Final Destination 5 opens in theaters this weekend and this fifth instillation hopes to revitalize the franchise with new rules, fresh characters and more than one twist that will tickle some fans as they pick up the clues and the breadcrumbs along the way — while others will be screaming with laughter as they realize where the train is headed.
We had the chance to sit down with Final Destination franchise creator and producer Craig Perry at the Los Angeles press event for the film, to talk about breathing life into a series many thought was dead after The Final Destination, the shifting rules of the game vs. the rules that never change, and finally, the science of making death funny.
We paused to consider whether or not I should be concerned about latent sociopathic tendencies given that I was crying tears of unmitigated joy at some of the truly brutal “dispatching” of many of the Final Destination 5‘s characters. Perry assured me that was all “perfectly normal.”
One of the moves Perry made to reinvigorate his franchise with this film was to hire master 3D technician (and James Cameron protege) Steven Quale to direct, in order to ensure that the visual scope of both the elaborate kills and the 3D were as well designed and dynamic as possible. It is a bet that already seems to have paid off for the producer; in a year filled with poorly-executed or ill-conceived 3D, FD5 is already being talked about as one of the films that shows you how it ought to be done.
The second thing that Perry that the Final Destination 5 team wanted to do is introduce some new twists to the story structure in order to keep the audience engaged in the unfolding of death’s grand design.
FD5: Kill Or Be Killed
SR: There are a few new twists and conceits in this film, some of which we can not print yet, but one of which is introduced in the trailer — it’s the idea that Tony Todd’s character proposes, which indicates that this time, it’s kill or be killed.
Craig Perry: “Well you have to do that, you know, because it’s got a five on it. I mean at a certain point I don’t want another Big Mac. So by adding that and injecting that the rules have changed, and that there is a new idea, I think freshens up the franchise in a very good way. So that it’s a legitimately poised question, and the characters react to it, and it gives us somewhere to go in the third act, other than ‘death is gonna come from somewhere, I don’t know where, but it’s gonna come.'”
Take a look at the trailer below to get an idea of some of the new creative places that death is gonna come from:
Oh Well Sucker
SR: Part of the inherent irony of this whole “buying time from the sacrifice of someone else life” is that there is the idea of who “deserves” to live and who “deserves” to die and who is the arbitrator of that decision – which is part of the crux of the franchise. But also, how do you select your victim? Who is going the yield the most years, who will you be able to live with killing?
“Yeah well that’s really where the moral question comes in. I could go an take an infant and whack it’s head against a crossbar but who’s to say that it wasn’t going to die of SIDs in six months? Or the homeless guy who, you think, ‘he’s drinking sterno’ but he’s got thirty more years in him. He’s a cockroach — he ain’t going down no matter what! It’s the ‘what if?’ game. Would I do this, or that? And you have the audience do the same thing as you have the characters wonder.”
“There was a whole bunch of evolution in terms of that dynamic between that final triangle…It’s a hard thing to pull off, but it’s also…it’s easier to kill someone that you know.”
SR: Wow, so the idea is that it’s easier to kill someone you know than a stranger?
SR: Well I suppose someone you know has had more time to get on your nerves. (Again, we were told there is no need to worry about latent sociopathic tendencies.)
In order to remain SPOILER-FREE in this interview we have truncated certain sections of this dialog. Essentially, however, it comes down to the idea of playing God. The central protagonist and antagonist have both done so in either a direct or indirect manner, and the antagonist wonders what gave the protagonist the right to do so in the first place. As Perry explains it:
“Any time there is a tragedy, you always want to find someone else to blame but yourself and (the character in question) is saying, ‘suddenly now I have some power, for the first time in this whole scenario, I’ve got power. I know I’m going to die, and I’m emotionally ready to kill someone, now I have to ask — who?…You.'”
There is a moment in the film when the decision about how to act arises – given the moral quandary at hand – and Perry feels that in said moment, “all the air goes out in the room.”
“That scene, that scene is my favorite scene in the movie. The kills are great and all that stuff, but that scene, the way it’s edited, the way it’s put together, the sort of transference of malevolent energy coming from a character not just an elusive thing — it’s what makes the movie dramatic. It elevates it, it’s cinematic, it’s performance-based and not just schtick — and I think it’s one of the main reasons why this movie is better than the other ones.”
FD5 Kills: I Died Laughing
SR: The kills really are a central part of this franchise, and the enjoyment people get from it — do you ever just wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare excited, thinking ‘that’s a great way to die?
“Every time I walk down the street I think about it. I can’t look upon the world without thinking of horrifying ways to be dispatched.”
SR: You know we’re sitting in the theater and everyone is just cracking up at some of the genuinely gruesome death-dealing going on, and I’m always fascinated when that works. Because it’s so often that it doesn’t work and a film’s tone get’s muddled so the audience isn’t quite sure what response was intended and what is accidental. Here, you get the sense of the sort of fatalistic irony of the situation, but it ultimately, it just feels really fun. Is there a science to striking that balance, to making death fun?
“Yes, absolutely. Some of the sequences you’re probably cringing in your seat, which is a normal suspense because your anticipating something that we then never actually do — what we do is never what you imagined. But the audacity in general of how the people are dispatched is so over the top, yet organic to the sequence (we’ve earned it) that you have to go, ‘I can’t believe they showed it to me!’ It’s kind of like when you see the ball sack, you go, ‘Did they just do that!?!’ The same principal applies. I think comedy and horror are very similar in terms of when you allow the audience to know information and how you reveal things. A joke is set up but when you land the punchline it’s not a long thing. it’s boom — like that”
“So the structures and the paradigms are very similar. We absolutely say ‘Okay, what kind of comic relief are we going to throw in there?’ and most people, when they’re confronted with a horrific situation, really laugh inappropriately. Because they need something to not make it as intense. And it’s meant to be fun. That’s the other thing, too: you go to these movies and they could be dirges, but because of the fact that you laugh and especially because of the communal experience in the theater, why not capitalize on that and make them fun? Have all the ranges from you can’t watch, to your applauding, to you can’t believe they showed that, to ‘ahhhh — gross!’ but we never linger on that very long. I think oddly enough one of the reasons why women drive the franchise is because it’s not gory. It’s not brutal, it doesn’t wallow in the hatred of humanity, and in this one I think you’re rooting for them to live — in some of the others, not so much.”
The Visions Are Not Midichlorians
SR: One of the things that people tend to wonder after they have seen a Final Destination film is, ‘Why do they get the vision anyway?’ This film seems to (at least to some degree) indicate that it’s all part of the grand design.
“You may think your number’s up here — but it’s actually up here. We have internally, over a decade, debated whether to answer where these visions come from. And we had elected not to, for a number of reasons – not the least of which is that we all have the capacity to hear the phone ring and think, ‘oh it’s cousin Joe calling’ and it is! Or we’re driving somewhere and you just get that feeling. Who’s to say that the premonition can’t happen to you. The moment that we ascribe it to a particular thing…It’s like the midichlorians in the “Star Wars” franchise, ‘I can’t be a Jedi, well fuck you, thanks for ruining my childhood. I guess I can’t be that.’ We didn’t want to do that.”
“In a more calculated way, these movies do well internationally and without any strategy we started to ask ourselves, ‘Why do they do well internationally?’ And we realized that because we don’t answer that question, every region, every culture, has it’s own theory about fate and about death. And why not let them bring into the theater their own rich cultural mores and project them onto the story? Then they can find things to take home with them that are specific to them. Every region, and every culture, and every religion worldwide can make this movie their own by not answering that question. The fact that you’re talking about it now? If I answered it, you wouldn’t have a question. But you’re thinking about it, you’re mulling it over. What better way to have an audience engage in an active way, as an active participant, than to make them question and wonder and talk about it in the parking lot.”
Dear Fans: Thanks For The Memories
(You will come to appreciate that subtitle when you see the movie)
SR: I mentioned this kind of fatalistic irony mixed with the fun, there is kind of a moment in this film where you think it really may go in a whole new direction and then it sort of makes a turn and…brings it all home again.
“The thing that’s interesting about this movie is that you and I, I’m sitting here talking to you, we’re going to die, you and I. That we’re ignorant (about the when and the where of it) is what allows us to live life to the fullest. When you know that you’re number is coming with some degree of immediacy then you would freak out. It happens to everybody that gradually gets ill and they know that it’s terminal — they have many choices about how to act and what to do. We had our characters get to a place where they didn’t know when it was going to happen and that’s no different than anybody in that theater. And the irony is that there is design upon design upon design and in a weird way it’s that Gordian knot that the whole universe is tied into. I think it’s fun for the audience – it’s that old joke about how connected everything is. A butterfly flaps it’s wings here and somebody dies there. Why not play into that, and why not have fun with it?
And the balancing act in this movie in particular was to go to that really ironic tragedy — and there is the dark side of irony — and then there is the fun side of irony. So the audience can go out an say, ‘Okay, I experienced many levels and colors and textures of how they wanted me to feel, but the one they wanted me to leave with was that it was supposed to be fun, and that it’s okay, and the whole sort of mash-up to fans is there to say, ‘Hey thanks for coming and we appreciate all your support.’ That was how we wanted to go out.”
SR: The Final Destination was potentially the last in the series, but if this one does what it’s created to do then there will be an invigorated interest in the franchise — are you already talking about Final Destination 6?
“I’m just glad that we redressed the balancing act and I think we’re in a good position to make a good showing because it’s a good movie. No one sets out to make a bad movie. But it’s much harder to make a good one. Call me a week from Monday, but you’d be a fool not to anticipate, and I think we’ve earned the right to at least have a discussion because it’s a better movie than the last one.”
Stay tuned for more from out conversation with Perry on American Reuinion the latest instillation in his other long standing franchise (American Pie) and we come up with the greatest cinematic mash-up in history:
“We should do ‘American Destination — Final Pie!'”
Final Destination 5 opens in theaters this weekend beginning Friday, August 12th.
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