Whether by design or by fate, Final Destination arguably had one of the neatest horror concepts of the noughties. Essentially a slasher movie where the killer is literally death itself who is pissed that a bunch of kids have narrowly avoided a horrific disaster proved to be simplicity itself – just think about it; you’re being stalked by a force that can take you out at any time by using a meticulous string of accidents and misfortunes in order to assassinate you with everyday household implements.
It’s this mixture of the fantastic and relatable that helped the franchise grow faster than a weed, but after a couple of sequels it was becoming apparent that the concept had quite a glaring flaw at its centre that other kill ’em to thrill ’em flicks managed to circumvent – something that the fourth Final Destination falls horribly foul of…
A bunch of insanely vanilla students take a break from studies a the local speedway to blow off some steam, but as they thrill at watching cars go round and round really fast, a massive crash causes the aging stadium to violent fold like a house of giant, concrete cards and everyone is messily smushed, crunched or cooked in the ensuing chaos – only they aren’t. It’s once again been one of those things where someone has had a startling premonition of the gruesome tragedy that’s about to unfold and this time it’s the turn of Nick, who manages to get his girlfriend Lori and his pals Hunt and Janet the fuck out of dodge before things start collapsing. Everyone who got out thanks to Nick’s warning manages to get a little while to process nearly dying in a freak accident, until suddenly all the survivors start dying in – you’ve guessed it – more freak accidents. One is set on fire while trying to set up a burning cross on someone’s lawn (don’t ask), while another has their eye popped by a ricocheting stone and after a while, Nick and Lori figures out what’s going down. Like many before them, their miraculous escape from a violent demise has placed them firmly on death’s shit list as the entity apparently hates loose ends; so more of them will fall victim to weird misadventures that will either see them bloodily strained through a chain link fence or have their guts sucked out of their arsehole thanks to the rogue drainage system of a swimming pool if they fail to figure out death’s plan.
Aided by a security guard who also survived the Speedway, Nick and Lori have to remember who died in what order to have any hope of saving whatever’s left, but what happens if two people died in Nick’s vision at the same time? As our heroes race to literally beat death, can they possibly have hoped to have covered all the bases?
While watching The Final Destination (no puny sequel numbers for this entry) I was reminded constantly of a guy I once knew who proudly claimed that he watched all his movies a 1.5 times the normal speed on his DVD player in order to cram more films into a single evening. Now, this guy was obviously full of more shit than a constipated cow, but the idea of frenziedly rushing through a movie just to get it out of the way is very similar to the experience you have while watching this movie. In an effort to keep The Final Destination’s relentless pace moving, you honestly feel that returning director David R. Ellis (who made the equally zippy part 2) decided to remove every other page of the script to help proceedings move like a cheetah with explosive diarea. I can’t confirm that of course, but it certainly seems that way, especially when listening to conversations between supposed long term best friends who blandly chat like they’ve known each other for all of three days.
There’s an obvious reason for this of course and that’s so the audience can bypass the admittedly heavy exposition as soon as possible and get to the deaths in a mad, desperate scramble to get to the good stuff – however, the jokes on us because the good stuff just ain’t that good this time around.
The speedway crash just isn’t as scarily relatable as a plane crash, a freeway pile up or even a fucked up rollercoaster and while the subsequent deaths that spin out from this opening are still creative, you still feel they’re missing that particular je ne sais quoi that the series usually enjoys. The guts through the butthole death in particular should have been a showstopping, spectacular display but instead all the deaths are a little bland and basically staged, almost like being told a joke that you already know the punchline to.
The final straw for The Final Destination is that problem I hinted at in the beginning of this review and it’s the fact that the franchise seems to have nowhere left to go. Shit, Jason Vorhees went to space at one point and even Freddy had a kid in ever more deranged efforts to keep their respective franchises fresh; where else can you possibly go when your villain is an invisible force that needs relatable surroundings to work it’s magic? A space station? A submarine? A European vacation?
I suspect that the filmmakers may have already cottoned on to the fact that the reserves of originality are dangerously low and that’s why this cinematic release runs at an stunningly strained 82 minutes (with credits) while banking incredibly hard with the addition of 3D to keep things going.
While it may have paid off at the box office in 2009 (it’s still the highest earner of the series), The Final Destination is noticeably the worst of the series and despite utilizing the third dimention to fling various things into your irritated face, ends up being as engrossing as watching someone pick dust bunnies out of a shag carpet.
With its so-so deaths, boring leads and hugely unsympathetic victims (one of them is a massive fucking racist for God’s sake) it seems that without some major course correction, The Final Destination is heading for it’s very own definitive end…