Well here we are, right up to the present day with The Final Destination. You’d think I’d have something funny or clever to say here, but I do not. After the surprisingly solid Final Destination 3, we’re in for a biiiiig letdown. You’ve been warned.
Let’s just get this fucking show on the road.
The Final Destination (2009)
I want to tell you a cautionary tale about cinema going in the modern era. You see, we have this thing called 3D and it’s all the rage. Future children of the world, some day you’re going to wonder why all the movies of the late aughts looked weird, and I’m going to tell you it’s because they were in 3D, and then everyone realized that was dumb and shoved it under a rug.
The Final Destination was originally in 3D, and the movie is structured as such. We open with the prerequisite disaster (this time it’s a massive crash at a race track that spills into the stands) but all the beats are turned into ‘whoa look at this thing in your faaaaaace’ moments. This also spills into the CG, which has the too-sharp, shoddily-integrated look of an effect that would get masked by the blurring of 3D projection into something close to decent. Because there’s no other sane explanation why all the CG looks like it fell out of the previous decade.
So this serves as a reinforcement of my original decision to do this. I did it because I figured, if I’m going to see Final Destination 5, I should probably see it in 3D, because otherwise I would be missing a lot of what made it work or not work. And boy, does The Final Destination back that up and then some. From the ridiculous opening credits, full of stylized x-ray looking reinterpretations of the best kills from the rest of the series, we are deep in the land of gratuitous 3D.
I’d go on to tell you the plot, but really it doesn’t matter. People survive the wreck only to slowly be killed off one by one. Tony Motherfuckin’ Todd is still not here, and our main characters still find out about the ‘Death’s Design’ gimmick through a series of news articles about the previous films that our nondescript heroes print off to show the camera. It’s all very lazy, which would be fine if the rest of the movie wasn’t also incredibly lazy.
This movie was made by the same folks who made the pretty-bad Final Destination 2, and it shows. Again our main character, a guy I couldn’t tell you the name of at gunpoint, sees the murders through a series of visions. But instead of crazy flashes, we get abstracted scenes of random CG reinterpretations of what’s going to happen. For example, in one ‘vision’ we see a badly animated rattlesnake on a pole hissing menacingly at the camera (and presumably shooting out at the audience), only to later find out that it’s a Caduceus he should have been looking for. That sort of bullshit. It’s a cheap way of running the gimmick, and we’ve seen it done before better.
Which is kind of the whole movie. The Final Destination is really the first time this feels like a phoned-in sequel. Few of the many, many kills are particularly spectacular, and by the end they’re casually offing characters (including a ton of random bystanders) like it’s no big thing. One of the main group dies offscreen. If they can’t be bothered to care, why should we?
The most criminal point comes an hour in, when apparently our heroes have saved themselves from death early. Well, god damn, I’d take a 70 hour movie. Universal monster movies were regularly 70 minutes and those were great. And just as I’m about to ponder what I’ll do with my extra free time we get a third act that starts with ANOTHER FIRST ACT DISASTER PREMONITION.
That’s right. With nothing to do, the movie is content to cycle back around to the start again, creating a 30 minute mini movie of the film we just watched. It’s not even a sly commentary on the film to have this recursive coda (though considering the end set piece takes place at a movie theater playing a 3D movie, one might almost be forgiven for thinking it’s pulling a Scream/Stab), it’s just another 20 minutes to restart the same idea because what the hell else are they going to do?
It’s not surprising to discover that this was supposedly the final Final Destination movie, until it made a whole boatload of money. There’s a sense of tiredness here, of ideas nobody really has any enthusiasm for wrapped around an array of completely forgettable people and lame deaths. It’s not fun, it’s not scary, it’s not even clever. The Final Destination was where a franchise slunk off to to die. And then people went to see it in DROVES. So go figure.
( A final aside, before we get to the good stuff, there’s a scene in this movie that takes place in front of a sign for Clear Rivers Water. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a picture of this online. And lord knows I looked. Unfortunately, I got the Blu-ray version of the movie from Netflix and don’t have the capability to capture images from the disc or you better believe there’d be a picture of the sign up here. Because it’s literally the best part of the movie, this sign. It’s a memory of happier times, when I wasn’t watching irredeemable dreck. )
The Best Kill:
The best friend of our hero is a big jock douche, because the friend is always a big jock douche in these movies. It leads to the question of why these otherwise reasonable people put up with this total asshole for no reason, but that’s for another time. Regardless, he’s in this movie, so of course he’s going to die.
Sitting poolside playing with his lucky coin, the coin flips out of his hand and into the water. Where the pool has accidentally been bumped into ‘drain’ mode. Where the drain has rotten away to just the open six-inch hole. So he dives in and looks for the coin until he’s pulled ass-first against the drain. What follows is one of the grossest pool-related accidents possible. And in order to add a bit of culture and because it’s the lazy way of getting out of describing it, I offer you this cool, semi-related Chuck Palahniuk story: Guts. Warnings for explicit words about sex and gore and stuff.
The ‘Best’ Kill:
Because the original disaster takes place at a race track, one of the survivors is a redneck racist. Because stereotypes are the lazy man’s characterization. And this racist blames the black security guard who pulled them all out when the lead flipped shit for the death of his wife who stayed behind. So he’s coming to get the security guard, complete with wooden cross he’s going to burn in the guy’s yard.
Except a horseshoe hung on the radio knob in his tow truck slips off and hits the shifter, both knocking it into drive and turning on a blaring rendition of “Why Can’t We Be Friends” like it’s the end of Lethal Weapon 4 (which is usually a negative association but compared to this might as well be a god damn Kurosawa film). This as he is startled into spilling gasoline (for the cross, of course) on himself. And then the tow hook, which had come loose, hooks him around the ankle and starts dragging him along. Then the sparks of the chain ignite the gasoline.
So now we have a screaming, burning racist. Our security guard comes out to this scene as the fire reaches the truck and it blows up, killing the racist and sending his burning head flying to the security guard’s yard. Ahaha, just desserts, right? RIGHT!? As someone who grew up on Tales from Crypt episodes, the kill appealed to my sense of pulpy comeuppance, but it’s one of the sillier kills and comes out of a far campier movie than any of the Final Destination movies.
Our survivors find themselves two weeks after the weird double-climax sitting in a cafe. It’s at this point that our hero realizes that parts of the visions he’s been having are all lining up here. This is the perfect moment where everything comes together. And he realizes, subverting the entire point of these movies, that all the flashes and premonitions have lead them right to this cafe where they’re meant to die.
The question becomes whether or not this is just bad writing or if this has always been true, though either way it means that the whole disaster/escape-death setup is nothing more than a giant tease, because of course they’re going to survive, and of course they were never in true peril up until this point. It could have been a nice comment on how the audience always knows its leads will survive up until the very end, but the movie so far has been far too dumb to make that a logical answer.
And then a truck slams into the cafe and kills them all. Though when it hits it transitions to the 3D-CG x-ray looking skeletons and stuff as we watch our heroes turned into piles of snapping bones and bad gloopy CG blood spray before it slams to nu-metal credits. So long, heroes. You didn’t even get a real death scene. Because nobody can be bothered to give a shit. I’m amazed death could gather the gumption to even show up to kill them. At that point I wouldn’t have blamed it for going and doing something better with its time. Lord knows I should have.