Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Final Destination 5

31 Days of Horror, Day 9
As a fan of the slasher sub-genre, I tend to like creative movie deaths.  If the villain can kill with style and humor, I am 100% on board.  You would think, then, that I would appreciate the Final Destination series, since all they are is a collection of death scenes.  I don't know why, but I've always been bored with this franchise.  Maybe it's the inevitability of death, or maybe it's the hackneyed writing and formulaic plots, but it has been almost a decade since I last saw a movie in this series.  I just never felt like wasting my time, which is especially harsh, considering some of the crap I watch.  I decided to give Final Destination 5 a try for one reason and one reason only:

That's the first major scene in the movie, and it has a lot going for it.  There is a group of friends in a terrible, life-or-death-but-mainly-death situation, and they all manage to find different and creative ways to die.  The CGI looked pretty good and Daivd Koechner has his skin boiled off by hot tar.  What's not to like?  More importantly, what else does FD5 have in store?

Final Destination 5 begins with a group of office workers getting on a bus so they can go to a company retreat.  While on the bridge, Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto) has a daydream of the bridge collapsing and everybody but his ex-girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell), dying in hilarious terrifying fashion.
Off-camera CGI guy: "Rawr!  I'm an evil bridge!  And, um, I'm membering and dismembering your friends!"
When Sam snaps out of it, he sees signs that his daydream is about to become reality.  Naturally, he tries to save everyone's life by demanding that they leave the bus and start running against traffic on the bridge.  Oddly enough, his tactics work; in a bizarre coincidence, all eight characters that have had speaking parts up to this moment miraculously choose to get off the bus right before the bridge starts collapsing, which sends their bus (and non-speaking role co-workers) to the briny depths.  At the memorial service, the survivors decide to be ungrateful little punks and spend their time not enjoying their new lease on life or celebrating; they just want to know how Sam knew to get off the bus, and they want to be sure that their questions all sound accusatory.
"So let me get this straight...none of you wants to buy me a shot for saving your life?"
Of course, Sam could have had a better answer than "suck it."  All he had to do was admit it was a vision, or say something along the lines of "I saw x, y, and z, and overreacted...or so I thought."  Unfortunately for the survivors, it appears that Death has the mentality of a spoiled child and will stop at nothing to kill these survivors in the order they were originally supposed to die.  Which doesn't make a lot of sense, because you would assume Death would be a pretty patient supernatural being, what with all living things having to die.  But without a cranky Death, there is no Final Destination franchise, so...yeah, the villain is Death, and Death loves gory retribution.
And THAT'S  for Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector!
Can this group of plucky youngsters figure out Death's design (TM) and work out a way to survive?  Or will Death kill the hell out of them?  And which ending are you supposed to root for?
Happily Ever After = Death by Fireball

The acting in Final Destination 5 is all pretty terrible.  In defense of the actors, though, it is pretty obvious that this movie is about the kill scenes and not character development. 
What was your first clue?
Taking that into consideration, I would say that David Koechner and aggressive/racist nerd P.J. Byrne were the two most annoying characters.  Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Ellen Wroe, and Arien Escarpeta were vanilla yogurt-bland, with absolutely no unique personality traits.  Miles Fisher wasn't very good, but at least he transitioned believably into a Patrick Bateman-type.
Fisher, fighting the urge to run naked with a chainsaw
So who does that leave us with?  Courtney B. Vance had the unenviable task of being the disbelieving cop.  Tony Todd reprised his role as the Death Whisperer, AKA the guy who explains this goofy-ass plot to the potential victims.  Jacqueline MacInnes Wood probably stood out the most to me, although it had little to do with her fairly sub-standard "selfish bitch" performance.  No, she stood out from the rest of the cast by playing the character with the least amount of common sense. 
Although the best workplace attire

Final Destination 5 is the first full-length feature film to be directed by Steven Quale.  While Quale certainly didn't "wow" in his debut --- little things like character development, subtlety, film style and cinematography were obviously not priorities for him --- there is something to be said about delivering what the audience wants to see.  Even though this is the fifth entry in the series, I would argue that the Quale filmed the quintessential Final Destination scene:
It's all right there.  There is misdirection, false alarms, startle-scares, ridiculous coincidences, and (of course) gory death.  I'll even give Quale some bonus points for making me squirm with the whole screw thing, which probably says something about how desensitized I am to movie violence.  After all, this makes me uncomfortable...
Gosh, that sure would hurt!

...but this is totally rad.
At least she stuck her landing
Anyway, Quale did a fine job constructing the death sequences and didn't seem to care about anything else.  For fans of the series, I think that is an acceptable trade-off.

I am not a fan of this series, though.  There is something inherently anticlimactic when normal humans are trying to beat Death.  It's not like Death ever loses; the time of the game may differ between players, but the outcome is always the same.
With slight variations, of course
These movies are, essentially, fictional snuff films.  That notion disturbs me in films like Saw, but the Final Destination series has always been more about dramatic irony than torture porn.  Instead of getting suspense through traditional storytelling means (How will they get out of this?), FD suspense comes from seeing the deadly pieces come together in an over-complicated mousetrap.
...that sometimes has lasers.  Die, mice, die!
That's the basic idea, at least.  In practice, Final Destination 5 is less about the suspense and more about the gruesome and abrupt payoff.  Would this be a good movie if it had a clever script and/or likable characters occupying the spaces between death scenes?  Probably not, but at least then I might feel bad for someone in the movie other than Tony Todd.
Dude's gonna have his work cut out for him

For what it is, though --- the fifth film in a franchise with a hare-brained premise --- Final Destination 5 isn't too bad.  There is enough dark humor to make the ridiculous death scenes fun to watch, and the death scenes were pretty creative.  The plot is obviously formulaic, but that's what happens when your franchise reaches #5 with a villain that isn't actually a character.  I would recommend this to gore fans, but I've included videos of the only scenes you really need to see.

Here's a little tidbit I laughed at while doing background research on this movie.  Check out this screen capture from the Final Destination series Wikipedia page (as of 10/10/12):

At first glance, the revenue made from Final Destination 5 is jaw-dropping.  $345 million worldwide?  That's insane!  But then I remembered that this was Wikipedia.  Do the math for FD5.  Not only are the percentages of domestic vs. foreign box office obviously wrong, so is the worldwide gross and the all-time box office ranking, as well as the total tallies.  Is it important?  No.  Will I try to get this fixed?  Definitely not.  Anyone who uses Wikipedia as their primary source deserves to get burned once in a while.  Anyway, I thought that was pretty amusing.  If you want to see the actual FD5 numbers, you can go here.


  1. Oh my, I had not seen that opening before. I had seen the gymnastics scene (reacting the same way you did to the screw and final kill), and just figured that was the best the movie had to offer. Jeez, huge-bridge-collapsing certainly gives it a run for its money.

    I share your view on these movies. While the kill scenes are often hilarious and fun to watch, the rest of the movie's purpose is to simply string them together. It is like writing a comedy around six or seven skits and tying them together with a straight story.

    1. Following that logic, the FD series is the horror equivalent of an SNL movie.

      Yes. I fully support that analogy.