We had the chance to visit death one rainy Vancouver day this past November.
Well, we visited with the team that is bringing death (not quite incarnate) back to the big screen for the 5th time, when Final Destination 5 opens on August 12th.
Producer Craig Perry (the Final Destination and American Pie franchises) has gathered a team of fresh talent and established (mostly comedic) veterans to inhabit the Final Destination world. Perry also hired an expert 3D technician to helm the film.
The cast includes Nicholas D’Agosto (Heroes), Emma Bell (The Walking Dead), Miles Fischer (Mad Men), P.J. Byrne (Dinner With Schmucks, Horrible Bosses), Dave Koechner (The Office, Anchorman), Jacqueline Wood, Ellen Wroe, and Arlen Escarpeta. Steve Quale, who was James Cameron’s second unit director on Avatar and Titanic and the visual effects supervisor on Avatar, makes his narrative feature film debut with Final Destination 5 (he previously directed the Aliens of the Deep documentary).
For the 5th instillation in the franchise, death comes to the office place…and a suspension bridge. The film’s unrelenting mistress, death, finds a group of coworkers in a paper company traveling for a weekend of “team-building” exercises. Sam Lawton, played by Nick D’Agosto, has a vision that saves the team from a horrific slaughter when the suspension bridge they are traveling on collapses, and afterward death begins its re-balancing stalk. Death, as we know, will not be cheated. As you can see in the trailer below, however, it does seem possible for death to be bargained with — it is literally, kill or be killed.
Check out the new Final Destination 5 trailer below (followed by the latest poster for the film):
The day we visited the set of FD5 found Quale deeply immersed in the process of bringing his 3D and visual effects expertise to bear. We were ushered in from an appropriately gloomy and rainy exterior onto a sound-stage with a massive, life-size, model of a section of the suspension bridge that serves as the set-piece for the inciting incident in the film — the first brush with death.
They were shooting a portion of the bridge collapse (which you were given a glimpse of in the trailer above) against a mass of green screen.
“We’re doing one scene in the movie,” Quale explained. “Which is one of our spectacular deaths. David Koechner’s death, actually—and what we’re setting up right now is a hydraulic ram system to have a car that smashes into this tar kettle. Which is basically when you’re resurfacing a road you have to put tar on it, incredibly hot tar that helps surface the cracks and so forth. The construction workers are working on that, the bridge collapses, and in that section the car rams into this (the tar kettle), it happens to flip it over and Dennis (the character that David Koechner is playing) is hanging on the very edge there, and he just happens to be right in the spot where this tar kettle hits, turns over and he’s going to get completely encased in steaming hot tar, so it’s a nasty way to die.”
We were able to watch as the cast and crew set-up the shot atop what Quale described as an “amazing hydraulic gimble system” that simulates the shifting of the collapse. They shot the initial passes of the scene, and then we saw the 3D video playback of the shots. The Final Destination team is always looking for ways they can outdo themselves with particularly elaborate, gruesome and/or humorously ironic deaths. With the addition of the 3D element, they are also anxious to take full advantage of the benefits of stereoscopic space. Steve Quale is most certainly the man for that job. The kills (from what we saw, and what was described to us) will be vivid, well executed, and satisfying to fans of the franchise.
As Ariel Shaw, the senior visual effects supervisor on the film, explains, “The scope of the films just keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
“Most of our opening sequences are predicated, in a way, on trapping someone. There is no way out, and things go horribly wrong. On the roller coaster, you step on that roller coaster and there is no getting off. In this case, once the bridge starts to collapse and we close off the bridge from either side, that’s it. But a bridge collapsing…the size of that is gigantic compared to everything that we’ve done so far.”
“That’s a place I wouldn’t want to be on,” Quale assured us, saying:
“If you walk over the real Lionsgate Bridge, just as an interesting test, I just jumped on it and you can feel the vibrations because its just held by cables. Everybody’s worst fear is what happens if you’re on a bridge 250 feet from the water and some of those cables snap and the thing starts going away, so that’s what we’re doing here. And the great thing about it is see this giant piece of metal back here? That’s actually the dual gimble system that has full access movement and that’s the same gimble that was used in the original “Final Destination.” Since it’s being filmed in the same city and so forth, we were able to use parts of that they were just going to throw away as garbage.”
The team ultimately integrated the elements they achieved with the green screen shoot, with the images they captured at the real Lionsgate Bridge and an additional location in Brunswick (which had a vista of the ocean) in order to seamlessly place the audience at the suspension bridge as the disaster is happening.
“We have a couple of interesting things we’ve added to the mix here,” said producer Craig Perry. “But I think more than anything, the scope of the opening sequence is going to really take people by surprise.”