It may surprise viewers to think about the challenge inherent in a “concept-premise” film like the Final Destination series. After all, into its fifth instalment, the rules are firmly established. A group of people will face a horrific tragedy which kills them, courtesy of a series of Rube Goldbergian accidents. One of them will wake up at the moment of their death to realize that they have just seen a vision presaging their immediately future demise. Said person will save a handful of others from their awful fate, and they will attempt to go on with their second chances at life, unaware that death is nipping at their heels courtesy of even more byzantine chain reactions. Oh, and Tony Todd will appear along the way, mysteriously parsing out morsels of “Death will not be cheated” style commentary.
So, with the concept firmly entrenched – and immovably central to the very nature of the film series – how do creators within the franchise keep attention from wandering? In Final Destination 5, a part of the answer is by filming in 3-D (as the fourth film had been), allowing for gory deaths and death traps to spring out at the viewer. Another element is by intertwining the film into the tapestry of the other films, creating an ever-more-complex web of continuity that merits a scorecard or handbook, or perhaps a drinking game. Finally, and most importantly, the creators have to add characters whom viewers will either want to see killed in a most gruesome manner, or want to see survive death’s twists.
Following a spectacularly harrowing suspension bridge collapse that rivals the opening of Final Destination 2 in making one fearful of road travel, the survivors in question are employees of a paper plant, many of whom are at crossroads. Will Sam the saviour (Nicholas D’Agosto) move to Paris to become a chef or stay at the plant? Will his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) break up with him? Will token African-American character Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) stand up to the nearly-racist union rep at the plant? Will douchey boss Dennis (David Koechner) succeed in corrupting Peter (Miles Fisher) to become douchey as well? But because we know they’re mostly cannon fodder, really, what the viewer cares about the most is: what elements of their lives will become their death traps, as one-by-one they meet their doom?
Those death elements are telegraphed clearly by close-ups of some nearby objects, and the strum of moody music by Brian Tyler. See the cables holding up the gymnastic equipment flex as the girl gymnast works out? Duh duhhhhhhhhhh. What do you think will be the trigger to her death? Close-up of the air conditioning, the spinning fan, the chewed extension cord, the dripping water, the gymnast hand powder… how will they all end her?
Early in the film, a police detective talks about figuring out what the puzzle pieces are before moving them around to see how they fit. And that, in a nutshell is what the fun of a Final Destination film is, assuming you like gory blood-soaked puzzle pieces with compound fractures, impalements, and missing limbs. And no matter how squeamish you are, how can you not enjoy a “death by Buddha”? Is Final Destination 5 well-acted, breathlessly scripted, or astonishingly directed? Not really, but neither are any of those elements insulting. More importantly, it accomplishes its goals with an admirable and gooey clockwork precision, in 3-D that actually works.
Verdict: Like a connect-the-dots game played with a chainsaw, Final Destination 5 doesn’t carve any new pathways, but the destination is messy and fun. 6.5/10
Directed by Steven Quale
Starring Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe, and Tony Todd
In cinemas August 26