Review: Final Destination 5 (15) / Directed by: Steven Quayle / Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer / Starring: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe, Tony Todd, PJ Byrne, David Koechner / Release Date: Out now
It takes an audacious film franchise to sell the audience the same film fives times over. But the mind game of titling the fourth entry in the now decade-long horror series as ‘The Final Destination’ (to fool dumb or short-term memory audiences into thinking this was a whole new series) has clearly been abandoned so now we have ‘Final Destination 5’ which looks at first as if it’s going to be business as usual until a couple of welcome plot twists manoeuvre the film into the position where it appears that this is - at last - the final destination for this particular series.
We're on worryingly-familiar territory initially as we join a bunch of workers heading off on a coach to a team-bonding works retreat. They're delayed by some repair work on a suspension bridge when one of their number, Sam Lawton (D'Agosto) has a vivid and horrifying premonition of disaster where the bridge collapses (spectacularly - I never have dreams with such great special effects) and they're all splattered, sliced, diced, drowned, squashed and scalded to death. He quickly herds a group of them off the brudge just as the premonition - yep, you guessed it - starts to come true. They've cheated Death? But will Death be cheated? If you've seen any of the earlier films in the series you'll know the answer to that one - no, Death won't be cheated. Naughty Death.
One of the strengths of the 'Final Destination' series has been the novel way Death gets its revenge; the lucky few who escape each disaster are picked off one by one but there are no routine electric shocks or car accidents for any of this bunch. Death, across all five films, has been malevolent and clever in the way it picks off the survivors and much of the fun of the films is waiting for the deaths to happen, watching as circumstances slowly conspire together to fulfil Death's grand plan. Here's where the films have always been able to build up suspense and tension. Even though most of the characters in these movies tend to be thinly-sketched caricatures - there's usually a bimbo or two, some fat, geeky bloke, a couple of cocky jocks, a middle-aged man or woman - we can't help but feel apprehensive as the scenario that we know is going to lead to a grisly and explosive death sequence starts to set itself up. Gorehounds have always loved the inventive and colourful deaths the 'Final Destination' films have conjured up and this fifth movie doesn't disappoint. So our survivors are slowly whittled down in increasingly-nasty ways; head popped by a falling statue, spanner through the skull, a stomach-churning gymnastics accident and, in a sequence I could only watch through my fingers such is my girly squeamishness - death during laser eye treatment. Nooooo!!
'Final Destination 5' seems to realise that the game's pretty much up now, though. There are nods throughout the movie to earlier films and a neat change of track halfway through when the surviving survivors realise that they may be able to appease Death by taking the life of another person. This only goes so far, though, ultimately serving to lead the film into a predictable dead end which even the odd visual double bluff can't really justify. Death is, it seems, cheated once again - as it always is - and we wait patiently for the inevitable 'surprise' ending as Death strikes yet again when our lead characters least expect it, even if we did. But 'FD5' has one more rather welcome twist up its sleeve as, in a neat piece of plotting, it's revealed that the destiny of the final survivors of the suspension bridge disaster is inexorably bound up with people we've already met. And I'll say no more other than that this smart, circular twist not only justifies this particular film but ultimately rounds off the whole series as one of the better and more satisfying horror franchises of the last few years. It's neat, it's clever and I'll happily admit I didn't see it coming.
That, I suspect, is it for the 'Final Destination' series - certainly the end credits, punctuated by reminders of all the deaths from the series - seems to suggest that this is the end of the line. And it's a good place to go out, a decent film to finish off the run. Ten years, five films, one idea - that's good going even by Hollwood standards.
Special features: The Blu Ray features lternate/extended death sequences , some filming footage pre and post-FX (so many green screens!) and a brief feature on the history of the series which is the sole DVD bonus.