(2011) Horror (New Line) Nicholas D’Agosta, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood, Brent Stait, Roman Podhora, Jasmin Dring, Barclay Hope, Chasty Ballesteros. Directed by Stephen Quale
By now most filmgoers are at least aware of the movies in the Final Destination series. Starting in 2000 with Final Destination and continuing up to 2009 with the first 3D installment, The Final Destination the formula hasn’t varied much which has been both good and bad. Obviously audiences haven’t tired of it yet for here is the fifth installment of the series.
Like all the other movies, this one begins with a major disaster – in this case, a bridge collapse. Young Sam Lawton (D’Agosta), who works for a paper company whose employees are off to a corporate retreat (but really wants to be a chef which he does part time in the evenings) has a vivid premonition about the event and becomes so hysterical about it that he gets most of his friends off the bus just in time to avoid the catastrophe which happens pretty much as he calls it.
This gets the attention of Agent Jim Block (Vance) of the FBI who wonders how anyone could have foreseen the event without having a hand in it. It also gets the attention of Death who is mighty pissed off that he was cheated of the six or seven souls (out of hundreds) that Sam saved. Apparently Death is a greedy bastard.
The rest of the movie progresses pretty much the same way most of the other movies have – with each of the survivors being whacked by death but not in conventional, easy ways. No, when you piss of Death you have to go in an elaborate, gruesome demise that Rube Goldberg might have loved. How boring would it be if Death just gave them all cancer?
Make no mistake about it, you go to these movies (or rent them or stream them or watch them on cable) for the death sequences. Here the producers literally handicap themselves by telling you that the deaths will occur in the same order they did in Sam’s premonition. So when it comes down to it, his best friend Peter (Fisher), his comely ex-girlfriend Molly (Bell), Peter’s young hot gymnast chick Candice (Wroe), the office Lothario (Byrne), the head honcho (Koechner) and the bitchy secretary (MacInnes-Wood) are all set up for their last rites and you know that each one is coming. The trick is to pull them off in such a way that the audience doesn’t see it coming.
And at that Quale and company excel. The set-ups are not only sufficiently elaborate but also throw lots of red herrings at you; is the gymnast going to be squashed by an air conditioning unit that looks like it’s about to fall? Or be electrocuted in a puddle of water that is forming below the a/c? Perhaps the upturned screw on her balance bar will make it’s way into her eye? Or will it be none of the above.
In almost every death sequence the last applies. The deaths are gruesome yes, but there’s also an element of comedy to some of them and quite frankly, the mis-direction had me again and again. That’s a pretty good feat for any horror film out there.
As with the other films in the series, the cast is pretty much done for looks alone. The young cast are competent enough but none of them really stand out which you would expect since their sole purpose is to be ground up like sausages. The trick is to keep the audience not just entertained but invested and they accomplish that here.
There’s also a nice twist at the end which will have fans of the series having a complete a-ha moment (sharp-eyed viewers might be able to figure it out but you have to look hard because the filmmakers were awfully crafty about it). For my money, this was one of the best films in the series and it left me not minding at all if there’s a sixth installment down the line. Whether there will be is still up in the air – the movie was still nicely profitable but it’s U.S. box office take was significantly down, a troubling factor that might cause the producers to quit while they’re ahead.
This one shows that there is still life in the series given a creative writer and director. However if this is to be the swan song of the series, at least it would go out on top
WHY RENT THIS: One of the best in the series. Nifty twist at the end.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Doesn’t deviate from the formula – except in one significant way at the end.
FAMILY VALUES: While there’s bit of foul language, it’s the death scenes – as marvelously inventive and elaborate as they are – that are gruesome and violent. No kids, in other words..
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The company that most of the cast works for is called Presage Paper. Presage means “a sign or warning that something, typically unpleasant, will soon happen; an omen or a portent.”
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are some featurettes on the death scenes and how they were created, which you would expect. Otherwise…nada.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $157.9M on a $40M production budget; this was a hit but curiously an international one; the U.S. take of the box office was only $42M.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: My Soul to Take
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: The Final Day of Six Days of Darkness 2012!