Whenever I watch a bad horror movie I often wonder if the filmmakers responsible for it actually like people. It’s a recurring thought that pops up again and again as one thinly written, poorly conceived character after another dies a routinely depraved death they didn’t deserve. No matter their gender, no matter their personality, and regardless of their looks and social status, all of them only exist to be annihilated.
They’re usually the victims of a masked homicidal maniac who is so consumed with his work he has no other function. But in the Final Destination movies, the killer is an invisible entity that defies the laws of science by causing “accidents” that result in massive casualties.
Unfortunately for “Death”, before its plan can be executed (forgive the pun), someone envisions the entire tragedy mere moments before it begins. Waking up in a panic, they alert all those around them of the impending disaster but only manage to convince a small minority to join them as they flee ever so quickly from the scene. Everybody else bites the big one as scheduled.
The original Final Destination involved an exploding airplane while numbers two through four centred on a highway catastrophe, a roller coaster mishap and an out-of-control stock car racing event, respectively. Despite the third sequel being billed as The Final Destination, this ridiculous franchise continues with Final Destination 5. May it be the real end of this nonsense.
If you’re expecting it to be any different from the earlier installments, put down that bong. Once again, a character has a horrible premonition (this time it’s a bridge collapsing) but only seven other people follow him to safety. Everybody else plunges into the unforgivably cold water below never to be seen again.
And just like before, “Death” hunts down the survivors one by one in the exact order they would’ve died had Nicholas D’Agosto not had that terrible dream and warned them. Detective Courtney B. Vance interrogates him and two other survivors about the incident to the point of absurdity. He dumbly theorizes that because he was upset about being dumped by his ex, Emma Bell, it’s possible he may have committed an act of terrorism to alleviate his anger. (Come to think of it, I’d be mad, too, if I was named Sam, after the Patrick Swayze character in Ghost, one of the most overrated movies of the ’90s, and my ex was named Molly.) Too bad Vance’s colleague interrupts the session to tell him the whole thing’s been officially ruled an accident. Oops.
What was D’Agosto doing on that bridge in the first place? He was on a bus with his fellow Presage Paper employees (including Bell who dumps him just before the trip begins) that was en route to a work retreat. But with most of the office employees now deceased and no company plans to replenish the staff, most of the survivors will eventually have to find new jobs elsewhere. D’Agosto lands on his feet in a French restaurant where the chef is the complete opposite of Gordon Ramsay.
In the meantime, “Death” starts plotting. The bespectacled Megan Fox look-a-like picks the wrong day to get corrective laser eye surgery. The annoying nerd who thinks he’s a player shouldn’t have stolen that massage coupon from a dead colleague. And the high school gymnast who interns at Presage Paper needs work on her landing.
Thankfully, there is a way to avoid an early demise, a loophole, if you will. As coroner Tony Todd (who’s made appearances in every one of these terrible movies) helpfully points out, your life will be spared if someone else can take your place. That proves easier said than done. As one character finds out the hard way, Todd meant a healthy person.
At their core, the Final Destination movies are powered by a ruthless fundamentalism that is so dogmatic and inflexible, silly loophole or not, it’s impossible for any character to escape the appalling fate that awaits them, no matter what they do. The idea that your end is a non-negotiable contract with an unseen, almighty entity that gets royally pissed if you try to “cheat” it is as depressing as the franchise itself. It’s also not very believable.
Contrast that dreadful idea with the essence of the first two Terminators, particularly the second one. Despite the possibility of a nuclear holocaust, the characters have legitimate options in order to prevent it from happening which they wisely take. Not all disasters and tragedies are inevitable, a hopeful theme that was sadly discontinued beginning with the third film in that series.
To be fair, the first Final Destination (a so-so affair) at least attempted to be different than the usual horror movie fare even if it established the unpersuasive blueprint that’s been considerably dumbed down in four successive sequels. None has been worse than The Final Destination, the fourth one, but FD5 isn’t that much better. In fact, it’s just as bad as 2 and 3.
Although I loved the opening title sequence (especially the accompanying music), enjoyed the occasionally funny quips and even appreciated David Koechner’s performance as D’Agosto’s clueless and jerky boss (I like his character name, too), FD5 is indistinguishable from its predecessors with the exception of its twist ending which is more lame than stunning.
With no real, fully developed characters to care about and a routine story lacking in genuine suspense and legitimate scares, let this truly be the end of “Death”.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, June 13, 2012