Mark Reviews Movies

THE FINAL DESTINATION

1  Stars (out of 4)

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Mykelti Williamson, Krista Allen, Andrew Fiscella, Justin Welborn

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality)

Running Time: 1:22

Release Date: 8/28/09


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Review by Mark Dujsik

One can only hope the article that precedes the title of the latest entry in the Final Destination series implies that this is the final Final Destination.

The Final Destination sees the return of director David R. Ellis, who helmed the silly second installment, and writer Eric Bress, who co-wrote the second one, which means a pattern just as solid as Death's in the movies has formed. Ellis' entries in the franchise focus entirely on the blood, guts, and gore, eliminating the tension of the buildup and concentrating on the punch line.

That is essentially what sets apart the franchise from the rest of the horror crowd. Death is a joke, and the success or failure of these movies depends on whether or not the filmmakers are in on it.

James Wong, who directed (and co-wrote with Glen Morgan) the first and third installments, understood the gag but didn't draw attention to it, meaning the audience discovered the trick along with the characters. Ellis figures we already know the setup, so he doesn't bother changing it up. He just does variations on the punch line, hoping we won't notice.

The movie, which runs a measly 82 minutes and seems to go on much longer, is basically a rehash of the simplest synopsis of the concept of the series with new stock characters thrown in and excessive deaths that seem familiar.

All of the movies start with a major disaster. One character foresees it and purposely or accidentally saves a few people from it. This one opens with a stock car race crash that ultimately devastates the stadium. There's nothing inherently unsettling about a stock car race, unlike the plane explosion, highway accident, and rollercoaster malfunction that started the first three movies, so it's impact is lessened from the start.

Our prophet of destruction and doom this time around is Nick (Bobby Campo), who has a cute girlfriend (Shantel VanSanten), an annoying buddy (Nick Zano), and his annoying buddy's cuckquean girlfriend (Haley Webb). They all have names, but who cares? Bress certainly doesn't, as he actually names one of the survivors "Racist."

Nick quickly discovers after Racist dies (dragged down the street by the hook of a tow truck while on fire) that Racist isn't going to be the only survivor to meet a gruesome, untimely end. Racist is just the first. We're also going to see the deaths of Cowboy, Gearhead, MILF (Krista Allen), and Security Guard (Mykelti Williamson) (whose name is George, but it might as well be Security Guard).

All of them die in grotesque ways, with lots of blood, gore, and, in a couple of instances, guts, and if you see the movie in 3-D, the technology has gotten good enough that the chunks of Gearhead's body that come through a chain-link fence will really seem to be coming off the screen.  Take that statement as you will.

These deaths are more frustrating than anything else, because we know they're coming, we know they're going to be horrific, and we know Ellis is just playing with us during MILF's extended visit to the salon. He dangles a shaky ceiling fan above her head, sets up a broken barber's chair, puts scissors really close to her eye, and, of course, establishes the hell out of a riding mower outside. Take a wild guess as to which one will cause her death.

Eviscerations, decapitations, and other types of deaths, which probably have a word but I'm not too bothered to try to find them, run rampant. People are sliced in half, squished by the gears of a broken escalator, find themselves the key figure in Chuck Palahniuk's "Guts," and it's so much that, when one of them gets hit by an ambulance, we're too desensitized to even care about the irony.

Even the terribly meta conceit of setting a later disaster in a movie theater (showing a movie in 3-D, no less) doesn't phase us.

The characters understand what's happening so well, so quickly, that we're convinced they've seen this movie before too. There's no sense of discovery, hence no suspense, and the movie is so content on what it thinks works with the franchise that it brings nothing new to the table.

In the end, The Final Destination is exactly what it feels like, a quick, cheap cash-in.

Copyright 2009 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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