The Final Destination
Director : David R. Ellis
Screenplay : Eric Bress
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : Bobby Campo (Nick O’Bannon), Shantel VanSanten (Lori Milligan), Nick Zano (Hunt Wynorski), Haley Webb (Janet Cunningham), Mykelti Williamson (George Lanter), Krista Allen (Samantha), Andrew Fiscella (Mechanic), Justin Welborn (Racist), Stephanie Honore (Mechanic’s Girlfriend), Lara Grice (Racist’s Wife), Jackson Walker (Cowboy / Jonathan Groves), Phil Austin (Samantha’s Husband)
Credit where credit is due: As far as maximizing screen time for death, dismemberment, and the constant threat thereof, the Final Destination series is built on an admittedly genius concept that allows the filmmakers to maim their characters in any fashion imaginable, usually more than once. For those who are unfamiliar with the previous three films (released in 2000, 2003, and 2006), the repeating setup is a group of characters who should have been killed in a terrible accident (a mid-air plane explosion, a highway disaster involving falling logs, a rollercoaster accident, to name those in the first three films) but aren’t because one of them had an unexplained premonition of what was going to happen. However, while this would seem to suggest control of one’s fate, their salvation is really just a ruse because each survivor is now marked for a different (perhaps more grisly) death and it is only a matter of time before death has his way.
The fourth entry in the series is really no different from the previous three, except that it is packaged in shiny digital 3-D and eschews a numerical affix in favor of the definite article “the” in the title to suggest that this is the final destination ... unless, of course, the cash registers ring hard enough and often enough, which they likely will. Director David R. Ellis, a former stuntman-turned-director who also helmed the second installment (former X-Files writer/producer James Wong co-wrote and directed the first and third), doesn’t disappoint in terms of delivering what the franchise promises, beginning the film with an appropriately horrific disaster that kills dozens of people, this one taking place at an aging racetrack. The formula of disaster premonition (played out in full gory glory), followed by frantic attempt to escape, followed by actual disaster in which plenty of people are still killed is followed to a T, again leaving a motley assortment of survivors who must navigate the dangerous waters of life-after-averted-death.
The primary characters are a quartet of bland twentysomethings who are apparently post-college, but don’t seem to have jobs to fund their comfortable lifestyles. The character with premonition is Nick (Bobby Campo), whose general sensitivity and decency stand in stark contrast to his lothario buddy Hunt (Nick Zano), the resident skeptic and all-around jerk of the group. There are also two girls, Lori (Shantel VanSanten), who is Nick’s girlfriend, and Janet (Haley Webb), who used to date Hunt. The other survivors include a black security guard (Mykelti Williamson) who has already escaped death once in his life and regrets it, a wealthy and self-absorbed soccer mom (Krista Allen), a mechanic with anger management issues (Andrew Fiscella), and a racist redneck (Justin Welborn) who is billed in the credits simply as “Racist.” One by one these characters start meeting grisly fates that result from complex chains of events that are usually set in motion by someone’s otherwise innocuous action. And, if there isn’t a person around, there’s always a mysterious wind to get the party started.
With its lousy special effects, cardboard flat characters, and rehashed premise, The Final Destination would be a genuinely terrible movie (even as far as horror sequels go) except for its mordant sense of humor, which constantly reminds you that the filmmakers know just how ridiculous and formulaic it all is. Watching the racist character being dragged to his fiery death after attempting to plant a burning cross in George’s yard would be preposterous on its own, but it’s given an extra touch by having his car stereo blaring War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” while it’s happening. There is also a ludicrous scene with Janet in a carwash that reaches sublime comic heights when she gets her head stuck in the sunroof and is in danger of having it taken off by the rotating brushes (yes, that would be horrible, but the sight of it is hilarious). And you can’t help but enjoy the fact that the big climax is set in a movie theater that is primed to explode while playing (you guessed it!) a 3-D horror movie with a ticking timebomb. Writer Eric Bress (Kyle XY) ups the ante by giving us premonitions within premonitions, which allows the film even more opportunities to lacerate and crush and disembowel the various victims, which is ultimately what it’s all about. If you find that sick and twisted and maybe just plain stupid, you’re probably in the majority, but there are more than enough viewers out there who find entertainment in such things to virtually assure the meaninglessness of that seemingly definitive “the” in the title.
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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