Final Destination 5 Review
Despite a definitive ‘The’ in the title of the last instalment, $186 million worldwide (the most successful Final Destination to date) made a fifth film almost as inevitable as Death itself. Final Destination 5 may seem like a cynical cash-grabbing exercise but almost implausibly, the end result is the finest Final Destination film to date. Inventive, tense and heaps of gore-fuelled fun, it’s also the first sequel since Final Destination 2 to make an effort to fit into the canon, rather than be standalone like 3 and 4, with a fabulous end twist that will leave fans of the series delirious.
You know the drill by now: a group of people avoid a terrible, life-threatening disaster thanks to one person’s premonition, only to have Death stalk them one-by-one to balance the scales. This time around, it centres on Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) as he’s heading out on a company retreat who has a premonition that he and his colleagues die in a bridge collapse. However in a spin on the usual Final Destination conventions, the group are told by the mysterious Bludworth (Tony Todd) that to cheat Death a second time, they can kill someone else to take their years of life left…
What keeps audiences coming back to the Final Destination films is two-fold: the opening disaster and the subsequent ways the filmmakers find to kill off their cast. Final Destination 5 doesn’t disappoint in either case. The bridge collapse is stunning with an impressive sense of scale, thanks to some excellent wide shots, and a handsome sprinkling of gory outcomes to the unfortunates involved; the best of which comes with a well-placed sail that it utilised in great schlocky 3D manner. But it’s the set pieces that follow that steal the show. To describe them would be to rob them of their twisted genius but it’s safe to say you won’t guess how the gymnasium ends and that this film is likely to do for eye surgery what Final Destination 3 did for sunbeds.
Perhaps most surprising of all is that despite the demented fun you can glean from watching these sequences unfold, it’s not because the characters are all completely unlikeable. Nicholas D’Agosto puts in the strongest lead performance since A.J. Cook in Final Destination 2 and is ably supported by the rest of the cast with David Koechner providing the laughs and P.J. Byrne gamely filling the role of most deserving victim. Of course, Tony Todd’s fleeting appearances put them generally to shame, but for a horror franchise that has increasingly become more about the deaths, it’s nice to see the cast putting a good shift in.
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer who also wrote the recent Nightmare On Elm Street debacle (but don’t hold that against him) ensures that the novel twist to this instalment isn’t wasted. There is a notable switch in tone come the third act as the ‘kill or be killed’ element is effectively explored and it evokes memories of the straighter arrowed original film, rather than the OTT horror-comedy tone of latter movies. The 3D is worth the extra money as well, unsurprising given that director Steven Quale is a longtime collaborator with James Cameron, including Avatar, so while the film has more than its fair share of knives, poles and the like sticking out of the screen, there are also some lovely establishing shots with impressive depth of field.
All in all, it’s pretty hard to fault. There are some great references to previous films – least subtle being that the film ends with a ‘greatest deaths’ reel – and each set piece is elaborate and well-thought out, providing shocks and laughs in equal measure. As crowd-pleasing horrors go, Final Destination 5 nails every aspect without forgetting to establish a core group that, while it might be pushing it to say you care for, certainly aren’t annoying clichés. Series newcomers might not get as much from the last reel twist but for everyone else, it provides a fitting ending to the series should it happen to be so. An $18m opening weekend suggests we haven’t seen the last of Death yet though.