Dir: Steven Quale
Reviewing the previous entry in this franchise, the confusingly named The Final Destination, I declared the then nine year old franchise dead. I spoke too soon, and two years later, here we are again with the same idea; Attractive twentysomethings cheat death in a disaster (a bridge collapse this time out), then are picked off by death in a series of Rube Goldberg inspired lethal coincidences.
Here a group of work colleagues are their way to a weekend business retreat, when one of them (Sam, played by Nicholas D'Agosto) has a vision of the bridge they are on collapsing, and manages to get his ex-girlfriend (Emma Bell), some of their friends and their boss (David Kochener) to follow him off the bus to safety. Soon after, as ever, splashy violence ensues as Death rebalances the books.
I know, as do you, that at this point character isn't the most important thing in a Final Destination movie, but surely it would be nice, and asking only a little, to have characters that you could tell apart. I didn't even remember most of these people's names as I was watching the movie - though IMDB reveals that, yes, they have names, and the franchise tradition of invoking horror directors names continues with the likes of Peter Friedkin (Miles Fisher), Candice Hooper (Ellen Wroe) and Oivia Castle (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood). Again it's the leads who come off worst, some of the others have a trait (Peter is angry, Candice is nice, and likes gymnastics, Olivia is hot but - oh no - wears glasses). but Sam and Molly (Emma Bell's character) are voids, I nothing them, so it's hard to care much whether they live or die.
Another issue is that, while the build up to the death scenes, the series of coincidences that leads to each, tends to be excellent, there is often a rather listless, 'oh, that'll do' feeling to the actual deaths. The gym sequence is maybe the best example; an expertly shot and paced build up, using the space and the elements to build real tension as to what's going to happen, followed by an underwhelming, and, even by the standards of this franchise, credulity straining outcome. Another death that produces an 'oh', rather than an 'arrgghh' begins with a nightmarish medical procedure, but ends in a deeply anticlimactic fall.
This said, Final Destination 5 is largely fun. The 3D is gimmicky, but Steven Quale sees it for what it is and embraces, even revels in, the gimmick. Guts are thrust out of the screen at us on a regular basis, glass repeatedly shatters in our faces during the opening credit sequence (and how nice it is to see one of those these days) and the depth perception is used effectively - for this extreme vertigo sufferer anyway - in the inventively gory bridge sequence.
The performances are proficient, as is the direction, with Quale building up each death scene brilliantly, even if Eric Heisserrer's often tin-eared screenplay sometimes fumbles the final moments. Nothing rivals the OH SHIT impact of the first film's bus, or the sequel's fence, but the gore is as OTT and as guiltily funny as ever. What really makes Final Destination 5 stand out a bit though is its ending. There are clues (largely relating to technology) throughout the film, but a clever twist genuinely took me by surprise in the film's last ten minutes. It does mean that this really needs to be where the franchise ends, but it's a great nod to the fans, and quite a clever (and, when you stop and consider it, chilling) beat in its own right.
Final Destination 5 delivers what it promises on the label; it's dumb fun. Go with a girl who'll jump at all the right moments and consequently grab on to you, or go with a group of franchise fans, either way, though it won't change your world, you'll come out entertained.