As we finished this movie last night, my wife turned to me and flung her red-and-blue 3D glasses at me, visibly irritated.
“I want my time back!”
This from someone who has genuinely loved all the other films in the “Final Destination” franchise so far, something I can’t claim about myself. I liked one of them, the second one, and I liked it precisely because it took the premise of the first film and turned it up to “total wackadoo.” Just the opening car wreck scene was such a delirious orgy of gratuitous gore and brutal stuntwork that it changed the entire direction of the series. The first film at least tried to be a character-oriented film a bit, but from the second film on, these movies have been all about the elaborate over-the-top kill sequences, and nothing but. The result is one of the flat-out weirdest horror franchises ever, a series of films in which Rube Goldberg’s angry ghost tries to kill teenagers and stock characters from beyond the grave.
Okay, okay, I know they’re not actually ghosts. It’s actually much stranger than that, a series of films in which fate is the bad guy, in which death is almost-but-not-quite an onscreen presence. In each movie, someone has a vision of a horrible accident, and they do something that removes themselves and several other people from the scenario before it happens. Then, having avoided death, they are each hunted down in the order they would have died and killed in bizarre and complicated ways.
There’s a profound nihilism to the films that would be unbearable if they played it straight at all, but of course, they don’t. The first one sort of played things straight, but since the second film, it’s all a joke, a big winky joke, and as a result, there’s nothing remotely scary about these “horror” films. Instead, you’re supposed to laugh at the gore, and as a result, these don’t really leave much of an impression at all.
The thing that made this latest installment such a drag is that, even by the standards of the series so far, this one plays like pure Teflon, a truly no-stick movie. The kids are forgettable even as you’re watching, the death scenes are boring, and there’s one that was ripped off directly from Chuck Pahlaniuk’s vile but hilarious short story, “Guts,” somehow managing to render one of the most graphic and upsetting stories in recent memory as a total dud. By the time the film folds in on itself for a climax set in a 3D theater (GET IT?!?!?!), I was ready to write the franchise off once and for all. It seems like destiny or fate or Rube Goldberg or whatever you want to call it has finally caught up with this series, and there’s no way to escape the death it finally so richly deserves.
Also, blue and red home 3D sucks. Period.
“The Final Destination” arrives on DVD and BluRay this Tuesday, January 5.
In the interest of full disclosure, one of the producers of the series, Warren Zide, is currently attached to a project of mine called “Bat Out Of Hell,” but I’m fairly sure that has little or no undue influence in terms of making me like this film. Nothing short of a gun to my head could do that.
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