Monday, August 31, 2009

Death Deserves A Raise For All This Overtime

The Final Destination
Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.
82 minutes
New Line Pictures
**** out of 5 (rating based as part of the series)

When the original “Final Destination” was released back in 2000 it had a few scenes that literally made me forget to breathe. From the opening plane crash to a character getting squashed like a bug by a bus I could sense that I had found my new favorite horror series outside of the “Scream” trilogy. The Rube Goldbergesque setups ending with a character going splat was truly horrifying yet so utterly silly that it was always hilarious.

When “Final Destination 2” followed in 2003 it seemed like it had been forever since Death last checked in for work but his return was completely welcome. Director David R. Ellis completely upped the ante and gave us even more over-the-top, crazy, zany, completely outrageous kill sequences as everything from elevators to barbed wire fencing was used to obliterate the cast members. The acting was and still is the worst of the whole series but it is more than made up for as it's totally obvious that the films budget was spent on blood and viscera.

Director James Wong and his writing partner Glen Morgan returned for “Final Destination 3” turning the films title itself into one of the biggest jokes in horror history. However, they also delivered in spades what made both of the first two work so spectacularly, if not separately: elaborate Mousetrap gross-out kill sequences from the second along with the slightly darker tone of the original. Bodies are burned in tanning beds, truck engine fans scalp like a Nat-see and noggins are popped like whiteheads but it all seems like another day at the office for my favorite screen killer, Death, as he checks in for work once again in what is hopefully not “The Final Destination.”

David R. Ellis returns for this outing with one of the writers (Eric Bress) of their “Final Destination 2” to bring us the fastest paced, goriest and most in-your-face entry yet. Thanks to the addition of the new and improved 3-D technology the kills are bigger, grosser and obviously even funnier. When your pacifist girlfriend laughs as hard as you do when the next victim is splattered across the screen and the blood splashes towards your face you know the teams involved have gotten the combinations right. Ellis has always made it clear that what audiences come to these for are the kills and along with the screenwriter, deliver in spades.

It was supposed to be just another day at the races for Nick (Bobby Campo) and his friends. But after a screwdriver is left in a car’s exhaust pipe and it falls out during the race causing another car's tire to blow, everyone must die... or at least eventually. Nick realizes that his over active imagination was no coincidence as his vision comes true and sure enough the crash happens and almost everyone in Section 180 is supposed to die. The always inevitable fight scene erupts and several people leave the scene before the crash but Death has a list and if you’re on it there’s no escape as we’ve learned from the previous entries. Before the first survivor is killed Nick realizes he’s having random images flash before him which are clues as to how the next person is going to die and now he feels they all have a responsibility to try to save each other from their last date with destiny.

The dialogue and acting are not in any way better but all of the kills are set up so elaborately and carried out so ingeniously that it’s ultimately clear that absolutely no one involved for a second was under the impression they were making fine art. Roger Ebert calls these “Dead Teenager Movies” for a reason. Everyone wants to see annoying teenage characters eaten by an escalator, waxed to death in a car wash or drowned in their local swimming pool. This is the funniest of the series as even the characters finally realize that it’s one big joke as they all get drenched in each others innards at some point before the final frame. If you’re a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed and after this weekend’s $27 million opening (the biggest opening for the series yet) it’s thankfully clear that audiences are still willing to pay for them even with the higher cost of the 3-D.

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