If there was a franchise which was a prime candidate for jumping on the current 3D bandwagon, then the Final Destination series is it. For a franchise which depends on offing as many people as possible in ever more inventive ways, the options to throw hitherto un-thought of body parts out into the audience must have been too good to miss. Hence last Autumn cinema-goers were treated to a surprisingly effective 3d instalment and now it hits Blu-ray with both a 3d and a 2D transfer. For the lowdown on how well the 3D works in the home, then please refer to the Video section. This section, as always, will concentrate on the quality of the movie itself.
The film begins in a very inventive way, the credits stylishly and cleverly referencing various deaths from the first three movies. Various decapitations and gory piercings are re-enacted as skeletal X-rays over flashy credits. It works well, and promises a fresh approach that is sadly not carried over into the movie itself.
As always, a catastrophic event kicks off the film. In the past we have had a plane crash, multiple pile-up, and a roller coaster accident. The problem is, these big events have always been the show-stopping start to the films, and have in many ways acted as a metaphor for what is to follow. Number 2 (the multiple vehicle pile-up) has the most horrifying and realistic beginning, and goes on to be the best of the series. Number 1 has the plane crash which really does seem realistic and sets up the second strongest film in the franchise. Up until now, the third film's roller coaster accident has been the worst set-up - but this film manages to come up with a beginning that is even worse.
Four friends have gone to a stock car race for the evening. Cocky, arrogant Hunt (Nick Zano) is there because he hopes to see a crash, and has bought his ex girlfriend Janet (Haley Webb). They are double dating with Nick (Bobby Campo) and his girlfriend Lori (Shantel Van Santen). When Nick has a vision of a disaster to follow when a technician leaves a bolt in one of the vehicles (all the better to fly out of the screen at you), he encourages his friends to leave. This they do, dragging a few reluctant audience members with them. Subsequently, what Nick saw happens exactly as he envisaged except that several people who should have died have escaped. Of course, death would not be so easily cheated - and begins to stalk the people who got away.
What follows is the usual Final Destination plotline of death gradually catching up with each person in turn, in the order that they would have died in Nick's vision until the main protagonists finally realise that it will be their turn next. There is nothing original here in terms of plot, and nor would the audience want there to be. You go to a final destination move for just one thing - the deaths. For those who are not familiar with the series, the whole modus operandi is that each death occurs in a random way brought about by circumstances coinciding. In this way, if we didn't already know that death was stalking the people - then the events could easily be explained away by fate. It is a clever technique that was originally used in The Omen by Richard Donner - making the deaths ambiguous. Therefore, this series succeeds or fails by the imagination that has been shown by the makers in staging the various gory events. This is not a film that is going to depend on fine performances by the actors.
It is unavoidable that in a 3D horror film like this, that many things are going to be thrown at the audience. Whether these are the aforementioned bolt, or blood, guts, and intestines, the deaths are going to literally be “in your face”. The problem is, that there is very much a mixed bag of them here. Some of them are very inventive and stand on a par with some of the series best moments. There's a great, cringeworthy scene set in a salon which has misdirection laid on top of misdirection and works incredibly well, and the final death scene is incredibly well handled and quite distressing. But for each decent one, there are also several rip-offs of deaths that appeared in earlier films - and a new low point in the series involving a bath that had the audience in hysterics when I saw it in the cinema (and not in a good way). It is almost, at times, as if the team behind the franchise were thinking more of what would look good in 3D rather that what would work well within the film. Of course, in these early days for 3D cinema - this is inevitable, and it is certainly not the only franchise to put out its weakest effort yet in 3D. Ice Age 3 : Dawn of the Dinosaurs also fell victim to this last year, and it is to be hoped that once 3D becomes more accepted the film-makers will cease pandering to it and instead embrace it as a incidental process as James Cameron has done so successfully.
So, the laws of diminutive returns most definitely apply here. There is less imagination shown, the whole concept is rather stale, and the film just doesn't have the impact that the first two in the series had. Yet, somehow, it is hard to dislike this film. The four main leads may be rather identikit in appearance and attitude to characters in the other films, but they turn in winning, likeable performances - apart from Zano - who is required to play arrogant and unlikeable and does so very well. The direction is competently handled by David R Ellis, who also directed the series' second and strongest instalment, and he clearly understands what is required of him. He directs with flair and it is not his fault that the writer's imagination seems to have deserted them in places. The film may not have some of the more serious ideas behind it as the first two parts, being more of a rollercoaster ride like number 3, but Ellis keeps the pace moving well and never allows the film to falter.
Ultimately, the film does pale in comparison to the earlier films of the series but this does not necessarily make it a bad film in its own right. It will never win any awards for acting, or direction - and it may simply be an excuse to see various people killed off in gory ways - but as a Saturday night beer and popcorn movie it has a lot to commend it.
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