FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the best film in the franchise since FINAL DESTINATION 2. This is not a compliment, it is a statistic. Yes, Steven Quale’s film is better than the nigh unwatchable fourth entry and the barely competent third film, but improvement is not the same thing as accomplishment, it just means they fucked up less.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. The opening death opus is fantastic. This time the unseen grim reaper conducts his glorious opera on an under-construction bridge our core group, a handful of attractive paper company employees (here’s looking at you, David Koechner), must drive over to get to their team building retreat. The winds kick up, the shit hit the fans and then buckets of digital blood hit the screen as people are impaled, crushed by cars, splattered by suspension cables, boiled alive by tar and cut in half by sheets of metal. You know the score.
It’s not nearly as HOLY SHIT as the highway car crash disaster in FD2, but it is indeed a remarkable sequence that shows off some impressive special effects work all in the service of making bodies go squish that will have you wondering if this ailing franchise has finally figured out how to be interesting again. And by the time the first survivor starts, um, un-surviving, you might even be convinced it has indeed rediscovered the magic of the first two films. It’s simply an exceedingly well made sequence that ratchets ups the tension in palpable, edge-of-your-seat ways.
And then all that sharp, concise and elegant editing proves to have been a waste of time as the survivor in question just goes splat. Then some people talk and mope and a miserable bastard – probably the most obnoxious character in the entire franchise – goes splat. Then some people talk some more and another person goes splat. Then some– you know the score.
Yes, yes, a bunch of people die in FINAL DESTINATION 5. The fact that someone goes splat like clockwork is not a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is that this is the fifth FINAL DESTINATION movie and yet the producers and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET remake) want to treat the audience like this is their first time visiting death’s rodeo. We know the score, I’ve said as much three times now. Obviously it’s necessary to have your characters figure out that death has a plan, but please remember audiences have turned up for four of these. We do not once again need to hear Tony Todd explain what’s going on. We don’t need to see the film’s prophetic dolt realize that his friends are all dying in the order that they died in his vision. This is rudimentary stuff, folks. I know it’s been eleven years since the first film, but we haven’t forgotten how it all worked.
There is a Hail Mary attempt to make things interesting by introducing the concept that you can escape death if you balance his books for him by taking someone else’s life. It’s a legitimately cool idea that has the potential to play with some other horror conventions, but instead of cross-pollinating FINAL DESTINATION with a slasher, the concept is explored for about a scene and a half. And then, once again, we’re back to the overly familiar territory.
Sure, some of the deaths are pretty gruesome, but Heisserer’s screenplay is lazy overall. It does try to bring a few new things to the table, but it does so very late in the game and isn’t nearly exciting enough to make you forget what a laborious chore it is to slog through the soggy, regurgitated middle of the movie to get to it. Unless you’re an amnesiac who has had brain trauma since seeing the first film, FINAL DESTINATION 5 is an unsatisfying experience, the only rewards being a great opening, a good (but not unforeseen) ending, and a truly uncanny Tom Cruise clone as the second male lead (Miles Fisher). Seriously, the similarities in both looks and performance will blow your mind. Now if only the same could be said for anything else about the movie.