Mark Reviews Movies

Final Destination 5

FINAL DESTINATION 5

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Steven Quale

Cast: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance, Tony Todd

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language)

Running Time: 1:32

Release Date: 8/12/11


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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 11, 2011

I think we're pretty much done here. Whatever macabre sense of humor Death had in the first installment of this franchise has transformed into a rotating string of filmmakers pushing the envelope of how gory they can make the demises of their characters. Final Destination 5 brings in a new director (Steven Quale) and screenwriter (Eric Heisserer) and one new idea to the table: Killing another human being will appease Death's need to take the lives of the survivors of a disaster.

It's actually a solid concept in a series that desperately needs one after four previous movies that basically do the same thing over and over with minor variations (The second movie's "Death is working in reverse" conceit is probably the laziest of the bunch, while the fourth movie doesn't even try anything new). Alas, it comes so late in the game (after the characters learn all the details the audience has known since the first time around) that it's used once before a generic, climactic showdown involving a guy with a gun who wants to kill someone. Yes, the franchise that stood out from the crowd by not having a tangible killer picking people off has been reduced to having just that.

For those new to the mix, a brief rundown is necessary. The hero (here, named Sam and played by Nicholas D'Agosto) has a vivid premonition about a looming disaster (here, the collapse of a suspension bridge) in which he watches as assorted people die (here, by crushing by a falling car, impalement (twice), burning with hot asphalt, a clean slice in half, etc.). The protagonist awakens from the vision just in time to save those involved (here, Sam's co-workers at a paper company on a bus ride to a retreat, including his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), who dumps him right before getting on the bus), only to discover that all the survivors are dying off one at a time in the same order seen in the prophecy (here, at a massage parlor, during laser eye surgery, on a factory floor, etc., etc.).

No matter how many times the characters wonder aloud for a rationale to their fate, there's no explanation or reason for this phenomenon, except for the one presented by the local coroner (Tony Todd): Death doesn't like to be cheated. In addition to the absence of a physical force at work, the series has always been fascinating on some level for its stark, unwavering, and almost nihilistic outlook on that unavoidable piece of the human condition.

Anyway, the survivors consist of Molly, Sam's immediate supervisor Peter (Miles Fisher), an intern and gymnast who's dating Peter named Candice (Ellen Wroe), the tall brunette with glasses named Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), the perverted Isaac (P.J. Byrne), the newly hired Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), the jerk of a head of the office Dennis (David Koechner), and, of course, Sam himself. Part of the success of a horror movie really boils down to whether or not we want its characters to outlast the inevitable doom before them. Part of the problem that arises with the overtly fatalistic tone of this series is that the thought of whether or not these characters can live barely registers. They're going to die; it's only a matter of time. The fact that these eight barely come across even as basic types only augments the sense of apathy regarding them.

So the deaths proceed as per usual, with Quale's camera hovering around details of the scene of the imminent fatalities for the purposes of foreshadowing or bait-and-switch fake-outs. They inevitably become quicker and less elaborate as the movie progresses, which means the sense of anticipation (always more satisfying than the payoff) decreases. I'm uncertain about the physics of one (a body basically crushes under its own weight), and after setting up the bit involving laser eye surgery, the result is wholly anticlimactic. The real focus of the culmination of the mishaps is digital blood and body parts.

At least Heisserer tries to work a different angle into the formula. There's an inherent moral dilemma in giving the characters a choice to potentially alter their destiny at the cost of the life of someone else (Could someone who does this live with themselves afterwards?). Peter grapples with it for a bit, and another character unintentionally (or, perhaps, begrudgingly) takes advantage of a perfect opportunity. A federal agent (Courtney B. Vance) who suspects foul play from the start seems to be present to set up one conflict but winds up, like the idea itself, a convenient way to work into another, more standard one.

Final Destination 5 is frustrating. The opening sequence and even some of the moments of pure shock value are effective in a demented way, but it's further evidence that this franchise is running on fumes.

Note: I'm of the persuasion that 3-D is wholly a gimmick, best suited to this kind of equally gimmicky material. Even though Final Destination 5 was shot in 3-D, added depth barely registers apart from a few moments, like an eyeball rolling toward the camera and the emergence of intestines here and there. And that's probably the weirdest criticism involving the format I've yet to make.

Copyright 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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