By the time you reach the fifth entry in a series, I think you have every reason to be wary of it. It’s not as though cinema has a great history with the fourth sequel in a series. Friday the 13th Part V is largely considered, and absolutely is, the worst of a franchise that doesn’t always make it easy to single out one entry as being the worst. SAW V may as well be subtitled “Fuck It, I Guess” and I doubt anyone out there would clamor to defend Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child, with possibly the one exception being the director of Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5: The Dream Child.
As a huge fan of the first two Final Destinations, it was disappointing to see each subsequent sequel take the series to lower and lower levels of quality. Remember when they called the fourth one “The Final Destination”? Ignoring the fact that they almost immediately started making plans for a fifth one after that movie came out, what in the hell kind of a title is that? How did that make it past the initial brainstorming session, let alone find its way onto final prints of the movie? After that installment, I couldn’t even muster up any excitement for the fifth movie, despite a surprisingly intriguing trailer.
But to my surprise and delight, Final Destination 5 manages to get the series back on track and ends up being a return to form that the franchise desperately needed.
It does not accomplish this by straying too far from the established formula. This one follows the same story beats as the other entries. The main character has a premonition where he and his friends die spectacularly in the midst of a huge disaster, which this time around features a collapsing suspension bridge. I don’t think they will ever top the highway crash that opened FD2, but I might have to give this one the runner-up award. It definitely finds some creative ways to dispatch people without resorting to the obvious, which is pretty much just “cut in half with suspension wire”. The main character then realizes the same events from the premonition are starting to unfold, and manages to save a few of his friends from the impending disaster. How much you want to bet that shit doesn’t go smoothly for them after that?
I would really love for one of these movies to tackle Death’s take on this whole premonition situation. It’s happened five times now that we’ve seen and it’s been mentioned that there have been other cases of this that we weren’t shown. Is Death responsible for them? Is he doing it to have fun and fuck around with people? Otherwise Death must be getting pretty tired of this. Every few years one of his lackeys has to come up to him on his throne or stool or whatever Death would sit on and tell him that hey guess what, another kid had another premonition. “God damn it fuck! Again?! Shit. All right well let’s wait and hope one of them gets laser eye surgery or gets into a tanning bed. That should be fun.”
Seriously Death is a sadistic fucker. He’s never content to simply stab a motherfucker with his sickle or just walk up and touch them so they die instantly. No this son of a bitch has to wait until a guy is trimming his nose hairs or sitting in a dentist chair. That’s when he strikes. Not cool Death, you know we don’t like the dentist! Why you gotta be like that?!
With the last two sequels it really felt like Death was phoning it in with the kills. In the first two he showed lots of creativity but by the fourth movie he was just having ambulances drive into people. There was no suspense or tension, someone would just die and then we’d move on. In the fifth movie he seems to have gotten the passion for his work back. This one captures a lot of what made the first two work, particularly with the deaths themselves. The death sequences actually build up a fair level of suspense. It sets up a scenario that asks, “hey wouldn’t it suck to die like this”, the answer of course being “Yes Final Destination 5, that would indeed suck.” From there it starts putting the pieces in place and hinting at just how things may go down. It keeps you guessing as to what the end result will be, and it keeps you squirming because you know it ain’t going to be pretty. A standout sequence in the aforementioned Laser Eye Surgery clinic definitely got the biggest rise out of the audience we were with, but each of these sequences was well done.
You know what? I would also love to see the planning Death must put into each of these deaths. I guarantee you there are diagrams, and if we’re really lucky, scale models for some of these places. I would love to see Death sitting at a desk, pencil behind his ear and chewing on the arm of his glasses as he figures out the logistics of killing someone in a Spa.
Also you know who I feel for way more than any of the characters we see get killed off? The small business owners where a lot of these deaths occur. These guys didn’t do anything wrong but now they have to deal with these people who get burned up or crushed in their store. You can’t shake that shit off. You will always be “Hey isn’t this the salon where those girls got cooked in the tanning beds? Maybe fuck this place.” Those people are probably ruined. Not cool Death.
Anyway, back on track. It’s a little unfortunate that when you aren’t watching an elaborate death play out, you are almost definitely watching what has to be the least interesting love story I’ve seen in a film in quite some time. I have to believe the writers were trying to make fun of these kinds of sub plots because it’s so heavy-handed and clichéd that I can’t accept someone would write it without a hint of irony. Intentional or not, these scenes grind the film to a halt every time. There is an interesting twist in the formula when they introduce the idea of killing someone so that Death will take them in your place, but they don’t go as far with the concept as they should.
Something else I should mention is that the 3D here could very well be the most impressed I’ve been with 3D since….holy shit maybe since ever. It definitely goes the gimmick route with it, having pipes and blood fly out at you, but that’s what 3D should be. Fuck depth. “Oh wow that tree looks so far away.” Who cares. This to me is how 3D should be done, and it works really well here. This is one of maybe 4 times where I didn’t completely forget I was watching a 3D movie. I might not be ready to give up on 3D just yet it turns out.
It’s been a good year for 5’s in 2011. Fast Five was the first of that franchise I legitimately enjoyed, and now this one gets a series I had pretty much given up on back on track. It’s a little too bad they got it back on track just in time for what is likely the final installment, but they’ll reboot it in like 4 years so it doesn’t really matter. Well executed (pun!) death scenes and a dark sense of humour help to balance out the forgettable characters and excruciatingly boring love story. If you are like me and had given up on Final Destination, you have a reason to believe again!