The first attempted to tell a compelling story, the second one used the art of misdirection for maximum shock value, but the third one poorly telegraphed every death scene, and, with this fourth and latest installment, we’ve reached the point of self-parody. Yes, the instantly forgettable cast of vanilla zeroes will escape some catastrophe in the first ten minutes of the film, then spend all of their time between each character’s death scene trying to figure out the order in which everyone will die.
THE FINAL DESTINATION manages to completely sever itself from the tale of Flight 180 (despite some in-jokes), but it hardly matters, as it forges no new ground. Nick O’Bannon (Bobby Campo) attends a stock car race with his immensely unlikeable best friends, where he witnesses their tragic deaths in a premonition involving a crumbling stadium, condescending NASCAR fan cliches, and Krista Allen putting tampons in kids’ ears. It’s the sorriest opening for an installment in this series by far–poorly staged, and executed with some of the worst CG I’ve seen in a recent feature film.
Nick (temporarily) saves his buddies’ lives, and the lives of a few of those unfortunate enough to be sitting beside him, by flipping out and leaving the race early, only to watch everyone die, one by one, in ridiculous ways. That’s not a spoiler; that’s the same basic plot to all four of these films. The only thing that marks the progression of this series is that the writing gets worse with each new one. By this point, all of the dialogue feels like a burden that the movie itself doesn’t want to bear.
I’m not even sure if I would still label this franchise as horror. THE FINAL DESTINATION is missing anything resembling suspense, surprise, or a sense of dread. Every death is inevitable, about half of them are played for laughs, and even Tony Todd isn’t around anymore to give it some horror street cred. Worst of all, the gore effects, pretty much the only reason you’d even go see a fourth FINAL DESTINATION movie, are uninspired and inhibited with faker-than-fake computer generated blood splatter. Director David R. Ellis made the first sequel entertaining, punctuating a thin story with out-of-nowhere gore gags, but he seems completely unmotivated here to do anything except make a buck on an established horror brand name.
I might have been more forgiving of its overall creative bankruptcy, if THE FINAL DESTINATION”s use of 3-D was cool, but it isn’t. The images are layered, but oddly flat (like looking into a Viewmaster) most of the time, and the death scenes simply don’t make satisfying use of the three-dimensional gimmick. From a technical standpoint, objects that are black tend to go all shimmery and weird, and a surprising amount of the shot choices are not conducive to three-dimensionality. It’s a waste of 3-D, providing a weak excuse to kill your time watching a movie this bland.
THE FINAL DESTINATION is the most tired installment in a tired series. Despite some infrequent patches of dark humor, there’s still the overwhelming stink of a franchise that nobody cares about beyond the box office gross. We’ve gotten to the point where this one remakes the first one, replacing an airplane crash with a NASCAR wreck, without even pretending to find a new or interesting way to tell its story. Instead, creativity is replaced with a pair of Real-D glasses and a handful of “comin’atcha!” CG fireballs.