Final Destination 3 Review
What a pleasant surprise this is! The third Final Destination movie is not only the best of the series by far but the most enjoyable guilty pleasure to come out of Hollywood for ages. If the first two films took themselves a bit too seriously considering how silly their basic premise is, this one acknowledges its daftness, lets its hair down and embraces the exploitation movie spirit with gusto. Yes, Final Destination 3 is an honest-to-god exploitation movie, not a sanitised studio imitation of one. It has an outrageous amount of blood and gore, it has gratuitous female nudity and, best of all, running just below the surface, it has a wicked sense of humour.
The time it's a rollercoaster accident that sets the story in motion, plane crashes and highway pile-ups having already been done. Graduating high school senior Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is enjoying a night at a fairground with her classmates when she has a premonition that the ride she's about to take will end in disaster. She panics and scrambles out of her seat, followed by eight other kids who have been spooked by her warning. The ride begins and - wouldn't you know it - the cars tumble off the track and the kids who didn't get out are killed. Wendy's boyfriend and her best pal are among the dead.
Afterwards, Wendy is wracked with guilt. She blames herself for not trying harder to stop the ride. Just when she needs cheering up, her dead pal's boyfriend Kevin (Ryan Merriman), who also escaped with his life, comes to her with a terrifying theory. He's discovered through internet research that six years before, a boy had a similar premonition about an air disaster. Seven people left a plane before it blew up on take-off and the survivors went on to die one by one in mysterious accidents. Legend has it that they were supposed to have perished and that Death came back to finish the job. Wendy tells him to go to hell, dismissing his story as nonsense. Then a couple of girls who got off the doomed rollercoaster die under bizarre circumstances.
Those bizarre circumstances are of course the main reason for seeing Final Destination 3. I'm not going to reveal the exact methods of execution, I'll just observe that the way Wong and Morgan turn mundane locations like a gymnasium, a beauty salon and a drive-through restaurant into death traps is ingeniously macabre. The deaths are bloody too! The gore level is extremely high for a 15-rated film, even by the BBFC's recent, more liberal standards: blood, brains and body parts are splattered all over the screen with gleeful abandon. The upcoming remake of The Omen will have to work hard to top this.
As gruesome as it is, Final Destination 3 isn't nasty or sadistic like some of the slashers that have come out recently. It's more Nightmare On Elm Street 4 than Wolf Creek. You may cover your eyes at times but you can't take it seriously enough to be upset. The demises are too outrageous, the undercurrent of humour too strong. Listen to the songs that play over some of the scenes.
In terms of pace, Final Destination 3 is a big improvement over its predecessors. It hurtles from one spectacular death to the next, scarcely stopping for breath. This time, scenes aren't wasted on the characters trying to figure out what's happening to them. They already know - Kevin's googled it! There's some guff about stopping the deaths by using the laws of physics (or something!) but it doesn't seem to work very well. The characters also somewhat morbidly try and figure out what the Grim Reaper has in store for them. Wendy took some photographs at the fairground and it turns out that the manner of each character's death is cryptically foretold in the pictures she took of them. Kevin pores over his photo obsessively, wondering if the SpongeBob SquarePants toys in the background are a clue. "SpongeBob lives underwater", he muses. To which Wendy says, "Do you know how sad you are for knowing that?"
This is a very funny film. Writer-director James Wong and co-screenwriter Glen Morgan used to collaborate on the X-Files TV series back in the nineties and this movie exhibits the same kind of witty self-mockery as the more tongue-in-cheek episodes of that show - the ones in which Mulder and Scully investigated mutant cockroaches and homicidal circus freaks. The characters might not be laughing but you can almost hear Wong and Morgan cackling offscreen.