Movie Review: The Final Destination
By Matthew Huntley
September 7, 2009
I refuse to believe that just because "The" is placed in front "Final Destination" it means this is the last sequel in the popular horror franchise, as if a simple definite article makes all the difference. Once studio executives see how much money this makes in its opening weekend, they'll probably greenlight another one, followed by even more direct-to-DVD versions. I can imagine their titles now: Final Destination: The Revenge, or Final Destination: Destination to Hell. You know the drill.
I stopped watching the series after part two, so my Final Destination knowledge may be a little rusty, but I doubt it matters much. From what I can tell, this fourth installment features none of the original cast members or characters (I assume they all died some elaborate death during one of the other films). So this is a whole new batch of victims for us to see crushed, stabbed, mutilated, blown up, squeezed, run over or decapitated.
Frankly, that's all the movie wants to give us and that's all audiences expect at this point. Only the original Final Destination (2000) was taken half-way seriously. It generated a creepy, tense atmosphere and we sweated along with the characters as they waited for (and fought against) their impending dooms. All the others relied chiefly on extravagant set ups, shock value, violence and gore. Although, and this is what got me through this latest one, this stuff can be fun to watch and some of the stagy death scenes are cleverly constructed. There are also a couple good moments of fresh wit.
Once again, the movie starts out with a group of unrelated people surviving a catastrophic event - this time a race track explosion. How do they survive it? Because some random kid named Nick (Bobby Campo) has an unexplained premonition in which he sees all their deaths occur before they happen. Why does he have a premonition? What makes him special? The movie doesn't bother to explain. Heck, not even the characters are all that curious about Nick's supposed gift. They only care about what he saw.
After his vision, Nick warns them all to get out and about half a dozen people escape their fate. This, of course, makes death angry and events are automatically set in motion for "death's design" to continue as planned. That is, unless Nick and his friends can break the chain. But even if they do, they're always left with the question, "What if we didn't really change anything? What if we were always meant to die?" Hasn't that always been the question? Why can't that ever be asked at the beginning of the movie? Wait, I know why.
There were parts of The Final Destination I found entertaining and witty, especially for a formula horror movie. For instance, there's a tense, exciting scene when one of the female survivors gets her hair done in a beauty salon. Director David R. Ellis and editor Mark Stevens do a good job of building tension and upping the cringe factor by giving us a variety of shots that could potentially lead to her gruesome death. Could it have something to do with the scissors trimming her bangs, the fingernail scraper cleaning her toes or the whirring fan spinning out of control above her head? I found it fun and amusing to keep guessing.
There's also an ironically funny moment when one of the would-be victims tells the others he's made his peace with their situation and will accept death if it comes to him. In fact, he figures he'll save death the trouble and kill himself. The only problem is he's unable to successfully end his own life, no matter how hard he tries. It sounds like he has the same problem as Boris Yellnikoff from "Whatever Works."
At a brisk 82 minutes, The Final Destination delivers what it promises: slapstick death scenes with lots of blood and guts (because the scenes are so artificial, they sometimes reminded me of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon). However, once the death scenes occur, we're not left with much else. The brief rush and thrill they provide don't last long. And with this being a standard horror movie, we don't care much for the characters, who are just obnoxious teenagers played by poor actors. The movie unfortunately sets them up to take their situation seriously when it's clear the filmmakers and audience do not. Perhaps if everyone involved viewed the movie as a comedy, it would have worked better.
I had the chance to see the movie in 3-D, and while this did enhance my experience, I think it should stand on its own regardless of its presentation. The Final Destination isn't that movie. I'd rather be won over by substance first and then format. Is this movie better than I thought it would be? Yes, but it's not quite there. Lucky for me there will be more sequels for the filmmakers to get it right.