If you haven’t seen any film in the Final Destination franchise, you’re in luck. Go buy a ticket for Final Destination 5, watch the entire film, and then stay for the start of the end credits. At that point, you will be treated to a montage of just about every death scene in each of the previous four films — every single death scene projected up on the screen in all their blood-soaked, painful, laughably preposterous glory. And in 3D, too. You have officially saved yourself the time and effort of having to go back and catch up on the story thus far, which is only fitting since I’m assuming you’re of the demographic that wouldn’t give two severed heads or an impaled heart about the plot or the characters. You just have to sit back, relax, and watch the blood spray and the brains splatter into your field of vision, along with a lot of shattered glass.
Even before going to see The Final Destination back in 2009, I knew it would not be end of these films. Here’s a quick passage from my own review: The insinuation is that The Final Destination is the last in the series, but I’ve repeatedly observed that the word “final” is meaningless when it comes to a popular horror franchise (Friday the 13th used it twice, and they were proven wrong both times). I was indignant back then, mostly because of the insistent 3D effects, the repetitive and over-the-top death scenes, and the complete lack of character development. I’m not recommending Final Destination 5 — the 3D is still insistent, the death scenes are even more over-the-top, and the characters are still faceless victims waiting their turn to die on cue — but I concede that I feel a bit more forgiving this time. Perhaps it’s not about content but about the mood you happen to be in.
This film represents a trend a lot of horror franchises follow, namely the slow, steady shift in tone from dark and mysterious to laugh-out-loud campy. The original Final Destination had some genuinely frightening moments, and actually drew audiences in with its examination of fate, precognition, and mortality, preposterous though it all was. Now that we’ve reached the fifth chapter, the plot has become a clothesline on which to hang scene after scene of elaborately staged deaths, some happening in the most unlikely of places; in the course of this movie, we will have witnessed people meeting their ends in a laser eye-surgery clinic, a gymnasium, and a health spa, where acupuncture needles and a big, heavy statue of Buddha get involved. In all cases, the filmmakers have taken extra care to be disgusting. Take, for example, a girl that falls to her death from a window. It’s not enough that she smashes into a parked car and lands on the asphalt – her eyeball rolls directly toward the camera. And then a car runs over it.
The setup should be familiar by now. A group of friends (1) cheat death when one of them has a vision of their demise, and (2) is systematically hunted down according to the order they were supposed to die in. This time around, the hapless clairvoyant is a young aspiring chef named Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto); suddenly, and quite unexplainably, he foresaw the collapse of a suspension bridge while he and his co-workers were on it, specifically on a bus transporting them all to a retreat. In both the premonition and the actual event, the destruction is spectacular. I could have lived without the shot of a girl falling and getting impaled through the chest by a boat’s mast, but then again, that’s just me.
Making his third appearance as mortician William Bludworth is Tony Todd. Here is a role taken straight from the pages of a horror typecast manual; he shows up unannounced, disappears in the blink of an eye, and with a devilish smirk says all manner of creepy things in a monotone whisper. He seems to know an awful lot about death, and I mean in ways apart from the obvious implications of his job. He knows, for example, that if one has managed to cheat death, one must take a life in order to add years to his or her own. This piques the interest of Sam’s friend, Peter (Miles Fisher), who should have been required to wear a sign around his neck saying, “I may seem calm and collected, but I will eventually freak out.” Funny that Sam isn’t able to pick up on this. Of course, even as his friends are dying all around him, he’s still able to have a romantic dinner with his girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell), and talk about possibly accepting an apprenticeship in Paris.
Admittedly, the final major scene is clever, although I don’t think I should elaborate on why. I also enjoyed the hilariously unconvincing romantic drama between D’Agosto and Bell. I’m not saying their performances are bad; I’m saying that they’re making an effort in a film that so clearly doesn’t call for one. Of course, then we’d be heading back into territory that made the previous film such an unpleasant experience for me. I think the best solution would have been to not make Final Destination 5 at all — nor the fourth film or the third or the second. The first film was engaging and really quite scary, which was all that I needed. Why diminish the impact with a string of obviously inferior sequels? I don’t know who made it a rule that original horror films are franchise launchers by default, but whoever it is should familiarize him or herself with the concept of quality over quantity.