The world does not need another FINAL DESTINATION 5 review but look how it’s happening anyway. I’d have reason number one million to hate myself if I neglected to express how impressed I was with it. It’s not every day that a horror franchise lives up to its full potential and the accomplishment seems even more miraculous considering this is a fifth installment of a series whose fourth was its worst. I was prepared for a decent enough time but not prepared for one of the most satisfying endings I’ve ever encountered. Maybe it’s best that FD 5 is currently doing lackluster business and making a future installment less likely because a better cap off to the series would be nearly impossible to achieve. I mean it as a compliment when I say stick a fork in it.
I understand that not everybody is a fan and that makes perfect sense. One need only witness a real catastrophe to know they are far from entertaining. As for myself, the Chicken Little, Cassandra complex, there by the grace of God go I, step on a crack and break your mother’s back, bad omen paranoia that imbues the series speaks loudly to me. Sure, the films can be easily accused of repetition, the franchise has built its own signature structure it adheres to steadily, but the presence of death in the best installments trumps that of most standard horror fare in that it plays by its own rules and fairness be damned. The fantasy of morality and virtue offering a flashlight through the tunnel is nonexistent. When your number is up, your number is up and to quote my dentist, “It may hurt a little.”
FD5’s opening suspension bridge disaster is as extravagant and convincing as a bad dream. There are plenty of 3-D naysayers out there, so allow me my soapbox for dissent. I don’t know if my eyes are extra responsive due to extensive training from MAGIC EYE books or the intake of a multitude of questionable substances but 3-D works for me big time and when done right it still blows my mind. FD5’s director STEPHEN QUALE is fresh off an apprenticeship with JAMES CAMERON and he clearly knows a thing or two about pushing the 3-D limits. I flinched and I may have ducked a tad too. Be that as it may, what makes this addition to the series truly work has little to do with the accomplished special effects. More importantly, I think, is the return to form on the storytelling front and a willingness to leave the door open for real darkness to seep back in.
I should be careful not to oversell, FD5 is refreshingly gratifying and superiorly creative but not so much a masterpiece as simply way better than you’d think. The characters are older and less annoying and seem to have interests outside of being blown up and I was happy to be able to tell them apart from each other. TONY TODD returns as the mysterious coroner and the effect of his creepy presence I wouldn’t underestimate. For long time fans of the series, there are dozens of fun nods to the previous films and the delicious ending I mentioned earlier is far more than the standard cheap rug pull. It will have you backtracking through the rest of the film in your head and realizing just how well earned it is. The wheel is not reinvented but it’s certainly a pleasure seeing it spinning so smoothly and taking turns you wouldn’t anticipate. The series trademark deaths are kicked up a few notches too. In fact one left me seriously disturbed well after the fact. Wow, I can still find myself squeamishly grossed out by witnessing a horrible death. Who knew? Perhaps the best evidence of the film’s success is the way I walked home from the theater: cautiously.