Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: The Final Destination (2009)

The Final Destination (2009)

Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality

Score: 1 out of 5

Remember what I said in my review of Final Destination 3 about how this franchise only seemed to get better with each installment? Yeah, scratch that. Pretty much every fan of the series treats this fourth entry -- titled The Final Destination, for some reason, instead of Final Destination 4 -- like it never happened, and for good reason, as it is the worst film out of the five by a long shot. It's strange, since it brings back the director (David R. Ellis) and one of the writers (Eric Bress) of the far-superior second film, so what went wrong? Well, to be honest, as this series rewatch has gone on I've found myself liking the second film somewhat less compared to the first and the third, on account of a lack of suspense and boring lead characters, and while I still think it's an entertaining thrill ride, my displeasure with this film brought the problems I had with that one (and also some of the things I liked about it) into greater relief. This one has most of the same problems, but lacks the qualities that made that film so watchable and fun -- the great kills, the outstanding special effects, the strong supporting cast, and a story that remained coherent even with its twists and turns. It all winds up feeling like a half-baked SyFy original movie copy of a Final Destination film, with only a few minor moments that worked at all.

The problems start right out of the gate with the opening disaster. This time, it's a massive wreck at a stock car race, with vehicles flying into the stands and killing spectators, and in terms of impact, it's a pale shadow of the similar highway pileup sequence in the second film. While the first two films were a bit heavy-handed in foreshadowing the disaster, this one has the opposite problem in having barely any foreshadowing before it jumps right into the chaos. And that chaos looks all-around terrible, marred by bad special effects that seem more interested in shoving 3-D objects into the viewer's face as opposed to anything else. (Side note: this movie was shot in 3-D, and the DVD I have came with two sets of red-and-blue cardboard glasses. I remember the 3-D looking awful in theaters, but as cheap as it looked there, it was even worse watching at home.) It's easily the worst opening disaster in the series, and unfortunately, it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Any pretense of realism is dropped entirely as the film just goes for the most outrageous kills it possibly can. This is Happy Tree Friends territory we're talking about here, only without the twisted fun of seeing graphic horror movie deaths happening to cute cartoon animals. The scene in the car wash is stripped of all tension when you realize that, in real life, the washers can't actually kill you, the pool scene was ripped off from a Chuck Palahniuk short story (note to readers: that story will make you want to vomit) and isn't done a tenth as well, and the ambulance kill is ripped off from the first movie. The only kill sequences that even sort of worked were the racist's death, the movie theater, and the hair salon, and even then, it was only the last two that actually felt like they belonged in a Final Destination film, as the first one worked almost solely on a comedic level (which was admittedly intentional; I'm humming "Why Can't We Be Friends?" just thinking about it). One of the main selling points of the series, the kills, is subpar at best here.

Problems continue in the writing department. The climax hinges upon a twist that is ripped off from the second film (noticing a trend here?), but with more plot holes and less sense. In the second film, the revelation that a certain character wasn't actually fated to die was hinted at during the initial premonition; while it takes a good eye to spot it on the first viewing, it's definitely noticeable upon a rewatch. This film does something similar, revealing that there was another person who had survived and was now in line as the next person to die, not the person that the protagonists thought was next. The problem is, this reveal does not hold up if one goes back and watches the opening disaster again, as this person's death happened after the death of another character who, in the premonition, died after him, going against the entire nature of Death's stated design (kill the survivors in the order they would've died). The film makes a huge deal of this, so it's not like it's an easy plot hole to ignore like the little ones that have peppered past films. It feels like something pulled out of the writer's ass when it was realized that there was only enough material in the script for an hour's worth of movie; even as it stands, the film is only 82 minutes long, and it feels exactly as undercooked as it sounds.

The characters, likewise, are all one-note ciphers, not helped by acting that is pretty much universally wooden across the board. Seriously, nobody comes out of this movie looking good, be it the protagonists or the supporting cast. They're either assholes, or completely forgettable, with no development between them. This is the first installment in which I haven't yet even bothered to name them in my review, as their only defining features are their physical appearances and their job descriptions. (Though for the record: the guy who receives the vision is named Nick, his girlfriend is named Lori, and their friends are named Hunt and Janet.) Hell, some of them didn't even get names, the film and even the credits referring to them only as "the racist", "the mechanic", and "the cowboy"; you'd have to read the original script to learn what their names were supposed to be. It shows just how much the film cared about the people it was splattering, and to be honest, I didn't care what happened to these people either.

The foreshadowing also gets extremely lazy. Whereas the previous films had the survivors looking for clues in their environment that would hint at what's about to happen to them, here the information is simply beamed into the main character Nick's head in the form of blindingly obvious, CGI-riddled visions that remove any ambiguity and suspense as to what's going to happen. It's not even like when the second film used them, because at least in that film, more often than not they put twists on them that went contrary to the characters' assumptions. Here, though, it's the worst use of psychic visions as a screenwriting crutch, literally beaming clear, plot-relevant information into the main character's head rather than having them learn it naturally. Maybe this is why the movie was so short: all the scenes in between focused on the characters figuring out Death's design (which usually offer a lot of room for character development) were replaced with these visions!

The Bottom Line:

The one Final Destination movie that you absolutely shouldn't watch. Despite having another sequel after it, many fans have made the argument that this was the film that killed the series, on account of it being so bad that even the fans couldn't be bothered to care anymore, despite the fact that the next film was a return to form. If I rewatch this series again, I think I'll just skip this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment