By the time a horror series turns into a franchise, there is a corresponding dip in audience expectation on the quality of the films in the series. From Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, which was followed by three subsequent films, to Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, only the fourth part of a whopping twelve-film saga to date, there is no such thing as “final” in the horror world. When David R. Ellis’ The Final Destination was released as the fourth film in this series, the definite article of the title was the dubious nail in the coffin for the franchise. Yet in the world of horror, nothing truly remains dead, even if you see the body.
A group of co-workers head off for a company retreat, including Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto, From Prada to Nada) and his friend Peter (Miles Fisher, the forthcoming J. Edgar), Peter’s girlfriend Candice (Ellen Wroe, TV’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant), and a collection of exes, bosses, co-workers and girlfriends, including Sam’s recent ex Molly (Emma Bell, TV’s The Walking Dead). When Sam has a vision that the bridge they are on will collapse, killing all the occupants of the bus they are on, he manages to get all of his colleagues to safety when the bridge really does collapse. At first suspected of terrorism, Sam becomes concerned when his friends begin dying in a series of bizarre accidents. Warned by coroner William Bludworth (Tony Todd, Candyman) that Death doesn’t like to be cheated, it becomes kill or be killed for these bright young things.
As the great Tony Todd remarks in the film, “I’ve seen this all before”. From the indulgent and lengthy opening 3D credit sequence, through to the predictable setup, we truly have seen this all before. At least four times before, and despite scoring poorly on the all-important aggregated rankings, a reasonable box-office turnout has ensured the longevity of this formula. Yet while there is a definite inevitability to the film, there is also a fair amount of self-awareness to Eric Heisserer’s (the A Nightmare On Elm Street remake) screenplay. Final Destination 5 has a fair amount of fun with this self-awareness, setting up at least four possible deaths for every scenario, and then surprising you by using a previously unseen threat, or even all of them at the same time! Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, each escalating ending makes full use of that third dimension that is all the rage with the kids these days, leaving a big red smiley face of self-satisfaction with each bucket of blood elicited from the unwitting nubiles. Even more than the Hostels and the Saw movies of the world, the Final Destination series is most analogous to a kind of horror porn. It teases, shows you all the bits it is going to play with and then shoots its wad, leaving its audience to stew in their own juices, and a tiny bit sleepy.
More than anything, Steven Quale is a visual director. Serving as both a co-director (Ghosts of the Abyss) and second-unit diretcor (Avatar) to James Cameron, he knows how to shoot for spectacle. Perhaps chosen for his expertise in 3D cinematography, this partly accounts for the uneven pacing of the film. There are moments, especially in the first half of the film, where the only death that audiences may suffer is through boredom. Yet as the film builds its way its final destination, the laughs (intentional or otherwise) and gore and doled out in equal proportion, and its all about the fanservice. Followers of the series will no doubt be pleased with the way this chapter wraps up, and if this is the end of a long journey, there is a fitting and satisfying moment to be had just before the credits roll.
Final Destination 5 is released in Australia on 1 September 2011 from Roadshow Films.