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):

Final Destination 5 Poster 570x843 ‘Final Destination 5’ Set Visit & Comic Con Party Contest

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.”

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David Koechner in ‘Final Destination 5’

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.”

The new twist on death’s design & Comic-Con Party details…

Of course, the initial disaster is just the first step in the series of deaths that any Final Destination film promises.

“One of the things about this franchise that we’ve discovered,” Perry continued, “is yes, there’s this spectacle of the opening sequence, but there’s also the minutia that can deliver the same dividends. I think, as a case in point, in the last movie one of the great audience twist reactions was a complete almost non-sequiter where she’s at the beauty salon and she’s getting the scraping under the toenail. You could just watch the audience twist themselves, and that’s the cheapest visual effect you could ever do and it plays off of everyone’s innate squeamishness about things going terribly awry even when you’re grooming yourself. So I think that we struck a pretty decent balance as evidenced by the ridiculous amount of green screen here, versus a lot of moments that also play on that. I think it’s both fun and allows us to keep the costs down, but still pay off on what the premise is hoping to deliver.”

“For every film that we’ve done, we always try to one-up,” Ariel Shaw pointed out.

“All we keep thinking about is that it’s got to be better than the plane crash, its got to be better than burning the girls on the tanning bed, its got to be better than driving an engine block into Frankie Cheeks’ head. Exploiting the stereo aspect fully can be both a bane and a boon. Working in stereo you have to be a lot more exact. Everything is performed to the camera to exploit the stereo, that’s the challenge that we all love. In fact, we just got through a meeting, just now, to figure out how to do a fairly special kill that really exploits the stereo.”

“We have some horrific deaths,” Quale assured us. “I can’t go into detail, but the fans will not be disappointed. The actors love it, too. They’re really getting into it.” Five hours of make-up and all.

Actor Dave Koechner (Anchorman) dipped out of the make-up chair to chat with us, half-covered in burn scars that he loving and enthusiastically refereed to as his “skin condition.”

He was excited to be a part of the project because it is unlike anything he has ever done, though he did quip that it is the second time in his career that he has worked at a paper company. He was drawn to both the horror genre and the opportunity to shoot a 3D film with one of the masters, Steve Quale.

“All the stuff I’ve seen (because the monitors are also 3D) it’s blown me away,” the actor enthused.

“I haven’t been the biggest fan of 3D, because I feel like it’s been forced on us a bit, especially some of the films that got reconstituted to catch up to 3D. But this one’s truly shot in 3D, and it really makes a huge difference. It’s a different experience for the viewer – even for me, who’s one of the skeptics. So I’m on board.”

Koechner plays boss to several other members of the cast, and as such, is granted a genuinely gruesome death. As the actor himself pointed out, the deaths in a Final Destination film are often linked to either the personality, or physical, traits of the recipient.

“These deaths are so much fun!” said the actor, happily chatting away with us when, by all appearances, half of his head was melting off.

“They’re so enjoyable, because of, obviously, the Rube Goldberg approach to which everyone dies. That’s such a fascination, right? What chess game is going to bring this person’s death? That’s a thrill. And you know, it’s such an interesting genre, where you cheer when there’s deaths, right? You’re thrilled by them.”

It’s more than just going down like a set of domino’s for this Final Destination cast, however.

“There’s actually a pretty fun narrative to this that’s different than other “Final Destination” movies,” Nicholas D’Agosto told us. The actor continued by alluding to a shift in the rules that will be revealed in the film.

“There’s a twist in this one where the characters inter-relate in a way they’ve never really done before. And it kind of adds to the dramatic element of it, and I think in that we get to have a lot of fun. And it’s brought a lot out in us, and so although there are those typical things where we have to run around and it’s sort of like, ‘how many faces for frightened do you have?’ But, you know, you end up having a lot of scenes that have some more depth and relationship to them — which was fun for us.”

Emma Bell, who plays D’Agosto’s co-worker and estranged girlfriend in the film agreed, saying:

“Yeah. It’s very character driven and I also think as far as the normal formula for the “Final Destination” series…hopefully audiences will almost watch this with new eyes because there are differences.”

Second trailer for Final Destination 51 ‘Final Destination 5’ Set Visit & Comic Con Party Contest

Miles Fischer elaborated on some of those differences by saying:

“I think that in the previous “Final Destination’s” there has always been one prevailing theory that everybody kind of subscribes to. This has a bit more fractured leadership. In other words not everybody is on the same page, not everyone is swallowing the same medicine, some different people try to beat the system and cheat death on their own terms and if you’re not all in it together, terrible things happen.”

Fisher indicated that his character begins as an affable, likeable, guy who takes a turn after the tragedy at the bridge to becomes someone almost unrecognizable from the man he is at the beginning of the film. When asked if the fracture in leadership is the cause for his character’s shift, he replied:

“I have a certain theory, other characters have another theory. Bludworth (who you know is sort the unofficial Godfather of the franchise) plants various seeds and it’s endless question marks. Of course you can try to escape death as long as you want — until you eventually fail.”

“You can’t escape death.” P.J. Byrne concluded.

Stay tuned for more on the kills, humor, 3D and surprises in FD5 in the days to come.

FD5 Comic-Con Party Contest

We’ve selected a winner who gets to attend the Final Destination 5 invite-only party at Comic-Con! The winner is Rob Acocella. Congratulations, Rob, and thank you to everyone who entered!

In the interim, here is your chance to win two tickets to the Warner Bros. Final Destination 5 party at Comic Con!

Here are the details for the event:

  • Final Destination 5 “Happy Hour” – 5-8PM – Thursday, July 21st at Comic Con in San Diego
  • Specific Location – To be announced
  • 3D footage and games
  • 21 and over

For more on Final Destination 5:

Final Destination 5 is scheduled for release on August 12th. Richard Brener and Erik Holmberg executive produce with Craig Perry producing. Steven Quale directs from a script by Eric Heisserer with a cast the includes Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fischer, P.J. Byrne, Dave Koechner, Jacqueline Wood, Ellen Wroe, Arlen Escarpeta, and Tony Todd.

Follow me on Twitter @jrothc