Screen Rant's Ben Kendrick reviews Final Destination 5
Along with the Saw franchise, the Final Destination series has become one of the most recognizable horror properties in the modern cinescape. While films like Insidious have succeeded in delivering new and compelling horror scares - there's no doubt that audiences still enjoy the familiarity (as well as increasingly complicated) formulaic setups in the horror/comedy Final Destination films.
While the films are without a doubt short of moviegoing mastery - with stiff performances, stilted dialogue, and a preference for style over substance - there's no doubt that despite some ups and downs, overall the franchise has succeeded in entertaining audiences for over a decade.
Can the latest entry, Final Destination 5, deliver another tense and enjoyable time at the theater... in 3D?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes - and, even more surprisingly, the success of the film owes a lot to director Steven Quale's use of 3D. Where Saw 3D turned out to be a gimmicky cash-grab with very few interesting applications of the format, Final Destination 5 often catches the audience off-guard, and plays against expectations through its use of 3D. Obviously, things fly out of the screen, but this isn't a film that's attempting to create a rich and immersive experience - it's about toying with anticipation as well as delivering cathartic, over-the-top pay-offs. Most audience members are burning out on run of the mill 3D, but even naysayers will have to admit that Final Destination 5 makes interesting (and at times cringe-inducing) use of the format.
By now the basic Final Destination premise should be familiar to most moviegoers: Each installment begins with an enormous action set-piece (in this case, a suspension bridge collapse) that kills off character after character in a variety of shocking and grisly ways - until the entire sequence is revealed to be a premonition. Final Destination 5 centers around Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) who, after a brief moment of deja vu, remembers his gruesome vision and drags several of his co-workers off the aforementioned bridge before the collapse - subsequently saving them from their pre-ordained deaths. As a result, "Death," who does not like to be cheated, spends the remainder of the film hunting the survivors one by one - using a string of complicated real-world setups to reclaim their lives.
Prior installments always toy with a "solution" to the inevitable deaths (i.e. cheating death again, new life, etc.) to give the characters motivation to press on. However, Final Destination 5, to its credit, offers a more straightforward solution - the survivors can kill another person to appease death - which not only makes more sense than prior films, but also drives the plot and characters forward in compelling and twisted ways. It's a subtle addition that (surprisingly) isn't a major focus of the story - but adds an interesting dynamic as well as a few extra surprises by the end.
As with the other movies in the series, most of the performances are pretty stiff and the characters are either underdeveloped or fit into predictable stock categories. That said, both Nicholas D'Agosto and Miles Fisher (who plays Sam's best friend, Peter), have surprisingly natural onscreen charisma - especially given the ludicrous scenario and flat dialogue they're expected to deliver. The rest of the cast is competent, and never really distract from the events that are unfolding - but don't make much of an impression, either. Most of the characters, as usual, are merely cannon fodder for the star of the film - Death (and its creative killing methods).
As mentioned, the death sequences in Final Destination 5 benefit from the use of 3D, but even without the format the set-pieces will still satisfy, presenting some of the most outrageous kills of the franchise.
Instead of a string of overly-complicated real-world killing scenarios - which could become arduous as the film rolls on from one multi-step death to another, Final Destination 5 finds some intriguing ways to keep tension high without continuously falling back on the formula (though there is still plenty of by-the-numbers killing to satisfy die-hard fans). The deaths are especially effective this round because there's a different approach to each one - toying with expectation, body horror, sympathetic discomfort, and abrupt surprises. Each one keeps the audience invested in the moment-to-moment happenings (but in a different way) - as opposed to simply waiting for the ball to drop.
Final Destination 5's logic gets a little dodgy by the closing credits (though no moreso than in prior installments) but definitely delivers some fun surprises and a number of great nods to the overarching Final Destination franchise. It's arguably the second-best entry in the series (behind the original, of course) and should please fans as well as serve as a good re-entry point into the storyline for filmgoers that may have passed on the last few installments.
That said, anyone expecting a sharp and thrilling horror narrative or an immersive scare flick will probably be disappointed by Final Destination 5, but at this point, moviegoers know what to expect from the series - elaborate, over the top, kills. There's no doubt that despite its shortcomings, Final Destination 5 delivers on those expectations - and as a result offers a horror mayhem tour de force.
If you’re still on the fence about Final Destination 5, check out the trailer below:
If you’ve already seen the film and want to talk about various plot details without ruining it for others, head over to our Final Destination 5 spoilers discussion.
Final Destination 5 is now playing in theaters.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.