[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 20 – Final Destination 5 (2011)

Director: Steven Quale

Cast: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

92 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language.

 

After The Final Destination (intended to be the last film), I wasn’t quite sure how the Final Destination franchise could keep things interesting and exciting going into a fifth film. Personally, I was so disappointed in how the fourth film went, I didn’t even really know if I wanted it to continue. So when Final Destination 5 popped up, I was skeptical as to what, if anything, it could bring to the table. This one swung for the fences, though.

Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto, From Prada to Nada, TV’s Masters of Sex) is embarking on a company retreat with several other employees when he has a vision of the suspension bridge the bus is on collapsing, killing hundreds. Concerned, he gets off the bus and runs to safety, followed by a handful of his employees, and the suspension bridge indeed collapses. Blessed but also shaken, Sam and the others notice that the survivors are dying in the exact they would have died on the bridge, and they learn that in order to save their own lives, they may have to take another’s.

Final Destination 5 does not reinvent the wheel, but it’s probably the best entry in the series. It has interesting characters with real motivations, strong set pieces, an overall sense of dread, and it teams with mythology. I’m not entirely on board with the “take another life to save yours” notion that is legitimately brought into this film (something that’s been toyed with before), but it does add another layer to the film.

Nicholas D’Agosto and Emma Bell (Plus One, Different Flowers) are both strong leads, and the film has some fun performances like David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, TV’s American Dad!) as Dennis, Sam’s boss. Koechner is always fun and he’s restrained enough here to fit in nicely within the horror while still getting to do his own thing. The absolute win of the film, though, is the return of Tony Todd (Candyman, Reign of the Supermen) as the coroner Bludworth, who is given little screen time and just does so much with it. I’ve been saying for some time that Todd’s Bludworth needs to be expanded upon, especially how he seemingly knows so much about Death’s design and plan, and while we don’t get that in this film, his reintroduction is a step in the right direction.

Outside of the main story, I am happy to say that Final Destination 5 gets back to the horror roots of the series after the almost-silly fourth installment. It’s also the film that feels the most like it’s connecting a saga, with little references to other films in the series and an overarching mythology that’s been cleaned up and streamlined. This is one that you kind of want to watch again after unlocking the big reveals of the film and how it all comes together.

Final Destination 5 wins it with the ending though, a doozy of a revelation that makes it the most fun installment of the entire series. How this franchise seemingly stalled out after the fifth film is beyond me, but this is definitely one worth seeing. It’s gruesome and bloody and filled with atmospheric flavor. Go check it out.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination 3, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s The Final Destination, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 4 – The Final Destination (2009)

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Mykelti Williamson, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella

Screenplay: Eric Bress

82 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.

 

Four films in and the Final Destination franchise appears to be going strong into their first 3D entry. I was excited, even though the fourth film welcomed back director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane, Cellular), who I felt gave less than stellar work with the second film. I would have much rather had James Wong continue as director, but I still gave it a shot.

The Final Destination is the last in the final destination franchise (until this installment made enough money to trigger Final Destination 5 a few years later), and it features Bobby Campo (Sharing Christmas, My Christmas Love) as Nick, a nice youth who is sharing a day at the races with his friends when he has a premonition of a horrible accident about to take place that will kill all his friends and dozens of others at the track. Nick is able to save himself a several others from the tragedy, but now, the survivors are dying in really strange accidents. Nick’s premonitions are giving him clues to stop them, but only if he can solve the mystery in time.

The Final Destination follows the very same plot design that the previous installments worked well with, but this film’s tone is its biggest enemy. It’s sloppily put together with a notion that these unlikable characters are being picked off with a real fun attitude about it. We get it, the message is clear that these films are watched for the crazy Rube Goldberg-esque manner in which its characters are picked off, but there should be some level of care for them as human beings so that we actually hope for their survival. I didn’t like anyone in the film except for security guard George (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump, Fences), and he’s still a little one-note.

Nick Zano (10 Years, TV’s Legends of Tomorrow) might be one of my most-hated characters in existence. It isn’t even a level of respectful hatred, like the one I have for Trent in the Friday the 13th remake. I didn’t want him getting out of the track at the beginning purely because he annoyed the hell out of me. Zano was given creativity with improvisation from director Ellis, one of the many issues that plagues this movie.

On the plus side, I do love the titles and how they pay homage to the franchise so far, especially considering that this was the last film originally. It was nice to see where we’d gone with the franchise, and it was one of the better elements of the 3D presentation.

Overall, I moderately enjoy parts of this film but as a whole, it’s a lengthy 82 minutes of piss poor filmmaking. This is the worst film of this franchise thus far and was thankfully saved by the fifth installment which would drop just a few years later.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination 3, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 12 – Final Destination 3 (2006)

Director: James Wong

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche

Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong

93 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some nudity.

 

When I was young, I would watch scary movies with my mother. At a certain point in the film, when she could take the scares no longer, she would announce, “I’d just give up and let ‘em kill me!” In the Final Destination franchise, I’d actually be inclined to say the same.

Final Destination 3 picks up five years after the original with an entirely new cast being hunted by Death/Fate. Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane, TV’s Fargo) is at an amusement park with boyfriend Jason, best friend Carrie, and Carrie’s boyfriend Kevin (Ryan Merriman, 42, A Sunday Horse). But when Wendy has a premonition that the rollercoaster she boards will have a horrific malfunction killing everyone on board, she and several others get off the ride. When her premonition rings true, everyone rejoices, until they begin dying one by one in the same order they would have died on the coaster. Wendy has one tool: a camera that has clues to each death. Now if she can just stop Death from killing her friends…

Final Destination 3 is more of the same, and in that way, fans should enjoy themselves. It retains the mythology of the original film after the first sequel skewered the rules for its own amusement. My only major problem with being same old in this franchise is that, after two films, you kind of just stop caring if the characters will live because you know, there’s no chance of that. It’s only, who will die next? This is the installment where that becomes extremely apparent and it takes all the emotion out of it, even if that emotion is replaced with a macabre humor.

The other big disappointment in this installment is the loss of Tony Todd’s Bludworth from the first two films. Todd does not appear in this film save for a cameo voice role as the devil at the amusement park, but I felt that his character really means something and to lose him is a big waste.

Overall, though, the film was fun enough to keep my enjoyment level high enough for the runtime. Leads Winstead and Merriman are very nice to watch and have good chemistry. The film is nicely shot and the pace is quick enough. In fact, some versions of the DVD even feature a Choose Your Fate feature that plays like a Choose Your Own Adventure where you get to interact with the movie as it plays out. It’s a fun little feature that should make watching with friends enjoyable.

Final Destination 3 is more of the same, but that isn’t necessarily the worst thing. The film could have been much worse, but as expected horror, it plays well enough thanks to some nice lead performances, a smart screenplay, and capable enough cinematography. Fans of the franchise should be sated here.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

For my review of David R. Ellis’s Final Destination 2, click here.

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 30 – Final Destination 2 (2003)

finaldestination22003a

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Tony Todd, Michael Landes

Screenplay: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress

90 mins. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity.

 

Sequels are tough. Sometimes tougher than the original. Especially when it’s the first sequel of a big franchise, which Final Destination ended up becoming.

finaldestination22003b

Final Destination 2 begins on the first anniversary of the explosion of Flight 180. Kimberley Corman (A.J. Cook, TV’s Criminal Minds, Mother’s Day) and her friends are heading to Florida for Spring Break, but when she has a premonition of a major traffic collision, she inadvertently saves multiple lives. Now, though, she and the survivors are dying one by one, and the only person who can help her is the lone survivor of Flight 180: Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, TV’s Heroes, Resident Evil: Afterlife), who resides in a psychiatric ward where she can be safe.

Final Destination 2 makes the fatal error of breaking the rules of the first film multiple times and insinuating that there are ways to cheat death when it regularly breaks its own rules. Death’s motives and methods change drastically in the film. The decision to bring back Larter and series regular Tony Todd (The Man From Earth, Hatchet II) were good choices, but to play with a pre-established set of rules really messes with the series.

I personally didn’t like many of these characters who came off as caricatures of normal humans. Kimberley is a nice lead and Thomas Burke (Michael Landes, Burlesque, 11-11-11), the Deputy Marshal, is a nice male lead, but most everybody else is rude, unlikable, or generally cartoonish.

Final Destination 2 definitely ratchets up the body count and style of the first film in spectacular fashion, now if only we liked the characters enough. The screenplay from J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress (TV’s Kyle XY, The Butterfly Effect) gives us little in terms of character development other than interesting but fizzly Rube Goldberg-esque deaths.

FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line
FINAL DESTINATION 2, Keegan Connor Tracy, 2003, © New Line

Final Destination 2 is a fun movie, but one that is picked apart quite easily. This movie has straight-up flaws, and most of them could be fixed by just understanding and respecting the mythology. Director David R. Ellis (Shark Night, Snakes on a Plane) would return to helm the fourth entry of this franchise to similarly misunderstood results.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of James Wong’s Final Destination, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 29 – Final Destination (2000)

finaldestination2000a

Director: James Wong

Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd

Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick

98 mins. Rated R for violence and terror, and for language.

 

Death comes to all of us. When it is your turn to die, it is your turn, and there is little that can be done about it. That’s the message we get from Final Destination, from director James Wong (The One, Dragonball: Evolution). The original idea for this film came from James Wong’s time as a writer on The X-Files. He envisioned the story as an episode from the wildly popular sci-fi television series. Unfortunately, the idea was scrapped several times and eventually was reformed into a feature film screenplay.

It tells the story of Flight 180 and its passenger Alex Browning (Devon Sawa, TV’s Nikita, Idle Hands). Alex has a premonition of the plane exploding upon takeoff, and forces himself and several other students from his field trip from the plane. The plane explodes and the seven survivors feel as though they just cheated death. They soon discover that you can’t cheat death for long, as the survivors are being picked off in the order they were supposed to die on the plane, but Alex starts seeing clues, and along with fellow student (Ali Larter, TV’s Legends, Resident Evil: Afterlife).

finaldestination2000c

The original film in this series is the best one, though it is still riddled with multiple technical and artistic issues. These characters are just not very smart. Alex keeps searching out clues and getting himself deeper and deeper with law enforcement as he tries to stop these crimes. He grabs murder weapons and tracks DNA all over crime scenes. He sees signs that clues him into the next death, yet at one point, he sees a man burning leaves and then assumes that a house will blow up. I like the idea of a magazine getting shredded and his friend’s name comes up, but the fire is a bit much. Then there’s the cops who believe that Alex is somehow capable of committing these crimes, like somehow orchestrating a bus hitting someone when they are surrounded by witnesses that could attest to his innocence. We have a character who believes that if it is his time, he should kill everyone else with him. I get it, these are students and teenagers, so they still have some learning to do, but these are dumb teens.

I like the performance given by Tony Todd (The Man from Earth, Hatchet II) as coroner Bludworth. It doesn’t amount to much more of a cameo appearance, but it is a classic horror film trope of the warning of death and dark times to come, much like Crazy Ralph from Friday the 13th. He practically yells “Doomed! You’re all doomed!”

Wong’s directing is really nothing special. His cinematography is disappointing. The film has nice pacing though and moves along with ease, not stopping long enough for most of these issues to take away from the enjoyment of the film.

I do really enjoy the clues that Alex and Clear do not see. I like that there are numerous noticeable clues in the film that foreshadow events soon to come, many of them are ones that aren’t even pointed out by our main characters. There is even the inclusion of John Denver songs at many of the Rube Goldberg style deaths. If you didn’t know, Denver died in a plane crash and his music works as a calling card in many ways, a warning like Bludworth’s. I know I didn’t listen to his music for a while after seeing this film.

I also like the score of the film. It stays with you long after the film ends. It won’t win any major awards, but as far as horror scores go, not bad.

finaldestination2000b

So there you have it. Final Destination is far from perfect, but it is a lot of fun. I find that it still holds up now, 14 years later.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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