(New Line) Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Sam Easton, Jesse Moss, Gina Holden, Texas Battle, Chelan Simmons, Crystal Lowe, Amanda Crew, Maggie Ma, Ecstasia Sanders, Jody Racicot, Tony Todd (voice). Directed by James Wong.
I have to tell you, I love good horror movies. I’ll sit through a lot of bad ones if I get to see just one good one. A good horror movie acts as a kind of tonic for the soul. Of course, a bad horror movie can act as a stimulus for ones sphincter as well.
The Final Destination series was created by X-Files alumni Glen Morgan and James Wong, and they came up with a clever concept. Essentially, a group of attractive teens cheats death when one of them suddenly, inexplicably has a premonition that they are doomed. The prophet is so disturbed by their vision that they get a group of them removed from the doomed means of transportation, after which they are saved…or are they? Death will not be cheated, and so it goes after them, one at a time, in the order they would have died had they stayed where they were. The deaths are not just some maniac with an axe wandering into a darkened room, they are much more elaborate and clever – sort of like a Rube Goldberg version of death.
In this third edition, the means of transportation is a roller coaster and the visionary is perky yearbook photographer Wendy Christensen (Winstead). She throws such a hissy fit at the loading station that she causes other people to want to beat her up. This of course gets the whole lot of them thrown off the ride, but tragically, Wendy’s boyfriend (Moss) who was forced to sit with the girlfriend (Holden) of Kevin (Merriman) – who was forced to sit next to Wendy to calm her down unsuccessfully – were killed along with everyone else on the ride.
Of course, true to form, death starts making his rounds and people start to buy it in all sorts of gruesome yet entertaining ways. We get brainless, bare-breasted blondes barbecued by a tanning machine (always a personal favorite of mine), we get death by nail gun, death by weight machine, death by fast food drive-thru (don’t ask) and death by fireworks. Wendy and Kevin are trying to warn people about what’s happening, but they find it all a bit far-fetched, at least until the nails start flying. The difference here between this edition and the two previous is that the yearbook pictures taken by Wendy all offer clues as to the manner in which the subject is going to meet their end. I suppose Death just wanted to give them all a sporting chance or something.
Like most of its ilk, this is a movie meant to offer young, attractive teen-types played by 20-something actors joining the choir invisible in all sorts of interesting ways. If you think about the internal logic of the movie (and quite frankly, this one violates its own rules at nearly every turn) you’re just going to end up like the football player on the weight machine. Trust me, this is the kind of thing you just make yourself a nice big bowl of popcorn (be sure and load up on the butter – no reason to go half-measures at a time like this), pour yourself a nice cold glass of your beverage of choice, turn the switch on your brain to “mute” and have at it. The death sequences are truly clever and the movie doesn’t take itself so seriously that you don’t notice it’s having a little fun with itself in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
This one isn’t nearly as innovative as the first movie nor as clever as the second but it still holds its own. Still, I’m not so eager for fourth edition of this franchise unless they start exploring the mythology of death’s “plan” a little more. Call me jaded, but just wiping out a group of smarmy teenagers just doesn’t do it for me the way it used to. However, there is something to be said for actively rooting for the grisly fates of the kids. It’s very much like going to a NASCAR race and hoping for a crash.
WHY RENT THIS: Inventive death scenes and an attractive cast. If you’re willing to turn your brain off, this makes some fine entertainment.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Not as clever or interesting as the first two movies. This movie doesn’t really add anything to the “Death’s Plan” mythology.
FAMILY VALUES: Grisly, gruesome death scenes are the reason to go see this – and the reason to keep tykes away. That and the nudity, language and sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The roller coaster used in the film is the Corkscrew at the PNE Playland park in Vancouver.
NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: I give New Line props for loading up the DVD edition with loads of special effects, including a very informative 20-minute feature on teenage death movies by the great Roger Ebert, not to mention a wonderful little interactive feature called “Choose Their Fate” in which you are allowed to make a choice (usually an “A” or “B” type of situation) that will effect the fate of the characters onscreen. Nothing like feeling a little god-like while watching a cheesy horror movie, y’know?
FINAL RATING: 6/10