Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
It was only a few weeks ago I found myself reminiscing about the conclusion of the Harry Potter franchise. Today, I spent my time reminiscing about something different: the last eleven years of Final Destination movies. I remember seeing the first one back in 2000 and thinking it was original and fun. Cut to 2011, eleven years and 3 crappy sequels later. A Final Destination 5 almost seemed like a joke, these movies were an inch away from direct to DVD right? I’m sad to admit that Final Destination 5 actually is as good as the original film with a loving nod to the last eleven years, a solid story and a twist that beautifully blends everything together.
Sam (Nicolas D’Agosto) is an employee at a paper company on his way to a business retreat with a few colleagues. When they get stranded on a bridge undergoing roadwork everything seems fine…until it collapses and kills everyone. Fortunately for Sam he has seen the accident in a vision and convinces seven people to get off the bus with him. The bridge collapses as seen but now Sam and his friends have to find a way to outrun Death who has been cheated of his souls.
With three lackluster sequels it seemed time to put a nail in the coffin (pun intended) of the Final Destination franchise. I mean how many more times can small groups of people outwit Death and still be surprised? Oddly enough, this film isn’t actually sequel! I don’t want to give too much away and take away from the wonderful twists, but Final Destination 5 sets up the pieces for the last eleven years of film. With that comes a nostalgia factor that gives loving reverence to the franchise with some great montages in the opening and closing credits. I spent 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of the film trying to place which kills were from which films.
This fan appreciation style works to director Steven Quayle’s advantage as he really plays to the fans and hearkens back to the original Final Destination. The cast doesn’t dwell on why things are happening (although they do ask it more than a few times), but at an hour and 35 minutes the film simply sets things up and lets the gruesome kills take over and let’s face it, that’s why these films succeed. The kills are some of the best the series has to offer and does a great job of playing on fears that many already have as seen in the laser eye and acupuncture scenes of the trailer. Anyone with weak stomachs who can’t stand eyeballs, blood, intestines and the like should seek other fare. If you think the trailers spoiled all the kills, don’t be afraid because the best kill (in my opinion) isn’t in the trailers at all. If you enjoy 80s horror films or the new breed of horror movies that just revel in the red corn syrup then this is made for you!
Quayle should also get props for adding genuinely new bits to the story. The caveat that if you kill someone you can take their remaining years opens up a powder keg of ethical questions that I’m still debating. It takes the film from the group trying to outrun Death, into the group trying to figure out if they’re capable of murder to save their own lives. The film also takes the time to ask the question “How do you pick who will have a long life.” The ideas of life, death, and the time we’ve been given being predetermined are expertly woven and given to the audience to figure out. I don’t know if that’s a symbol of a solid director or a fantastic writer but it made the movie more introspective than it had any right to be.
Along with the story are a group of actors who don’t feel as one-note and stereotypical in past films. I slammed Final Destination 4 for having a group of people who all seemed awful, leaving me with no one I wanted to see live. Final Destination 5 doesn’t have any characters like that; in fact there wasn’t even a one-note jerk to root for a quick death. The majority of the cast work well but the scene stealer is Miles Fisher as Peter. The actor looks and act so much like Tom Cruise in the 80s that it’s frightening (I would demand a DNA test but don’t want to get sued). Peter is the character that could have been the aforementioned jerk, but Fisher imbues the character with vulnerability, charm and sympathy that aren’t expected. Tony Todd also returns as the Coroner and continues to relish the role. He had more involvement in this installment compared to past films.
The film doesn’t have flaws so much as moments that don’t jive with the rest of the film. The police investigator Agent Block (Courtney B. Vance) is beyond annoying. The investigation feels forced, like Block is trying to be Serpico or uncover some vast conspiracy. It’s proven in the beginning that Sam and his friends aren’t terrorists who caused the bridge collapse but Block doesn’t let it go, demanding to know answers! It’s pathetic towards the end because it’s mentioned time and again by his own colleagues that the freak accidents are unable to be pulled off by people. Emma Bell also falls flat as Molly. She talks in whispers and looks like she’s going to cry all the time, which doesn’t help considering she gets the most close-ups and you’re just seeing her chin wobble.
Final Destination 5 is just plain fun! It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the kills and gore are great and the story closes and opens a new chapter for the franchise. Just when you expect death to come in this film, it jerks the audience around just as much as the cast. See it with friends and have fun!
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.