Written by: Eric Heisserer
Directed by: Steven Quale
Starring: Nicholas DíAgosto, Emma Bell, and Tony Todd
Reviewed by: Brett G.
ďDeath doesnít like to be cheated.Ē
Youíre probably going to read a lot of articles feigning shock that The Final Destination wasnít really the final Final Destination movie, so Iíll spare you that. Besides, I like to think that anyone reading this review saw this coming as they exited the theater a couple of years ago. Personally, Iím all too eager to welcome death back for a fifth round, and they can keep these suckers coming forever as far as Iím concerned. It seems like even the studio has relented to the possibly interminable nature of the series, as theyíve returned the numbering system for Final Destination 5--though I suspect thatís just because marketing can make a clever visual pun with a scythe and the number 5 (luckily, the number six lends itself to that gag too).
This time around, the big cataclysm is a bridge collapse, but Sam (Nicholas DíAgosto) sees it all happen as part of a premonition. He panics when the events leading up to the collapse begin to happen as he envisioned, so he gets his fellow employees of Presage (get it?) to get off of their charter bus before it collapses. You know the drill from here: everyone who got off begins to get dead in a series of terrible, weird, and gory accidents.
Final Destination 5 is the best film in the series since part 2 and is a huge improvement over the previous entry. Surprisingly enough, it accomplishes this by pretty much being the same Final Destination movie youíve seen four times before; in fact, it plays out as a pseudo-remake of the first one, complete with an FBI agent suspecting that Sam is responsible for the bridge collapsing. In some ways, this one even feels like the first one at times--itís sort of amazing what a little bit of a spooky setting (thunderstorms, rainy, dreary nights) and a creepy score from Brian Tyler will do to set the appropriate mood. If youíre one of those (like myself) who enjoys the black humor that the sequels introduced, fret not, as itís still abundant (jokes are cracked at funerals, even). Ultimately, it veers more towards being a little silly thanks to a lot of sight gags and the over-the-top characters, but thereís a nice mix of genuine dread that was also missing from the last one.
Speaking of characters, you can tell Final Destination 5 is semi-serious (emphasis on semi) about being a movie because it has some. It even goes so far as to devoting about fifteen minutes to introducing them, which I guess is common courtesy (which FD 4 lacked--did it even have opening credits?). No oneís winning any awards, but weíve got a colorful group assembled that hits most of the clichťs--Samís the bland hero, but heís got a subplot (yes, a subplot!) involving his girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell), who is the sweet blonde girl whoís going to dump him so he can fulfill his dreams of being a chef. Anyway, the rest of the cast includes the best friend (Miles Fisher, who is a dead-ringer for Tom Cruise), his girlfriend (the sweet brunette girl), the bitchy girl (whose life perhaps could have been saved if someone just told her she looked just fine in those glasses), and the black guy (Arlen Escarpeta, who has more charisma than just about everyone else combined). And then thereís P.J. Byrne, who is both the nerdy guy, the horny guy, and the requisite obnoxious guy you canít wait to see get added to the body count.
Thankfully, heís not around too long because everything becomes a little bit too much of a joke when heís around--even his eventual demise is a gag (and a great one at that). Oh, and Tony Todd wanders back in as the mysterious coroner from the first two and introduces yet another set of rules that actually manages to shake up the formula--this time around, the victims can avoid death by killing someone else to take their place. Per usual, Todd isnít in it much, but I think anyone will take Tony Todd when they can get him. Iím actually pretty close to associating him more with this series more so than Candyman at this point, if only because heís such a great enigma in these flicks (and yes, he remains one here).
Death is certainly something you want to avoid, especially in these movies; part five is no different, as it offers a gleefully devious assortment of evisceration. The opening collapse sequence doesnít come close to topping the spectacular car pile-up in part 2 (Iím convinced thatís never going to happen), but itís perilous enough. It sort of shares the plight of the previous filmís opening set-piece in that itís a little bit too cartoonish with its obvious CGI effects, but itís mostly fine (and perhaps suffers from the fact that you know itís just a vision anyway). As a spectacle of destruction, it's impressive and just plain destroys a bunch of crap as the body count racks up like it's some demented game of pinball.
In addition to bridges, Final Destination 5 will make you reconsider the deadly implications of massage parlors, Lasik surgery, gymnastics, French restaurants, and more. The sequences here are the real star of the show, of course, and rely on the same sort of tricks as always (misdirection, mouse-trap style puzzle pieces of mutilation falling into place, etc.). In fact, just about all of the deaths are pretty elaborate this time out, and they should have you appropriately squirming before grossing you out. Iíd say at least two of them (the gymnast and acupuncture bits) land in the pantheon of great Final Destination moments because one features an awesome effect, while the other one lets the series once again prove that losing your head can be kind of funny.
Also landing in that pantheon is the last twenty minutes or so, where the film really takes of and becomes some of the best stuff the franchise has had to offer. Itís here that the ďkill or be killedĒ angle gets fully exploited before a series of great twists unfold. Fans of the series will enjoy the constant nods to all the other films, as theyíre sprinkled in like Easter eggs. Screenwriter Heisserer seems like an obvious fan of the series, and he doesnít just craft a love letter to it--itís like he gives every Final Destination fan a big, sloppy, bloody kiss, and I still havenít wiped off the smile it left. I thought maybe the series was losing a little bit of steam the last time out, but Final Destination 5 proves me wrong. Go see it in theaters so it can hurl body parts at you in 3D and so it'll make enough money to get part six on the fast track. Buy it!
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