I swore after viewing the fourth (and supposedly last) entry in this franchise, imaginatively titled “The Final Destination”, that I would never watch another “Final Destination” film again. It was clear that the franchise was no longer fresh and had run out of ideas, and the resulting film was a failure of epic proportions. I hated it so much that I awarded it my worst film of 2009. Nothing worked in it at all, it felt like it had no soul, and worse it wasn’t made for any other purpose but to get money from the long suffering fans of this franchise. Even the death scenes were pathetic (including the worst death I’ve ever seen in a horror film – a guy getting sucked into a large plughole from a draining swimming pool) and the opening tragedy / premonition was so badly done with horrible CGI, that it hurt to watch. Do not even get me started on the post-conversation 3-D either.
Because of all this, when news came out that they were making a fifth “Final Destination” film, it barely hit my radar. I probably rolled my eyes at the idea, but I could care less and even as it was getting closer to being released and trailers and posters for the film started to appear, my interest for it did not improve. However soon after the film was released something strange happened, something I was not expecting – “Final Destination 5” got great reviews comparing it favorably to the first film. For the first time my interest was piqued and I decided to brave another “Final Destination” film. I’ll admit I was initially anxious when I realized that the film was in 3-D but relaxed to the idea when I found it was shot that way and not post-converted.
By now we all know the formula to these films with a character having a premonition of a great tragedy / catastrophe, abling to saw a few of his friends from the disaster who are then picked off one-by-one (in the order they were originally supposed to die) by death in gory and imaginative ways. “Final Destination 5” does not stray from this tried and true formula however it is in the execution of it all that this film stands out from the rest of the pack.
The opening premonition / tragedy, which is on a collapsing suspension bridge, is so well done and is incredibly suspenseful (no pun intended) and uses the 3-D technology expertly to accentuate the heights of the bridge. Personally, I am terrified of heights and this opening scene just had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
Once we are introduced to the surviving members, and thus our characters for the film, it also comes as a surprise that they aren’t just cardboard cutouts but real characters that for a film of this type are all very well acted by the cast. They are all likeable also, which is a huge plus, including the potentially annoying sleazy nerd. While it is obvious that the reason we all go to these “Final Destination” films is for the creative death scenes, it is good to know that the same amount of effort has been put into the rest of the film as well.
Speaking of the deaths, they are all expertly done. Director Steven Quale knows exactly how to generate suspense to the point that it is unbearable. In an early scene, he had me at my wits end just by a simple loose screw. It is an amazing sequence, the ends (obviously) in a spectacularly gory death but I was amazed at just how much tension Quale was able to generate from this misplaced object. Another thing that Quale understands is how to use the 3-D format to the best of its abilities.
One problem these films face is trying to match or better their amazing extended opening scenes, and while I do not think that “Final Destination 5” has quite done this, it has come pretty close. All of the death scenes are brilliantly staged, often ending much differently than you initially think they will. That is another thing that stands out in this film, as Quale sets up each situation so the audience thinks they know exactly how the next victim will die, only to invert it and completely surprise us.
Another problem with this franchise is, by its nature, it becomes predictable. We know the order the people are going to die in, so there is very little surprise. To battle this problem, the filmmakers have changed the rules slightly in this fifth film from the unlikely franchise. In this film, it is explained to the surviving kids (of course by Tony Todd) that if they take the life of another person, death will be satisfied and as a result their own spot will be filled, meaning they will now survive. This suddenly adds a whole new level of tension especially when one of the characters starts to lose their mind and only sees this option as a way to survive. It is a neat little twist that actually brings some much needed freshness to this franchise.
Again, this is another one of those films that is better the less you know about it, thus making it hard to review, but overall I was very pleasantly surprised by “Final Destination 5”. It is extremely well made, is full of suspense, and the slight change of the rules has added a uniqueness to this entry. It is also very well acted by the principal cast members. I should also make mention that this film has an added kick to its tail that I did not see coming at all and it gave the film a great “Holy Shit!” moment to end on. Anyway, if you are like me and despised the fourth entry of this franchise, do yourself a favour and check out this latest installment, as I am sure that you will not be disappointed. Will there be a sixth film in the franchise? Well let’s just say that a line in Tony Todd’s dialogue leaves it open if they want to head to the well again.