Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: The Final Destination

I want my money back.

Usually, I've said that after paying $10 to see a bad movie in theaters. However, I rented The Final Destination from a Redbox. Still, I want my dollar back.

Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. After all, what should I expect from the fourth in a series devoted to needlessly complicated over-the-top death scenes? The first film (I'll admit, I've not seen the second and third installment) was not exactly high art.

It was, however, good at what it did. That's all I really ask of a movie. To recap: the first Final Destination  (which the fourth follows plot point for plot point) involved a character who received a premonition of a horrible disaster about to occur. This character saves himself and his few friends, who narrowly miss the fate that should have been theirs. Since they cheated Death, the Grim Reaper now has decided they will all die in the order that they would have originally. Nobody has a stroke or anything quick and simple; each death scene is a Rune Goldberg contraption of deadly terror.

The film was stupid, but were at least fun. It came up with ghoulishly ridiculous, but undeniably interesting and creative, methods of death, and knew how to milk to "ewww" factor for all of its worth. Most importantly, there was effective suspense. The characters were surrounded by potential causes of death, and the original film got much mileage out of fake-out scenes where everything turns out to be fine. When the peril finally set in for real, the scenario was then elevated to such extremes that our expectations of imminent death were constantly being teased as the elaborate situation continued to crescendo to its gruesome conclusion. 

The Final Destination gets off on the wrong foot, however with an opening scene in which almost no buildup whatsoever precedes the onslaught of dismemberment. A car crash at a racetrack leads to many audience members dying in an orgy of CGI that would look disappointingly cheap in a SyFy Channel original movie. Everything flies straight at the camera, because this film was originally shown in 3D and the filmmakers don't realize how quickly that gag loses its novelty. We of course learn that this was just a vision of things to come, and our Protagonist (the characterization never really explores depths beyond that) manages to escape the real disaster along with Protagonist's Girlfriend, Female Friend, Douchebag, Black Guy, Soccer Mom and Racist. The Racist (who's actually listed as such in the credits) is sadly the most developed of these characters; we know he's a racist because he says "There goes the neighborhood" when Black Guy approaches, whistles 'Dixie', and has a Swastika tattoo on his arm. Get it? Later, we see him about to burn a cross in Black Guy's yard. Because he's racist, and that's what racists do, right?

The opening sequence fails on just about every level in ways that will be repeated throughout the film. None of the scenes are suspenseful or surprising, the deaths are not creative or inventive, the fake-outs are too obvious, and the "ewww" factor exploited by the rest of the franchise is left underwhelmed by a lot of obviously CGI splatter but no real horrors.

The film is gratuitously bloody, but gore enthusiasts are likely to be as disappointed as fans of good film making will be. The filmmakers apparently think the human body behaves like a water balloon filled with blood which will burst at the slightest provocation. We see [SPOILER ALERT] people explode and spray blood everywhere after being hit with flying debris, after being hit by a car (in a moment stolen from the first film), and we see a man sucked into a drainage pipe in a swimming pool (the pipes of course then burst out blood and guts) and man pushed through a chain link fence (he comes out the other side like spaghetti). [END SPOILER] The human body and the laws of physics do not work this way. An audience can only suspend disbelief so far, and by being less faithful to reality than most Looney Tunes, The Final Destination lacks the visceral thrills that horror fans crave. Instead we have all the realism of a violent early-90's videogame (and I refer to the plausibility as well as the level of special effects).

All in all, if there's a silver lining in this film, it is that it forced me to appreciate what had been well done by a film which, prior to seeing the fourth film, I would have only have admitted to slightly enjoying. In retrospect, Final Destination comes off as a relative masterpieces of cinematic art.

Grade: F

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