A sequel filled with fatal flaws
By John DeFore
Friday, Aug 12, 2011
Nothing in life is certain but death and sequels.
Make that sequels about death - teen-oriented exploitation movies in which generic young actors meet their fates in a series of gruesome, occasionally suspenseful scenes. The latest of these, "Final Destination 5," isn't as novel as it hopes to be, but it gets the job done.
More playful than the old "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" series of hunt-the-kids-down flicks, the "Final Destination" series offered something new. Here, the villain isn't a nasty, mask-wearing man wielding knives; it's fate itself, a sense that the entire physical world is loaded with inevitable death for those who somehow evade the Reaper the first time he comes calling. The camera in "FD5" treats inanimate objects - malfunctioning air conditioners, say - as killers whose mindlessness only makes them more unstoppable.
This series courted fans with elaborate chain-reaction sequences in which minor accidents cause mayhem. Writer Eric Heisserer and director Steven Quale fill their quota of those here, but they only get part of the formula right. While viewers will get plenty of nervous giggles out of watching as burping water-coolers or (yes!) inappropriately ringing cell phones trigger fatal mishaps, the filmmakers don't milk the this-leads-to-that element that made Rube Goldberg famous. Once the initial trigger happens, there's not a lot of fun left in the scene.
Even by this franchise's standards, it's perverse that a pointy, one-centimeter-long screw (standing point-up on a gymnast's balance beam) should provide more tension than anything else here - doubly so because it features in the first death sequence, and the thrills taper off pretty consistently from there.
To their credit, Heisserer and Quale do manage a couple of grisly, postmortem punch lines after viewers think the violence has reached its conclusion. But one or two of the gags are mean-spirited enough to kill the humor.
The script and acting satisfy the genre's requirements by being thoroughly forgettable. After leaving, we will remember only that some of the characters were dating each other, one wanted to be a chef, one was a pudgy, bespectacled guy with an inexplicably active love life, and one looked like a low-rent, heavy-eyebrowed Tom Cruise. Oh - and David Koechner, the braying boor from "Anchorman" and "The Office," was their boss.
Another thing viewers might forget is that the movie was in 3-D, a fact that becomes irrelevant soon after the attention-getting opening titles. If a movie this full of surprise impalement and vicious projectiles can't make 3-D fun, isn't it time to scrap the whole fad?
Contains vulgar language and pervasive, over-the-top gore.