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."