The Final Destination
Review Date: January 18, 2010
Released by: New Line
Release date: 5/1/2010
Region Free, HDTV
Codec: AVC, 1080p
Widescreen 2.40:1 | 16x9: Yes
was released late last summer to low expectations and little fanfare. The first three Final Destination
films were all decent sized hits, to be sure, but after the third there seemed to be the general consensus that the series had run its course. Nobody expected that it would top the box office in its opening weekend [Ed: The same weekend as Halloween II, no less!]
and wind up out grossing higher profile films like the Friday the 13th
reboot. In fact, until Paranormal Activity
in the fall, The Final Destination
stood as the highest grossing horror film of 2009. Why the sudden turnaround? Was the film really so good that it gave the series the proverbial shot in the arm? Not really. The answer lies in two simple letters: 3D. Capitalizing on the recent 3D craze, New Line’s savvy decision turned out to be a gold mine. As a film The Final Destination
is a total piece of crap. As a theatrical experience, however, it was a genuinely fun throwback to the low rent horror flicks of the 80’s. The real question now becomes: does The Final Destination
stand up on home video or has the series, despite the box office success of this installment, reached the end of the line?
Nick (Bobby Campo
), Lori (Shantel Van Santen
), Hunt (Nick Zano
) and Janet (Hayley Webb
) are enjoying an afternoon watching live stock car races. Nick has a premonition that a single act of carelessness from a pit crew worker will set off a chain reaction of events leading to a fiery car crash that will spill out into the stands in an orgy of gore, violence and destruction. Snapping from the vision he manages to get his friends, and a few bystanders, out of the stadium in time to save their lives. Turns out, however, that they were all fated to die and Death is not one to be easily cheated. So the protagonists and a bunch of barely named supporting characters meet their ends in an escalating series of ironic, increasingly unlikely and hilariously over the top death sequences.
In other words, it’s exactly the same as the three films that preceded it.
What I love most about the Final Destination
series is that, after the first one, it abandoned all pretensions and became a gristmill of teenage death. The first was a surprisingly well-received sleeper (even horror adverse Ebert had good things to say about it) and it was a fun little thrill ride. Hindsight reveals that its aspirations were a bit beyond its grasp; the aborted ending included on the DVD shows that while the filmmakers give the film philosophical underpinnings on the nature of and balance between life and death, the film was at its best when it was a funhouse of Rube Goldbergian death traps.
By the time the second film came around New Line knew exactly what the film series needed to be about. The teenagers going to see these films don’t want to consider their own mortality, they simply want to watch other teenagers die in horrible and clever ways - they wanted the usual slasher movie catharsis. With Final Destination 2
, director David Ellis delivered a no-bullshit, balls out thrill ride and delivered that catharsis in spectacular fashion. Final Destination 3
saw the return of director James Wong and kind of skipped the tracks, pun intended, with its laborious set up and sullen tone. I liked it well enough but it was still a let down from the over the top carnival ride of 2. With the fourth installment director David R. Ellis returns to the series to give it a much-needed shot in the arm. It doesn’t exactly blaze new trails and depends too much on gimmickry to truly work as a stand-alone picture. Nonetheless, The Final Destination
is breezy and slick entertainment that doesn’t resonate but still manages more than its fair share of thrills.
Ellis brings his usual B-movie efficiency to the table, though at times he’s too efficient. There’s a very specific template on display here that consists of a series of feints before the big kill scene and it’s very predictable. They would have done better to mix it up a bit to help keep the suspense a bit tighter. However, Ellis populates the backgrounds and edges of his frame with the most insanely chesty women imaginable so that certainly helps distract from the painful machinations of the barely existent plot. He also uses the goofy x-ray vision injuries pioneered in the Jet-Li martial arts masterpiece Romeo Must Die
. Yes, this movie rips off a Joel Silver picture.
The characters are total ciphers and even having seen it again, I can‘t remember any of the main character’s names. The peripheral characters aren’t even granted the luxury of names but are described by the cliché they adhere to (“cowboy”, “grease monkey”, etc.) making it abundantly clear from the get-go who’s going to live and who’s going to die. There are two exceptions. First, there’s Mykelti Williamson as security guard George. George is given a genuinely poignant back-story and Williamson manages to milk his few scenes for all they’re worth. He crafts the best character of the lot, by far, and gives a performance far better than the film requires. George is also responsible for one of the most unexpected, tasteless, yet mordantly funny scenes in the entire series. I don’t want to give away what is probably the best moment in the movie so I’ll just say that you’ll probably laugh, and you’ll probably feel a bit guilty for doing so. Secondly, is Nick Zano as douchebag Hunt. I can’t really defend this character other than to say that Hunt is such an over-the-top douchebag stereotype that he can’t help but be entertaining.
This all works up to a point but, even at a barely feature length 82 minutes, The Final Destination
still manages to outstay its welcome. Ellis’ pacing is usually dead-on but the third act of FD4
drags. It’s a convention of the series that the protagonist foresees the big conclusion then intervenes to stop it but that doesn’t play well here. The hero’s intercession doesn’t really cause any ripples and its kind of boring watching events that we’ve already seen play out in pretty much the same fashion as before. It doesn’t help matters that a large portion of the final sequence is set in a theater showing a 3D movie, a conceit that is just too meta and arch for its own good (although the extremely effective escalator death that follow shortly after more than makes up for it).
And that’s really that. I’m sure I could say more, but what would be the point? The Final Destination
movies are what they are and the fourth entry is so lacking in anything even remotely resembling subtext that it pretty much defies critical examination. Do you like to watch people get killed in elaborate death traps? Do you think it would be fun to see those deaths in 3D? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, then you’ll probably have a good time. The Final Destination
was an easy recommend as a theatrical experience. As a stand-alone movie it doesn’t really work but there’s still enough creative mayhem to make it worth a spin in 2D.
This is a new film and looks it. The opening race sequence is especially impressive, with the bright colors of the stock cars, the blue of the sky and the green grass really popping off the screen. Fine detail isn’t quite as good as one would expect, especially in darker scenes where tends to be obscured by video noise. Not a standard bearer by any means but, for a relatively modestly budget horror flick, not bad.
The Final Destination
is far from a subtle movie and the audio track reflects that from the get go. Whether it’s the pulsing generic rock soundtrack or the thundering of racecars, the DTS-HD Master Audio track is showy. There’s lots of deep bass without distortion, great panning effects (check out the race cars in the opening scene or the mayhem at the mall near the end) and dialogue doesn’t get lost in the louder scenes and is always intelligible in the quieter ones.
New Line has always delivered in the supplement department, especially for its horror titles. On the surface The Final Destination
Blu-ray seems like a typically well-rounded offering but on closer inspection the supplements are as superficial as the film itself.
First we have 2D and 3D versions of the film. The 3D version uses the old red and blue glasses and not the polarized glasses of the Real-D process. The 3D version was probably about as good as is possible for that outdated method, but I could only watch it for five minutes before my eyes started to hurt.
Next is Body Count: The Deaths of The Final Destination
, which consists of 7 featurettes running an aggregate 22:07. Each is a deconstruction of major death sequences in the film. While it was interesting to see the practical effects crew at work (I was honestly surprised by how much of the gore was done in-camera) a little of this goes a long way. Like most promo pieces, it’s too lacking in depth and too padded out with irrelevant interviews with the cast and footage from the film.
The Final Destination
: Racecar Crash (5:00) and Mall Explosion (6:04) are three-part breakdowns that show the storyboards, pre-viz animatics and a visual effects breakdown for each respective sequence. There’s no commentary or context provided, so I found these pretty dry and boring. It’s the same thing we’ve seen a million times before and done no better.
There is a collection of Deleted Scenes (7:16), which are mostly alternate takes and short scene extensions. There are actually a few good kills and gags here that were removed for no discernable reason (again, no commentary or context is provided). There’s a short dramatic scene that was actually pretty good, but without one of the deleted endings, wouldn’t have made sense, so its deletion is understandable. It’s kind of funny that over seven minutes of deleted scenes are included here that if incorporated back into the film proper still wouldn’t push the running time over 90 minutes.
Lastly, we have two Alternate endings (3:33). They’re both unfinished, with roughed-in effects and no musical score. As lame as the theatrical ending was, both alternate endings are even worse.
A quick note: although the o-card advertises a sneak peak at the upcoming Nightmare on Elm Street
reboot, the actual package does not and I could not find the clip anywhere on the Blu-ray disc, nor on the DVD digital copy that is included. I know it exists, as I’ve seen a crappy cam of it on YouTube, but it doesn’t seem to be on the copy I reviewed.
Like I said: judged as a film, The Final Destination
in an unmitigated piece of crap. The technical polish of the Blu-ray most certain is not, however. The supplements may be on the slim side, especially when compared to the feature laden DVDs of parts 1-3, but a snazzy 3D version (for those whose eyes can handle it) of this vapid, but extremely fun, “greatest hits” package makes the Blu-ray of The Final Destination
easy to recommend.
*Because of the quality of the HD format, the clarity, resolution and color depth are inherently a major leap over DVD. Since any Blu-ray will naturally have better characteristics than DVDs, the rating is therefore only in comparison with other Blu-ray titles, rather than home video in general. So while a Blu-ray film may only get a C, it will likely be much better than a DVD with an A.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B+*
Sound - A-
Supplements - C-
- Running Time - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Rated R, 18A
- 2 Discs (1 Blu-ray, 1 Digital Copy)
- Chapter Stops
- English DTS-HD Master Audio
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- French subtitles
- 2D & 3D versions with 2 sets of glasses
- 2 Alternate endings
- Additional scenes
- The Final Destination Pre-visualization and Storyboards
- Body Count: The Deaths of The Final Destination