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Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Final Destination

No offense to director David R. Ellis (Snakes on a Plane), but he must be a complete idiot if he thinks he has made The Final Destination. First off, how presumptuous of New Line Cinema to think by slapping on a simple article ‘The’ at the front of this low budget horror flick it can end a franchise just · like · that. After all, these are the same chowderheads that created Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare in 1991 before they realized they had killed their only golden child molesting serial killer and brought him back to life three years later with the brilliantly titled New Nightmare, to be followed shortly thereafter by a slapdown with another popular and oft-killed but quickly brought back favorite from the Friday the 13th series in 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason. Do people even remember that Jason was supposedly dispatched to the Great Beyond for good by Paramount Pictures in 1984 with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter? Yeah, they tried that ‘THE’ bit too and it has since led to another eight films (so far) and counting. Tell us again this is The Final Destination. Until the next one.

The big difference between this Final Destination and its predecessors is that this one is in 3-D, which traditionally has been a horrible omen for a horror franchise, sort of the cinematic equivalent of serving Velveeta and Triscuits on paper plates as hors d'oeuvres at a formal affair (anywhere south of the Northeast Kingdom that is). Fortunately, thanks to leaps and bounds in technology made during the past couple of years (kudos to Pixar for that) 3-D is no longer a red-headed step-child in the cinema but can actually can offer real depth and more than just crappy “boo!” moments in a movie. Not that The Final Destination doesn’t celebrate these as well; after all, when you are making a horror movie and have the opportunity to throw a few body parts or gallons of blood directly at your audience how can you possibly resist? It would be a disappointment not to find some of these stunts included. The trick is to do it judiciously, and Ellis does better than you might expect considering he was also the director of a gore-drenched gross-out called Asylum.

The story here is basically the same as the first three Final Destination movies. This time, instead of a plane crash, a major freeway pile-up, or a roller-coaster gone off its tracks, the source of the opening mayhem that kills dozens is an out-of-control series of accidents at an aging speedway, which leads to explosive fires, racecars crashing and engine parts spinning (and cutting, crushing, or disemboweling) everywhere, eventually also causing the audience stands to collapse. As usual, a young man has a premonition of all this just minutes before it happens for real and panics, getting himself and his friends (and a few other annoying types you kind of wish he’d have let stay behind) out of the path of destruction just before everything goes to crap. Or so he thinks.

Then the real crap begins. And by crap I mean the stuff you wouldn’t want to have happen to your worst enemy kind of stuff, except I would because I’m a vindictive bitch and I have a list of people I’d LOVE to sign up for their own Final Destination, but I’m not naming names because I already know that if anything were to happen to any of these dirtbags the boys in blue would be at my front door in a heartbeat fitting me for a pair of matching bracelets and promising me a long vacation away from home.

So things are only about knee-deep or worse for Nick (Bobby Campo; Legally Blondes) and the rest of his pals when he, as the protagonists in the other three movies, proves he is not only psychic but smart enough to realize after a few of the less desirable survivors from the NASCAR holocaust wind up dead in some pretty weird and spectacular ways that what we have here is a situation where our cast has escaped death when they were meant to die and so are now marked for gruesome (and elaborately staged ~ in 3-D ~ no less!) individual death scenes. These are each as complex as that old kids’ game Mousetrap, where one action leads to another to another and to another, etc. and after a dozen or so seemingly sure “gotcha!” moments the deed finally happens totally out of nowhere. But that’s why people come to see these movies, so you already knew that, right?

You probably also know that there is scarcely anyone you’ve ever heard of or ever will hear of in the cast (I’m sorry, but it’s true) except maybe Mykelti Williamson (tv’s “24”), who has had a long career and must have been looking for college tuition for one of his daughters when this script crossed his desk. Not that The Final Destination is horribly written. It’s just that it is basically the same movie as Final Destination 2, which may be because it was written by F2’s screenwriter Eric Bress and directed by F2’s David R. Ellis. I’d love to know why they were cut out of Final Destination 3 but brought back for this one. Curious move. Hmmm.

Whatever that drama was about can hardly be as interesting as seeing how the folks at New Line are going to explain away their earlier decision when they green-light the next chapter in this series. Considering it was the biggest earner of the week domestically (beating out the also premiering sure-fire hit Halloween II), The Final Destination is bound to be little more than a pit stop on the way to hell for these filmmakers. In the meantime, there are worse places to hang, but more about Gamer some other time.

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