Final Destination 5
While the original Final Destination was a slick and nasty piece of splatterhouse genre genius on the part of veteran co-creators Glen Morgan and James Wong, the carbon copy sequels spat out on a conveyor belt since have gotten progressively less entertaining the more stale the original gimmick has become. Yet this gorgeously gruesome franchise remains a delicious guilty pleasure thanks to a vice-like grip on its core principles; inflicting fiendishly inventive, unapologetically gory, Tom & Jerry violence on its infinitely killable protagonists.
We know the idea by heart now. A random group of ordinary folk are spared a rather unpleasant demise thanks to a premonition. Not to be robbed of his victims, Death returns with a vengeance, stalking the doomed survivors one-by-one to restore order and balance to the universe.
The plot is garbage, the story arbitrary, and the characters are by now verging on redundant, walking, talking crash test dummies. Yet thanks to the preconceptions the series has carefully instilled in its audience across four previous outings, vague draughts of novelty waft over us still, as helmer-for-hire Steven Quale teases us around the room, letting the camera peer over and linger on every seemingly innocuous yet potentially deadly everyday object, inviting us to guess from which direction Death might strike this time.
It’s a fun enough game with which to amiably while away ninety minutes, which is a good thing as the cast this time – series stalwart Tony Todd and token name actor David Koechner aside – are particularly dreadful even by Final Destination standards. Miles Fisher, for example, looks and acts like a bad celebrity double for Tom Cruise. And it’s a small wonder anyone survived long enough to be killed off later as intended when they could easily be sucked head first into the black hole vacuum of charisma that is Nicholas D’Agosto.
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While staggeringly lazy, the one-word personalities pinned to these dead men (and women) walking (snooty, sassy, earnest, douche, etc.) scarcely matter at this point. By now the series is on rails, the only purpose served by the script being to maneuver the damned into ever-more potentially bloody scenarios. One works in a busy kitchen; one supervises a paper mill; one is a gymnast; one decides to get LASIK on her eyes – the possibilities are endless!
With virtually no shock value remaining the series has little choice but to own up the unspoken sadism that has underlined this concept since its inception and not only does the movie own it but it actively embraces it. Setting its 3D enhanced stall out from the off – flinging skulls, coffins, and broken glass at the audience during the pre-credits opening – each new death shamelessly ups the sadism level to the point of revelry. The painfully ironic slogans (“watch your step!”) are now a franchise staple, but this installment ups the Meta-anti with freewheeling gags about how expendable the characters are. One survivor of the initial carnage even has his name read out amongst the list of dead at the memorial anyway, just to hammer the point home.
And the fact that they able to toy with the idea of breaking their own rules a little – this time it is kill or be killed! – before neatly steadying its ship in a way that both feels right and makes logical sense shows that this series is still thinking – even if that thinking extends only so far as to conjure increasingly more radical and bloodthirsty ways to dispose of the disposable.
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