Sometimes you get what you want. If you have been a fan of the previous entries in the Final Destination series, the fifth entry is ready to prove that this franchise hasn’t given in to death just yet. A sequel like this one could feel like more of the same, yet the magnificence of going over the top with ridiculous deaths is half of the charm of the series. People are going to die, in a certain order, but the other appeal is that you never know what is going to get them and when. At least, that should be the setup, and that’s exactly what Final Destination 5 gets right. Director Steven Quale and screenwriter Eric Heisserer embrace the inevitability of the deaths, but don’t telegraph the how. Along the way we are treated to two outstanding set pieces, even more deaths, and pleasing use of 3D where it counts. The film plays as more black comedy than horror, but there are cringe worthy moments that don’t involve the gore. Hit the jump for my full review.
Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) and his co-workers are off on a company team-building retreat when he has an eerily realistic vision of a horrific bridge collapse. When he wakes, they are on that very bridge and he manages to convince his former girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and a handful of co-workers, including Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), Candice (Ellen Wroe), Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), Isaac (P.J. Byrne), Peter (Miles Fisher), and their boss Dennis (David Koechner) to get off in time to see it go down. They count themselves as lucky, but death has a habit of collecting on its dues. One by one, the survivors meet increasingly absurd and gruesome deaths. As they realize what is going on, they race to cheat death with varying degrees of success.
Heisserer and Quale do a great job of setting up the premise without too much fluff getting in the way. Final Destination 5 is lean, clocking in at 95 minutes, and the kills come early with frequent use of 3D to gruesome effect. Even the title credits show off the extra dimension and got the crowd eager for the action to begin. Speaking of beginnings, the opening set piece of the bridge collapse left me giddy. Every cast member seems to meet a vastly different demise with Candice taking the top award, something she manages to do once more. They are grisly and the sequence throws smart and interesting obstacles in their paths. The collapse itself feels thought out and well-researched, something a lazy sequel would never spend the time to do. The entire sequence looks gratifyingly real, but it is always risky going this far in the first quarter of a film. Luckily, that risk pays off because Quale turns in some gruesome kills.
The highlight of the film, outside of the bridge sequence, has to be the gymnastic set piece. The mood is set as we watch danger after danger pool up around Candice, and you can feel the tension of the crowd building as we watch her avoid one hurdle to simply stumble upon another. The sequence comes to an outrageously brutal demise that manages to feel rewarding in a sick way. Perhaps that is the draw of the death sequences. A character in the film even mentions how increasingly absurd the deaths are, and it may be that factor that lets us view this as humorous. We can’t imagine this many things going wrong in our own demise, so we simply laugh and shrug it off as dark comedy.
Whatever your reasoning may be, the film delivers on its premise. Heisserer even brings quite a bit of humor to the proceedings, with Isaac, a cocky tech support guy, the leading laugh-inducer. Byrne plays the character as a smooth-talking ladies’ man to hilarious effect, and manages to have one of the best moments at a memorial service. The rest of the cast have at least a single one-liner to deliver some chuckles and they mostly hold their own as they scream, shout, and act frantic during key moments. D’Agosto is an especially crucial component to the film, and he pulls off the leading role with charm and fear.
Despite all of this, there are a few hangups that still linger. Peter is the weakest of the characters in the film. There isn’t much to like about him and he seems to be the most morose of the bunch. There is a moment where he has to pull off an important scene, and it feels rather flat. Additionally, the use of David Koechner as a boss feels out of place, and more overtly comedic than dark. His character comes off as a buffoon, something none of the other characters fall prey to. Even the chemistry between Sam and Moll managed to leave me without a care of whether they work out or not. As a whole, Final Destination 5 is noticeably hollow without the cruel set pieces, and for that it will not reach much beyond its core audience. For those that are fans, though, there is much to be happy about, including a satisfying ending.
I will not pretend to be a enthusiast of the series as a whole, as I have skipped out on a few iterations, but the film had me enthralled throughout. Final Destination 5 is a quick popcorn flick that might keep hold of people that haven’t tuned in for a few sequels. Even newcomers will be guided along well enough to thoroughly enjoy the film without any prior context. Some of the more brutal moments of the film utilize 3D to either throw something at your or bring you into the scene. With a film where everything is cranked up to a level beyond, 3D certainly helps the over-the-top nature come through. Stylish, gruesome, and at times hilarious, Final Destination 5 delivers on the goods it promises and doesn’t worry about the rest.