Review Date: December 31, 2011
Released by: New Line
Release date: December 27, 2011
Codec: AVC, 1080p
Widescreen 2.40 | 16x9: Yes
I enjoyed The Final Destination
more than most, it seems, but by the time it was over even I had the feeling that franchise had run its course. Thatís never been a barrier to continuation, however, and as long as people are willing to plunk down their hard earned cash for more of the same, sequels will remain a sure thing. Itís kind of a cynical attitude, yes, and I didnít approach Final Destination 5
expecting much. A funny thing happened as the filmís first act drew to a close. I found myself genuinely surprised and delighted. Its largely back to basics approach really works and our familiarity with the formula allows the filmmakers the opportunity to pull the rug from under you with a couple of clever, well-timed surprised. What should have been a dull, tired cash grab winds up being one of the best entries in the long-running series. It seems that death still has a lot of life left in him.
By now thereís little point in describing the story, such as it is, of a Final Destination movie. The template is as set in stone as the Friday the 13th films were in the 80s: a group of attractive youngsters narrowly avert their death in an elaborate disaster thanks to an 11th hour premonition experienced by one of the group. Their relief is short lived, however, when they start to die under mysterious and increasingly elaborate circumstances. Enter coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd
), perhaps the personification of death itself, who fills them in: death does not take kindly to being cheated and has come to settle accounts by claiming the victims denied in the order they were originally supposed to die.
Thereís very little deviation in the series; the uniqueness comes somewhat from the group of characters (mostly just pretty faces with an affectation or two to discern them from one another), but mainly from the opening set piece (this time, itís a collapsing suspension bridge) and the Rube Goldberg-ian deaths that befall the cast. In this case, we have Drippy nice-guy Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto
), pretty but conflicted Molly (Emma Bell
),tough-guy Peter (Miles Fisher
), gymnast Candace (Ellen Wroe), bitchy rocker-chick Olivia (the hot, Megan Fox-like Jacqueline MacInnes Wood
), hornball comic relief Isaac (P.J. Byrne
), token minority Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta
) and loutish boss Dennis (David Koechner
). By the end of the film you know most, if not all, of them will have met ironically sadistic ends.
Iíve already expressed my mild dislike when Final Destination
films take themselves too seriously. To me, the series has always been at its best when it dealing out death in a flippant, cheeky manner. Final Destination 5
dials back the tongue in cheek approach of part 4
a shade but, unlike part 3
, it never crosses the line into portentous posturing. In the end, it knows why weíre here and what we want and delivers it in a way thatís not mocking or arch, but cognizant that the audience wants a fun time. There are none of the tortuous ruminations on the nature of death or fate eating up the running time.
Director Steven Quale is a visual effects man making his feature debut, but youíd never know it. Perhaps itís his experience in the realm of digital effects that enables him to stage the elaborate death sequences with such effect. Final Destination 5
is one of the most assured, confident debut films youíre likely to see. The bridge collapse that opens the film is easily the most epic and ambitious inciting incident that the series has yet seen. Its grandiose scope is something few genre films even aspire to, much less attempt to say nothing of accomplishing so spectacularly. Given that these openings set the tone for whatís to follow, it sets high standards for the rest of the film to live up to. Luckily for us, the rest of the movie proves worthy of the opening. A lot of up and coming directors see genre films like this as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and Iím certainly not going to begrudge them their ambitions. I do hope, however, that Quale slums it in genre films for a bit longer. Iíd like to see what he comes up with next. Horror could use more craftsmen with the technical prowess and breezy, storytelling confidence that Steven Quale displays here.
FD5 can claim one of the most cringe inducing, certifiably horrible death scenes in any horror franchise: the death of Candace, the gymnast. The way the scene is set up with multiple possible avenues for carnage and how each element is skillfully sidestepped is positively masterful. The sequence doesnít cheat, either. In the end, the frayed cord, the loose screw, the puddle of water all come in to play, but in a way that Iím confident nobody will be able to predict. The gruesome finality of the scene leaves us with a ďDid I just see what I think I saw?Ē moment and when the film cuts back to the corpse we are shown that we did, indeed. Thereís even an effective death twitch that serves as grisly punctuation. Simply brilliant.
The cast gives more to the film than the script asks of them. The characters are a bit more sharply drawn than the utter ciphers from the last film and their personal drama is well integrated into the story. By the end of the film, yeah, I kinda did care whether Sam and Molly lived and I could empathies with Peterís anguish at the tragic injustice of it all. They donít carve out indelible, iconic characters but they create ones that are as believable as they need to be in the moment.
The whole affair feels like a concerted effort was made not to do the same old thing. In short, it was made by people who cared about what they were making because they knew that the audience that would be watching it cares about the series. Even the effectiveness of the 3D imagery doesnít suffer in the conversion to two dimensions since, even without gimmicky glasses, the kills in the FD movies have always been of the in your face variety.
Now, if youíve seen Final Destination 5
, you already know about the ending. Plot twists are not anything new in this series but thereís never been a final twist quite like the one that closes out FD5
. At first, I felt certain that the film was cheating but when you think back on it, or watch it a second time, you can spot the clues and groundwork that paves the way for the finale. Itís an absolutely 100% legit twist that the filmmakers carefully set up and completely earn. Maybe there are a couple of possible plot inconsistencies with the ending Ė I donít want to say too much, since the surprise is part of the fun Ė but the cleverness of the concept is enough to fill in any minor holes.
Final Destination 5
was shot in digital HD. Warner almost always does a bang-up job with their new releases and this is no exception. Detail is great, even in shadowy areas of the frame, making it easy to pause the film and revel in the gruesome details. In exterior scenes colors are still strong despite the downbeat, wan palette of the film. If I have any complaints, itís that colors on the red end of the spectrum look a tad oversaturated, with skin tones being the elements most adversely affected by the shit. Minor objections aside, Final Destination looks every bit as flawless as youíd expect a film not even six months out of theatres should look.
At the risk of sounding blasť, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track included here is pretty standard. This is a Warner release, though, so the ďstandardĒ in this instance is actually very high. The track starts out typically restrained and front heavy during the opening dialogue and exposition scenes, but is still well mixed. Dialogue is consistently intelligible, in both quiet and chaotic scenes and Brian Tylerís pulsing score peppered with re-orchestrations of Shirley Walkerís nigh iconic theme is well reproduced. The audio really comes alive during scenes of full scale carnage. Especially impressive is the panning effects during the bridge collapse; the way the support cables seem to swing across the reach channels is particularly memorable, as is the squooshing of entrails as a girl is impaled on a sailboat. The track is anything but subtle in these scenes, and I wouldnít have it any other way. Subtlety is not something I associate with the Final Destination films.
Obnoxiously, the title Final Destination 5
: Circle of Death (5:39) nearly gives away the best twist in the movie. Still, if it hasnít spoiled it for you, and youíve not already seen Final Destination 5
, DO NOT WATCH THIS FIRST. The first thing this featurette does is give away the final twist. Other than that itís always fun to get a glimpse behind the curtain and see what effects were practical and how they were executed, but thereís nothing terribly in depth here and nothing you havenít seen a million times already. Biggest transgression: talking about how the gymnastís death was shot, but not showing any legit footage of it being done.
Looking at the running time for the collection of Alternate Death Scenes (15:48) might get your hopes up, but they will quickly be dashed when you find that the majority of the sixteen minute running time is dialogue leading up to the actual kills. There are only two scenes, Isaac and Oliviaís, and the added and alternate footage barely adds up to a minute. Have the remote handy and your thumb on the fast forward button for this one.
Visual Effects of Death: Collapsing Bridge (9:16) and Visual Effects of Death: Airplane Crash (3:02) are side-by-side comparisons of the raw dailies for the scene and the finished film. I thought these, especially the bridge collapse, would wear on my patience but itís actually a lot of fun to see what effects they did in-camera. When talking about the Final Destination movies and their appeal, I think a lot of people tend to overlook (or simply donít know about) the strong emphasis since day one on practical effects over digital. Itís one of the series greatest strengths and these features serve as a reminder of that.
And thatís all she wrote. Ever since Warner took over New Line, we havenít seen the same kind of feature laden special editions that New Line gifted us under the Platinum and InfiniFilm banners. What we get here is a collection of odds and sods with little effort put into their compiling. We donít even get an audio commentary or trailer. Itís kind of sad that horror series with significant followings, like Final Destination
or Nightmare on Elm Street
, get the shaft special feature wise and expensive turds like Jonah Hex get the full-on, In-Movie Experience treatment. Come on, Warner. Horror fans are some of the most loyal cinephiles out there. It would behoove you to cater their fancy. Do that and they will repay you in spades, I guarantee it.
Despite being a surprisingly strong sequel and garnering some of the seriesí best reviews since the original, Final Destination 5
was easily the seriesí least attended entry. It still did the same kind of blockbuster business overseas that The Final Destination
did, so I have no doubt weíll see FD6
sooner rather than later. If they can find similarly clever ways of exploiting the Final Destination
formula as the makers of part 5
did, Iím all for it. In many ways part 5
is the perfect horror franchise film.
The Blu-ray release is no slouch in the presentation department, but comes up thin in the supplements. Fans will want to pick it up, regardless and Iíd even recommend at least a rental to viewers whoíve been lukewarm on the series thus far. Itís not great art, but itís great entertainment and a lot of fun. This is high tech horror executed with consummate skill and craftsmanship.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour and 32 minutes
- Rated R, 18A
- 2 Discs (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD/Digital Copy Combo)
- Chapter Stops
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- French 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
- English SDH subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Alternate Death Scenes
- Visual Effects of Death: Collapsing Bridge
- Visual Effects of Death: Airplane Crash
- ďFinal Destination 5: Circle of DeathĒ Featurette