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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Final Destination 3

I swear I'm having deja vu. I give you my word this is the third time I've been to the Essex Cinemas in the past five years trying to reach my Final Destination. The first time it involved getting to Paris by plane. That didn't work out well at all. Flight 180 barely left the runway before it exploded and killed all on board. The second time it required avoiding the Interstate and a runaway log truck that caused a twenty car pile-up that killed everybody in sight. This time it looks like we are going to the amusement park. Now what could possibly happen there?

I'll confess something most critics would never admit to. I liked the first two installments of the Final Destination series. Despite their low budgets and formulaic characters there was a great deal of creativity put into the convoluted plotlines and the suspense and gore were equally balanced with humor and slick wit. Much like Scream gave a wink to the very genre it was exploiting, Final Destination 1, 2, and now 3 recognize that the key to their own success is in prolonging the obvious. Each film is based on a similar premise. Those who recognize through a premonition that something dreadful is about to occur and then avoid it (along with their attendant friends) afterwards become part of a greater scheme. Death itself is determined to hunt down these survivors and eliminate them in the order that they were supposed to originally die.

In Final Destination 3, the tragedy that shapes the story is a roller coaster uncoupling that sends dozens of hapless teens celebrating Mt. McKinley High's grad night to their bloody high speed deaths. Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is the fortunate, or unfortunate, classmate who experiences this psychic peek ahead just before she, her boyfriend and several other friends were about to take the coaster ride. Wendy's hysteria gets her and six more bumped from the ride, but because of a seating snafu, her boyfriend is left on the doomed coaster and she watches in horror as he is skewered by a loosened track rail.

It takes a bit of convincing (probably too much so for this type of movie), but the dead boyfriend's best buddy, Kevin, played by Ryan Merriman, seems for no obvious reason to have made a connection from Wendy's vision to that experienced by Alex Browning, the kid from the first movie. Kevin apparently decided to research “premonitions and teen deaths” or some such twaddle on the Internet and before you know it he and Wendy are doing their good deeds by trying to warn those who go off the coaster with them that their lives are in danger.

Fortunately for Wendy, she had been taking pictures all night long for the yearbook. I'm not one to nitpick (okay, I am), but if they were there to celebrate graduation it seems a little late to be taking pictures for inclusion in the class yearbook. Aren't those things printed weeks or months ahead of graduation? Okay, I digress. Anyway, Wendy has pictures of everyone from her coaster car and so she and Kevin can plot out the order of the coming deaths and search for clues in the pictures that might help them figure out how the person will meet his or her demise. The trick is to get there in time, which seems to be harder than one would think, but then that is where the fun begins.

Our lack of knowledge about how the condemned are to meet their fates is where the suspense and the true drama of the movie excel and when most teen horror films fail. While we know they are going to die, director James Wong (who also wrote this and the first installment) titillates by showing the audience any number of common household items, appliances, or situations that appear innocent in common situations, but hold the promise of devastation in our imagination. Every household electrical outlet, every puddle, every loose stair screams out a potential death trap in the making. Inevitably, Wong successfully pulls a fast one on the audience (and the characters) and the teens meet their ends in an unexpected and usually gruesome manner.

For horror buffs Final Destination 3 is a return trip they will be glad to have taken. I ran into another regular at the Essex Cinemas on his way out of the theater on my way in and asked him what he thought of the movie. His eyes lit up and he declared it "the best. Bloody, gross, and gory all the way." I expect that is just what the director was hoping for and just what the audience seeing Final Destination 3 wants to hear.

1 comment:

r4 dsi said...

Death finds gloriously grisly new ways to deal with teenagers who dare to spit in his face.