a fan of the franchise you will know exactly what to expect. Whilst the use of 3D lacks any subtlety whatsoever and would no doubt be frowned upon in these days where dimensionality is used in a more restrained and artful manner, it does suit the movie perfectly. If you’re looking for meaning and insight then this film probably isn’t for you but if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if someone was sucked down a pool’s vacuum drainage system then this could be just the ticket.