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On paper, the FINAL DESTINATION series should be the
gorehound’s best friend: Character and plot are scaled back in order to
concentrate on what really matters—setpieces featuring the messiest deaths imaginable,
cleverly staged and primed to wring squeals and cringes from a predominantly
teen demographic. Still, while any FINAL DESTINATION is guaranteed to deliver
loads of squishy fun, there’s a glaring lack of emotional involvement or
resonance for the audience; they’re like horror’s equivalent of the JACKASS
stunt movies. Now, with the fifth entry in theaters, is there reason to hope
for something more substantial?
Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) works alongside his best friend
Peter (Miles Fisher) in the sales department of the Presage (heh heh) paper
company, while simultaneously trying to further his dream career as a chef and
smooth his relationship woes with girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell of FROZEN and THE
WALKING DEAD). On board a charter bus on the way to a company retreat, Sam
receives a premonition of an impending bridge collapse that will wipe him and
the other passengers out in variously impressive ways. Just after he manages to
pry his disbelieving friends out of their seats and off to safety, the bridge does
indeed crumble just as Sam predicted. Cue Tony Todd returning as the creepy
Coroner/Doomsayer to let the survivors know that, once again, death is pissed
at the disruption and to expect the universe to fill this vacuum promptly.
Roll the ingeniously concocted death sequences, this time
exploiting setups like a gymnastics meet, laser eye surgery and a visit to an
acupuncturist. These are as appropriately spectacular as a fan could hope for,
and easily some of the series’ best. The opening bridge disaster had a packed
audience gasping for breath, perfectly realized with an expert blend of CGI and
practical FX. On the downside, the remainder of the running time feels padded
with a fruitless police investigation (poor Courtney B. Vance as an FBI agent
is made to utter lines like “Two deaths, that’s a coincidence. But three
deaths…that’s a pattern!”), and scenes of sappy 90210-grade relationship drama
with acoustic guitar plucking plaintively in the background.
Despite the stagnant plot, FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the best
entry in the franchise since the original. The cast of mostly unknowns manages
to keep straight faces and stay on the right side of annoying, and rookie
feature director Steven Quale has wisely narrowed down on the humor, retreating
from the outright over-the-top slapstick that the series was careening toward.
Quale’s background in 2nd-unit work and visual FX on AVATAR and other projects
serves the film’s 3D aspect well; while the process is understandably flat and
unnoticeable in the dialogue scenes, Quale takes full advantage of the
opportunity to play with spatial depth during the bridge disaster, and the
results are fantastic. Also effective are the literally smashing opening
credits, with a deluge of broken glass shards and assorted lethal objects flung
toward the audience.
Really, the problem with FINAL DESTINATION 5 isn’t in the
movie’s actual craftsmanship or entertainment value, but in just how repetitive
and interchangeable the series as a whole has become. No one is asking for a
FINAL DESTINATION set in outer space, or for Freddy to show up and battle
Todd’s Coroner character, but there is almost no variation on the already
Kleenex-thin premise from sequel to sequel. We do get a witty twist at the end
of this installment that rewards followers of the FINAL DESTINATION series as a
whole, but other than that brief inspiration, you may feel like it’s time death
changed up the formula.
For die-hard fans of the series or FINAL DESTINATION
newbies, for teens craving date-night thrills or for those who don’t mind
meatloaf every day, you’ll go home satisfied. For those of us left feeling as
if we’ve seen this all before, just drink in that thrilling 3D bridge chaos and
hope the producers have a more ambitious storyline up their sleeves for part six.
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