Despite death being a tireless entity that eventually comes for us all, it seems that it only had five movies in it, which surprises me in numerous ways. On one hand, producing a quintet of movies that featured exactly the same plot seems fairly cheeky, but then other horror franchises have done more with far less so who am I to judge? On the other, I’m genuinely intrigued that the series didn’t go any further as this final (so far) fifth entry managed to hone its strict set-up, kill, repeat structure to streamlined perfection.
After the deliberately paced original, two scrappy but fun follow ups and a sluggish fourth entry, this 2011 gets everything just right as it finds more outlandish ways to pulp the living shit out of yet another clutch of arrogant young people while the audience cheers, partially relieved that it’s not them being turned into twentysomething flavoured yogurt by some randomly falling masonry or a collapsing structure.
The office workers of a Dunder Mifflin style paper sales company are preparing for their company retreat, but Sam isn’t really feeling up to it thanks to being recently being dumped by his girlfriend Molly, who not only works in the same office but is also going on the retreat – surely the very definition of awkward. However, his period in dumpsville may be mercifully short thanks to a horrific premonition of a collapsing stanchion bridge clueing him in to a viscous end that awaits them all. Having the appropriate freak out, Sam manages to get himself, Molly and six other workmates off the bridge before it makes like a belt and buckles, taking lots of screaming people with it.
A short while later, after various inquests, interviews and a highly suspicious FBI agent have done the rounds, the surviving eight try to get on with their lives, but soon a familiar rash of absurdly complicated accidents start culling the survivors with maximum prejudice and soon, thanks to some handy, gravelly voiced exposition by massively unsettling coroner William Bludworth, Sam knows exactly what he’s dealing with. Yup, it’s that oft-told story of Death getting his spectral knickers in a twist by people managing to cheat his plan so it starts redressing the balance by acting like a metaphysical version of Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men but with a presumably better haircut.
As more and more of the survivors meet their violent ends at the hands of some parallel bars, a spa date and a particularly ghastly bout of laser eye surgery, Sam discovers a loop hole that may allow him to dodge death’s design but also means he’d have to murder someone to take their place. However, while Sam wrestles with the moral implications of such an act, his buddy Peter may not share his views on the sanctity of life.
So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and proclaim this fifth round of shocking health and safety violations probably the best all round entry of the series. It’s far faster paced than the first which often took the scenic route when it came to explaining it’s premise, but it’s also far more refined than the rather hyperactive parts two and three and certainly better than part four which seemed way too in love with its 3D gimmick for it’s own good.
What’s left is concise and nicely streamlined and keeps what important firmly in the foreground – namely some truly exemplary deaths that consistently rank among the best that Final Destination has to offer starting with a truly stonking opening accident.
While the plane crash or a freeway pile up arguably sits most in fan’s minds when you think of the franchise’s string of flashy, unnatural disasters, the bridge collapse that opens the film may actually be the best as it energetically lays waste to its cast by obliterating them with swinging cables, impaling them on the mast of a passing boat or coating them in boiling tar. It’s a legitimately exhilarating sequence with the visual effects holding up remarkably well and the basic concept striking a nerve far more than a collapsing rollercoaster or a crumbling speedway mainly because like the first two movies, a bridge crumbling like it’s made of gingerbread is far more relatable.
Moving on from it’s kickass opening act, the individual accidents themselves are also a tremendous step up from the previous movie and real time and care has been put in to making each build up utterly excruciating until the finishing blow which usually expresses in you as the sort of primal cheer that happens after one of the guys from Jackass spectacularly wipes out. Quick true story: during the moment when the gymnast comes flying off the parallel bars only to come to a crunching end as her pelvis and spine fold up like a fucking accordion, my wife and I let out the type of primal bellow that usually proceeds a winning goal and was nearly thrown out of the cinema as a result…
The rest of the overblown bodycount is equally drawn out to an entertaining degree an involves scenarios as awesomely fucked up as face planting during acupuncture or having a malfunctioning laser zap a searing squiggly line directly into a cornea like a child doodling with crayons.
As good as it is, it’s not perfect (not that a movie called Final Destination 5 could ever be perfect); despite having a wonderfully mischievous final twist, it’s final act runs out of steam somewhat, with the climax resorting to fisticuffs between the two last characters standing (one of whom looks the living spit of Tom Cruise) instead of some big action sequence, the two leads are as bland as plain toast and the series still insists on making some of its victims super obnoxious (to the point of being out and out racist) in order to justify their comically exaggerated demises – but on the other hand, it brings back Tony Todd and ends with a sick completion of the franchise’s greatest hits set to AC/DC’s If You Want Blood You Got It, what more could you want?
If this truly is the last gasp for the horror franchise that’s lasted for just over a decade, then Final Destination 5 may have pulled off a near impossible feat for any long running movie series and that’s actually managing to close out on a genuine high note instead of having its quality value drop like a stone – that then crushes somebody’s head like a melon…
Not only is this a prime example of death being well and truly warmed up, it’s also just won a decathlon and doing a fucking victory lap too…