Friday, August 12, 2011

Final Destination 5 (Review)

     In 1985, John Hughes gave us John Bender's profound take on things:  "Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place."  That seems to be half the maxim under which the Final Destination franchise, with the mysterious force Death forever striving to balance the scales in some manner, restoring order.  Death seems to be a "big picture" perfect thinker – so long as everyone who was supposed to die in spectacular fashion does, in fact, die in some kind of spectacular fashion, all is good.
     The FD franchise is not highbrow art – are any movie franchises? – and has not been consistent in delivering anything other than lots of special effects and contrived sequences leading up to the eventual killings.  Still, there have been some rewarding (as a viewer) bits in most of the films; I can (sadly) sit and watch Final Destination 2 (2003) and Final Destination 3 (2006) whenever they are on TV (or if I want to pop in the DVDs).
     Final Destination 5 (2011) spends a fair amount of time celebrating the franchise, and not just in the opening credits and bloody montage between the movie itself and closing credits.  The traditional loose interpretation of the laws of physics and disregard of the intricacies of human anatomy (this reaches a new level in Final Destination 5) are present, allowing the creators to make events as over-the-top as they dare.  And they do dare to go pretty far.

     Unlike the horrid The Final Destination (2009), Final Destination 5 actually takes the time to cobble together a cast of characters that are somewhat interesting in and of themselves.  Nicholas D'Agosto is a good fit as Sam, the sensitive (we know this because he isn't just a salesman, he's an aspiring chef) man who foresees the disaster the sets everything in motion.  His close friend/immediate superior (?) Peter is played by Miles Fisher – who is channeling some Tom Cruise mannerisms to go with co-opting his look – takes a turn as the best character to have a severe freak-out over the deaths since Kerr Smith in the original.  Emma Bell brings the same kind of glassy eyed performance she has displayed on The Walking Dead (2010-present) and is outshined by soaper Jacqueline MacInnes Wood.  Ellen Wroe and Arlen Escarpeta round out the cast as female victim and token minority.  There is an effort to make the characters seem like real people – actually, the movie may have been a bit better with more character development and less waiting for people to die – and that helps.
Very fat (and excessively pale) Tim and Tony Todd in 2009
     As a matter of fact, the movie moves a a good clip until the climax.  The is the right amount of absurdity in both the killings and the characters trying to figure out why it is all happening.  One-time acquaintance Tony Todd is back is coroner William Bludworth, the menacing voice of what Death may be after.  David Koechner brings the right amount of pompousness to his scenes, just as Courtney B. Vance can pull the story right back into the land of the plausible with his deliberate phrasing and accusing eyes.  But the climax is overlong, full of needless person on person action – and who came to a Final Destination movie to see that? – that only feels rewarding at the very end because of the symmetry of how the character was supposed to die and how that same character did die.
     The 3D is pretty well done.  Not like Avatar (2009), but far better than most of the other efforts I have seen.  Yes, director Steven Quale insists on throwing objects at the audience – and it works about three times – but he spends much more time using the 3D to build a good depth of field to the interpersonal scenes.  The effects looks good (read: not on the cheap) and with two exceptions aren't reduced to questionable blurs during the height of the action.  The movie looks good, which is something that has been hit or miss in the franchise.
     Splatter, quasi-snuff films are not for everyone.  For the life of me, I cannot explain my fascination with the franchise.  I guess it can best be explained with marveling at the finished product for some of the more elaborate action sequences (especially when some of the easier ones – 5 or 10 second sequences – took eight hours to film).  Maybe there is also some release in reveling in the incredulity of it all.  But Final Destination 5 was a fun movie and entertaining (until the climax, which was leaden).  The denouement was fitting (and a little expected), but again serves to celebrate the franchise.
     I wouldn't recommend it over some of the quality films out there, but at $7.50 (in 3D), it was more than worth it.  It gives some hope to the notion that the horror genre won't be reduced to aping Asian films or the ugly, tepid remakes churned out the last half decade.

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