23 August 2011

Movie Review: Final Destination 5


Final Destination 5
2011, 92mins, 15
Director: Steve Quale
Writer: Eric Heisserer
Cast includes: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance, David Koechner
UK Release Date: 26th August 2011

2000’s “Final Destination” turned a devilish premise into a tightly wound and full-blooded teen thriller. The sequels that followed were incredibly hit and miss, the series hitting its nadir with 2009’s ghastly “The Final Destination”. As a result expectations weren’t high for “Final Destination 5”, the once crafty franchise apparently having completely expelled the remnants of its creative potential years ago. It’s a surprise then to remark that this fifth entry is actually a lot of fun, shallow of course, but not without a set of wacky and exceedingly gory charms. Director Steve Quale (a visual effects supervisor on “Avatar” amongst other things) understands what fans of this crazy little series want, namely elaborate and tensely depicted death traps for its handsome protagonists to unwittingly stumble into.

As he prepares to embark on a retreat with work colleagues, Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto, “Fired Up!”) predicts the collapse of a suspension bridge, a disaster which would spell doom for all his buddies, including girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell, “Frozen”). Leading his peers to safety just before his vision becomes reality; Sam promptly undergoes intense scrutiny from Agent Jim Block (Courtney B. Vance), a man who believes Sam’s supposed premonition to be a simple front for possible terrorist activity. However Sam and the rest of the survivors have bigger problems, namely that death wants to reclaim their souls, using a selection of predictably complex and gruesome traps to do so. As Sam frantically attempts to discover a way of besting the system, his friends are abandoned in a state of perpetual anxiety, left to ponder which of them will be next.

Steve Quale’s familiarity with 3D technology shines through here; unlike with the last installment the extra dimension adds even more campy amusement to proceedings. Those murky glasses are rarely useful in a cinema auditorium, but at least Quale ensures the hokey 3D looks acceptable, the filmmaker clearly interested in using it to better his schlocky film rather than simply implementing it to increase box-office takings. The quality of the CGI is also impressive, “Final Destination 5” showing extreme reverence to the art of gore-tastic special effects. The opening disaster looks sharp, offering the endeavour a genuine sense of scale, something lacking from its most immediate predecessor. It may not be the franchise highlight -that award still going to the melee at the start of “Final Destination 2” - but it’s fairly decent stuff.

The acting is unremarkable but far from amateurish, something which plagued “The Final Destination” constantly. D’Agosto is maybe a little sedate in the leading role, but he at least exudes likability. Tony Todd returns in person for the first time since 2003 here, once again acting as an ominous cipher for death. Simply reinstating Todd to the series lends “Final Destination 5” some much needed genre credibility, further showcasing that Quale and company took the business of making a goofy horror picture seriously. The death sequences (which have always been the franchise’s biggest pull) are solid, “Final Destination 5” utilizing gymnastics, laser eye surgery and acupuncture for some of its darker thrills. I hate to keep harping on about this picture’s superiority over “The Final Destination”, but it’s honestly just refreshing to see the creators once again apply some focus and energy to the twisted set-pieces.

The human component of “Final Destination 5” is weak, screenwriter Eric Heisserer (who was also responsible for last year’s revamp of “A Nightmare on Elm Street”) fumbling the relationship between Sam and Molly, thusly filling “Final Destination 5” with a rickety and uninvolving emotional core. Nobody comes to these pictures for sublime drama, but it would be nice if more effort had been applied to this facet of the film, because on the basis of how much screen time it receives, audiences are clearly meant to care about it.

“Final Destination 5” is forgettable, but at least it provides adequate entertainment for the majority of its snappy 92 minutes. The franchise’s tongue in cheek sensibility shines through with a mischievous finale, one which strongly indicates this might be the last offering under the “Final Destination” brand. It’s a slight return to form, delivering to viewers what they enjoy most about these movies, which includes overlooking extraneous details such as rich character development or logic. A film of this calibre is usually a rental, but given the high standard of its 3D I’d almost encourage people to check “Final Destination 5” out in theatres.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


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