Written by: Eric Bress and Jeffrey Reddick
Directed by: David R. Ellis
Starring: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Haley Webb, and Mykelti Williamson
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"We're all gonna die, there's gonna be a huge crash!"
If it's been three years since the last time movie goers met their Final Destination, then it must be...time to do the same thing yet again! While Saw has cornered the market as the yearly-occurring horror franchise of this decade, the Final Destination series has also been like clockwork, arriving in theaters every three years. However, whereas the first three entries have arrived early in their respective years, the latest entry marks the franchise's first summer outing. To be honest, the move makes sense, as both sequels felt more like entertaining roller coaster rides than creepy thrillers. It also makes sense that this fourth entry arrives with the gimmick of 3D, even if it was delayed somewhat, as the previous chapter was initially planned to be in 3D. After nine years and three entries, we have now reached The Final Destination, a title that seems to promise a bit of finality and closure to this series.
Nick O'Bannon and his friends are spending a day at the local stock car races. The condition of the track and stadium itself is certainly questionable: the bleacher's break, screws are coming loose, and even the foundation is cracking. When a misplaced screwdriver finds its way out on to the track, all kinds of vehicular carnage ensues, killing everyone, including Nick and his friends. Except, of course, it doesn't, as it's all just in Nick's head; however, when things start playing out exactly as they did before the envisioned slaughter, Nick and his friends flee the scene, accidentally dragging along a few others who unwittingly become survivors of the cataclysmic event Nick warns them about. Everyone feels lucky to have cheated death; that is, until they all start dying in mysterious, horrifying accidents that are perpetrated by Death itself.
At this point, everyone knows what to expect from this series: long-drawn out Mouse Trap-eseque sequences, sudden, surprising deaths, lots of verbal and visual irony, and, of course, tons of splatter. The Final Destination delivers all of these in spades, and now even hurls it at you in 3D. This added dimension is pretty much the only new addition here, as The Final Destination is more of the same with very little innovation at all. In fact, this is the first time where there really aren't any added wrinkles to the storyline--Nick's visions are very similar to the ones experienced by Kim in part 2 and the use of photos in part 3, only this time they feel specifically designed for 3D, as the demise-causing objects leap from the screen. There are some twists and turns in the narrative along the way, but they all feel similar to things we've seen before, and the film actually tries to get a little too clever with all the fake-outs involved.
Of course, the plot for this series has never really been its calling card, especially with the sequels. Clocking in at a lean 82 minute run time, The Final Destination seems very much aware of this, as it pretty much dispenses with character development. In fact, it doesn't take long at all to get to the huge opening disaster set-piece, which still doesn't manage to top the carnage of the second film, but is ultimately more satisfying than the roller coaster disaster in the third film. Unfortunately, this is the first time that the disaster doesn't really feel universal enough. The first film managed to solidify my fear of flying, the second film made me wary of driving behind logging trucks, and I haven't been in an amusement park since the third one. However, despite living in the heart of NASCAR country, I'm not likely to ever go to a track and watch a bunch of cars go in circles, so I felt a bit removed from all the bloodletting.
That said, the opening sequence is fairly spectacular and cleverly conceived. The victims are dispensed in a variety of ways, and it doesn't feel too constrained by the 3D. If there's a weakness to be found, it's the overuse of CGI that makes a few deaths feel too cartoony and over the top. While the last couple of films in the series have been a bit over the top and lighthearted romps, they still felt very visceral, and The Final Destination lacks this at times. The rest of the film's deaths are also a bit of a mixed bag in this regard, as some feel brutal while others feel like a cartoon. The series signature, the elaborate setups for the death scenes, are back here, though none are quite as memorable as what we've seen before (with the exception of one). In fact, one death is copied verbatim from the original film, but it's so obviously telegraphed that it's not nearly as shocking. Along the way, people are decapitated, disemboweled, pummeled, crushed, and are even blown up in a theater that's showing Renny Harlin's The Long Kiss Goodnight, which feels like a joke that was designed for us here at OTH.
Another series mainstay also returns: the black humor that's been especially prevalent since part 2. Death, it would seem, is not without a sense of humor. For example, War's "Why Can't We Be Friends" blares on a stereo as death takes care of a racist character that's in the process of staking a burning cross to a lawn. Indeed, I found myself laughing along with this one a bit more than any of the previous entries because everything just seems over-the-top. Of course, this means the characters pretty much suffer as far as development goes. In fact, the aforementioned character is simply known as and billed as "The Racist." Nick and his friends, along with a track security guard are the film's main characters, but they're paper thin cliches. All of them are portrayed competently, though Mykelti Williamson is pretty wooden at times as the security guard.
To be sure, The Final Destination is nothing more than a thrill ride, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. At its base level, it's really not much different from its predecessors; that said, it still seems to be lacking something. Perhaps the series' gimmick is wearing thin, but it feels like the series has been painted into a corner by not being able to come up with anything new plot-wise. This is the film's biggest weakness, as it pretty much revisits everything from the previous entries verbatim and certainly offers nothing new at its climax. As previously stated, the film attempts to get a bit clever with some fake outs along the way, but it really feels like an extended version of part 3's ending. It'd be a bit misguided to criticize the film too harshly on these points because they pretty much are slasher movies, a sub-genre that's infamous for cookie cutter sequels and imitators. Also, don't let the title's faux sense of finality fool you--there's no sense of resolution here, and there's no reason why a fifth entry can't arrive in theaters if this one performs well.
If anything, the film is solid. David R. Ellis, who helmed the second film, returns along with that film's writers, and it shows because it feels like that film amped up to 11. It's a flashy film that's no doubt helped out by the 3D gimmick, which really makes the film worthwhile. Not only does the effect fling objects at the audience, but it also immerses them into the film by adding depth to the entire picture. It's not particularly innovative as far as 3D goes, but it's obvious that the film rides its coattails by making it the centerpiece of the experience. It'll be interesting to see how the film plays out without the gimmick on home video, but I have a feeling this one's not going to stand up like the first three entries in the series. It's a bloody thrill ride with a gimmick that fits this series like a glove, if little else. For the full experience, it's worth a theater trip for the 3D alone and fans of the series will love it and will especially enjoy all the nods and references to previous films; however, for most, the final destination for this one is the rental store shelf. Rent it!
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