The Series Project: Final Destination (Part 2)

Final Destination 2

If I may wax theological on the Final Destination movies for a moment:

The way I figure it, Death is like God's spoiled Goth nephew. Death, you see, has the time and the energy to come up with the elaborate schemes to take the lives of groups of people in these complicated and gory accidents, probably for his own amusement, all while listening to his Bauhaus records. “I know Bela Lugosi's dead, dummies. I killed him!”

I picture Death sidling up to God and nervously asking if he can kill off a dozen teenagers in a complex roller coaster mishap. God, ever patient, rolls His eyes and agrees to Death's request. Just as Death is leaving the room, however, God pipes in with a plot to keep Death on his toes. God agrees to let Death arrange his odd accidents with the calm acceptance of a doting parent, but only under one condition. He will grant psychic premonitions to one of the potential victims, so that a few people can escape. Death sighs a heavy sigh, angered that he has to not only arrange an accident, but several accidents to take out the people he had marked to begin with. God knows, though, that this will only make Death more creative, the little scamp.

The Final Destination films have finally come to an end, and the series was capped off perfectly. I will not reveal what happens at the end of Final Destination 5 in this Series Project article, because it's actually more interesting to be surprised. Needless to say, Final Destination 5 may actually be the strongest entry in the series, and I include the original in that statement.

Final 3 topless

As the Final Destination series has progressed, it has become more and more pulpy, much to its benefit. Each film ratchets up not only the spectacular death scenarios (the name most often invoked in describing them, you will find, is Rube Goldberg), but the level of on-screen gore. The original Final Destination was more about death scenarios. By the time we get to the frustratingly-titled The Final Destination (in fact the fourth film in the series), the filmmakers have risen (or stooped) to using cheap 3-D gimmicks and flying globs of human viscera to keep you watching.

As for the sense of fatalism that marks the series, well it never goes away. Even by the end of the fifth and final film, you are only assured all the more strongly that Death cannot be outrun, and that your psychic premonitions will not save you. Your attempts to outwit the Death machine will always fail. It's a teen Gothy message that sounds deep when you're 17: i.e. Death catches everyone, but the movies – for however bloody they are – strike me as being light and fun. These are movies about their own exploitative enjoyment of watching people get their heads crushed. There is an immature gorehound inside all of us, and the Final Destination films talk to that guy.

When we last left the series, it was just starting to skew fun. Next up, things are even more energetic.

Final Destination 3 (dir. James Wong, 2006)

Final 3 posterAnother group of young people, this time students on a senior trip to the local amusement park right before graduation. I know most slasher films feature teenagers, because teenagers are the assumed audience. I wonder why slasher films so rarely feature adults in the lead roles. Why doesn't Freddy murder people in their 50s? I guess Ridley Scott's Alien is one of the notable exceptions to the usual stalk-and-kill formula. The teen with the premonition is Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is constantly called “too cautious” by her peers throughout the film. She envisions herself and her friends being killed in a roller coaster accident, freaks out, and saves a few people. Death proceeds to stalk and kill them in a series of bizarre accidents. You know the story.

A few observations about Final Destination 3 – and I apologize for being brief, but these films are so formulaic, it's hard to really make distinguishable observations, at least from a thematic standpoint.

Final 3 nailsThis is only one of two films in the series to feature nudity, as a pair of ditzy teens go topless sunbathing in side-by-side tanning booths together when they are trapped inside and cooked alive. To the women reading: Did you go topless sunbathing with friends when you were a teen, or is this something that only happens in porno movies? The two girls burn up to the strains of “Love Rollercoaster” by The Ohio Players, which they pluck off of Volume 6 of Rhino Records' “Have a Nice Decade” box set. Only the record starts off with “Love Rollercoaster,” whereas on the actual CD, “Love Rollercoaster” is actually track two. Why did I pay attention to that? I couldn't tell you.

The narrative twist in Destination 3 is that Wendy has pictures of each of the potential victims, and the photos all have a canny way of predicting the manner in which the victim will die. If they're in a picture next to a fan, for instance, then they are destined to be chopped up by a spinning blade. Figuring out the visual clues is a fun game, but Wendy and her boy Friday (Ryan Merriman) only ever show up just in time to watch the victims get offed.

Why do people who are ostensibly being stalked by Death always enter dangerous areas full of sharp metal objects and elaborate industrial equipment? I know that Death will have out, and you'll die even if you're merely sitting in a La-Z-Boy (indeed, one of the victims in Destination 5 dies in a hospital bed), but why tempt fate by going to a gym full of heavy equipment, or – more fatuously – a hardware store? If it were me, I'd give Death a little challenge. I'd drive out to the middle of the great Salt Flats or something, and see if Death can take me out with a random falling dead cow, dropped from a cargo plane. I would like my death to be an event that makes the “News of the Weird” columns.

Final 3 Wendy

Bludworth, who can essentially serve as the Cryptkeeper of the series, does not appear in this film to explain the game to our heroes. Actor Tony Todd does, however, have a cameo in voice form. He plays the Devil, appropriately enough. The heroes find out about the rules by, resourcefully enough, reading news clippings about the previous two movies.

Final Destination 3 is good fun, and while the deaths aren't as spectacular as in Final 2, it feels the jauntiest. The next film, however, will easily be the worst in the series, and perhaps one of the worst horror movies I've seen in a while.