In a year that has been filled with countless klunkers, it’s always with a mild sense of apprehension that I now enter the theatre. However, I have always had a weak spot for the Final Destination series. When I saw the original Final Destination in 2000, its concept was extremely intriguing. It’s so simple, yet limitless in its creative origins: A young man or woman will have a terrifying premonition of some deadly disaster, subsequently saving a group of about 6-10 people only to find them picked off one by one down the road by some unseen malevolence, namely Death itself.
The scenarios in which the characters get killed off know no bounds, and it is on this principle alone that this franchise has thrived. Though Final Destination 5 sticks true to the formula that drove the prior installments, it offers up a few new elements that imbue it with a sense of fun, awe, and horror that has been sorely missing from the last few sequels.
The film stars Nicholas D’ Agosto as Sam, the guy who has the key premonition. In it, he saves his best friend (Miles Fisher, channeling a young but bloated Tom Cruise), his doe-eyed girlfriend (Emma Bell), his douche-of-a-boss (David Koechner, slumming it), the aspiring gymnast (Ellen Wroe), the bespectacled overweight guy (P.J. Byrne), the super hottie (Jacqueline Wood), and the requisite black guy (Arlen Escarpeta).
The acting is pretty stale throughout, interspersed with a few decent scenes. Agosto is a little too vanilla as the lead, and Fisher bites off more than he can chew, but overall the acting is stronger than in previous sequels. Courtney B. Vance also makes a fun, though arbitrary, turn as a detective who tries to pin the characters for the crimes. In a franchise like this though, we don’t come for Oscar-caliber performances. We come for grisly scenes of chaos that invariably end in death, and this chapter delivers in spades.
The opening sequence is easily the best of the franchise (it just pulls ahead of Final Destination 2’s bombastic car crash). Its execution is handled with manicured precision, filling every moment with such extreme levels of tension that it borders on unbearable (in a good way). Steven Quale, who is a protégé of James Cameron, makes painstaking use of the 3D format allowing each cable snap, exploding car, and severed limb fly out of the screen. This sequence took my breath away and is equal parts frightening and fun. It really gets the film off to an extremely brisk start.
What follows is pointless exposition peppered with saucy death sequences, far more creative than the last two entries in this morbid franchise. The death scenes do sag a bit in the middle, but the gymnastics scene all but makes up for it. It’s filled with so much misdirection that you will never see what hits her coming (quite literally, or is it?). The misdirection, or Red Herrings as they call them, are utilized to great effect here and kept the audience I viewed this with on their toes. Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying themselves, laughing and gagging throughout the many splatter-fests.
Tony Todd makes his return as the shadowy coroner (and BFFAE of Death) and infuses the storyline with one new element: If one of the characters who survived the bridge disaster murders someone else, they can take their place in the afterlife and survive. It’s an interesting premise, and lends the cast their stronger moments, but it is never fully fleshed out. Instead, this new idea creates some interesting moral implications that are sadly never addressed. There’s just too much blood-soaked mayhem to waste any time on such trite things.
Overall, the film is easily the most fun of the series, if not as derivative as prior iterations. It’s also important to note that it is absolutely essential to see this film in 3D. The opening credits sequence makes one of the best uses of 3D that I have ever experienced, and it is an absolute blast. Also, for those who have followed the series closely, writer Eric Heisserer injects a tremendously satisfying finale that will surely produce smiles for the die-hard fans. This movie is bad, but it is the best kind of bad. It is the late-night, I-don’t-want-to-go-out-but-instead-go-see-a-stupidly-satisfying-gorefest-on-a-Friday movie, and a well-executed one at that. Go have fun and get sprayed with blood!
Final Destination 5 was released today, August 12, 2011.