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Monday, January 23, 2012

Final Destination 5 (2011) review


Nicholas D'Agosto (Sam Lawton), Emma Bell (Molly), Miles Fisher (Peter), Ellen Wroe (Candice), Jacqueline MacInnes Wood (Olivia), P.J. Byrne (Isaac), Arlen Escarpeta (Nathan), David Koechner (Dennis), Tony Todd (William Bludworth), Courtney B. Vance (Jim Block)

Directed by Steven Quale

The Short Version: Death stalks a group of young people who have escaped its clutches in this 3D fifth go round in the popular pseudo slasher franchise. The equivalent of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, each film begins with a spectacularly gruesome set piece, people die, the rules are laid down, more people die, gory irony at the end. Repeat. Thankfully, this fifth film abandons the thick air of black comedy embraced by the previous movie and manages to toss in an original idea or two. Aside from a great suspension bridge sequence and a nifty ending that ties in with FD1, this is little more than the same old song and (death) dance.

A group of paper plant co-workers on their way to a weekend retreat manage to escape a disastrous suspension bridge collapse that claims close to 90 lives. The eight survivors ultimately incur the wrath of death which comes to claim them in the order in which they were supposed to have died.

Just as FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) thrilled audiences in the 80s with the same exact story over and over again, so does the FINAL DESTINATION series repeat the same old song and dance. And just like that iconic series, the only thing the FD films really have going for them are the spectacular death sequences. They've even aped the FRIDAY films with an entry that purported to be "THE" FINAL DESTINATION. This fifth entry tries to change things up slightly by introducing at least one new idea and the fact that it's a prequel is a novel approach. The lack of any interesting characters does little but make one pine for the occasionally elaborate demises.

Nicolas D'Agosto does fine with what he's given and his character emits some slight nuances for his character that makes him the most compelling of the bunch. Still, one doesn't watch one of these movies for acting, although it would make them more harrowing if we cared more about the people put in harms way. I don't recall having seen Miles Fisher before, but he bears an uncanny resemblance to Tom Cruise. In a bit of 'Risky Business', his character is the one new curve-ball the scriptwriters introduce. While it's an instance of creative characterization, this section of the film kind of slows everything to a crawl. Horror favorite Tony Todd (CANDYMAN series) returns as the creepy William Bludworth who acts as some sort of emissary of death.

For the first ten minutes, I briefly forgot I was watching a FINAL DESTINATION movie as there was nothing going on that resembled anything outside the realm of a teenage drama series. The acting is as static as it was in previous entries, but once our doomed motley clutch of dead-folk-in-the-making reach the bridge, the film momentarily hits its stride. Once this elaborate sequence is passed, though, the film gets a lethal injection till a miracle occurs and the whole thing comes back from the dead for an inventive finale that reveals what we're watching is actually a prequel. Everything we've seen fatefully and shockingly tie into those events of the very first movie.

The bread and butter of this series are its scenes of carnage. An FD film lives or dies (haha) by its creative kills. The scenes of human obliteration seen here alternate between ghoulish ingenuity and an apparent dry well of ideas. After the gymnast meets her doom, the remaining deaths are somewhat average by comparison. The eyeball spot is cringe-inducing, but the tumbling out the window feels like a cop out.

The massage parlor death is even less inspired culminating in a splattery moment that reveals the victim to have a head seemingly made out of clay. All or most of the deaths are enhanced by computer graphics and the CGI ranges from astonishingly accomplished to crude. It seems an exercise in futility to create CGI blood that looks real, yet filmmakers continue to utilize it no doubt because it can be done much quicker than setting up explosive squibs.

The bridge sequence that occurs near the beginning is one of the best the series has yet delivered. While it's spectacular to watch, the suspense is dulled by the fact that--despite this sequence being a premonition--we know virtually nothing about these people prior to watching them die in exaggerated methods of dispatch. With so much creativity going into this sequence, it makes the actual deaths of the characters all the more disappointing in that they rarely match up to the excess of the suspension bridge calamity. This is likely to become the bane of this franchise should it continue; it will be increasingly difficult to come up with elaborate set pieces considering all that has come before each succeeding entry.

These films also show death to have a dementedly wicked sense of humor. In the original (and briefly in the first sequel) the John Denver song 'Rocky Mountain High' heralds death's arrival. The cruel reality is that Denver died in a plane crash in 1997. In FINAL DESTINATION, the passengers of flight 180 are killed in a mid air plane explosion. For this new entry, the song 'Dust In the Wind' by Kansas foreshadows death knockin' at your door. If you liked the others in this series, it's a safe bet to risk a rental on this one. Probably best seen in 3D, Death's Fifth is far better than the last entry and it thankfully avoids the goofiness that loomed large over that film. Part two remains my favorite, but fans of this series will be completely satisfied with this sequel.

This review is representative of the Warner Brothers/New Line DVD


Kaijinu said...

I'm a fan! and I'm very satisfied! Though, I can't say the same for the idea of a 6th and 7th (shot back to back...)

Franco Macabro said...

I hated it, I couldnt take the principal actors, they all came off as a bunch of idiots to me, not likable at all. There was something about this cast of characters that just felt "cold" and superficial. I did enjoy the opening sequence and the las scene in the's as you say, the only thing these films have going for them are the death sequences.

The closing credits, with that montage of all previous death sequences was pretty cool too. Im sure the entire film would have been more amusing in 3-D...but without it, it just didnt do it for me. I hope they stop making these at some point.

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

What on earth are you doing watching this crap Brian? :-)

venoms5 said...

@ kaijinu: I liked the second one the best although I have yet to see part 3. It's a nice concept even if the concept is borrowed from the 1983 movie SOLE SURVIVOR. Also, there's an old TZ episode that treads similar territory.

@ Fran: I didn't really hate it, it just didn't do a whole lot for me. A lot of folks seem to really dig this one, though. As you said, I think it would play better in 3D. Congrats on a marvelous monster post, Fran. I have read most all of it, just havent had time to comment yet, but will do shortly!

@ Shaun: Actually, I bought this one, buddy, lol! Sometimes I blind buy things on a whim as sometimes company doesn't like most of what I have in my collection, lol. But now I know where you stand on this, lol!

Maynard Morrissey said...

like Kaijinu, I'm a huuuge fan of the FD franchise and apart from the disappointing 4th part, I love them all, especially Part 5 which is on a par with the first part IMO.

I'm not a big fan of prequels and shit, but the tie-in ending here... pure brilliance, especially because I totally didn't see it coming.

venoms5 said...

@ Harry: Yes, 4 was pretty dismal, wasn't it? I blind bought it with a few others when it came out and me and my girlfriend at the time found it difficult to maintain interest in finishing it.

I did enjoy the ending for 5 as well as the bridge sequence which were the two best things about this film, imo.

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