A group of co-workers, including Sam, his ex Molly, his best friend Peter and his girlfriend Candice, along with others, head out on a bus trip to a company retreat. However, on the bus, Sam has premonitions of a bridge collapse that would kill them all. Sam convinces his friends and a select few others to get off the bus and the bridge, just as the bridge collapses, much as his premonition had suggested. Sam and his friends have cheated Death, but Death doesn’t like to be cheated. Sam and his friends were meant to die, and one by one, Death will claim the lives of those who should have died earlier...
The Final Destination is a very simple franchise with a basic premise that has been repeated in what is now 5 films: Someone has premonition of death, convinces friends to escape scenario and cheat Death, scenario occurs, friends wonder what happened, Death comes to claim the lives of those who escape in a number of unfortunate accidents, and Tony Todd stands by the side, telling everyone he knew this would happen. Five films of that, no differences. It’s a wonder the franchise has gotten this far, but alas we have the fifth instalment in non-glorious 3D in cinemas now. So is it still a fresh idea? Surprisingly, yes.
The problem with the Final Destinations compared to a franchise like Saw is that FD only has one basic story that has to be repeated over and over again to tie together the gruesome deaths or else it’s an entirely different film. The Saw franchise could invent different plots and convolute storylines to tie together the deaths. The main selling point of the Final Destination franchise, much like the main selling point of the Saw franchise, was the inventiveness of the death scenarios. Let me tell you, there are some real diamonds this year. Although apparently, Death is a screenwriter, because he’s come up with some awfully convoluted scenarios in which to kill his unwitting victims. He also likes the classic horror swerve, where you assume everything’s leading in one direction until suddenly, at the very end, something comes out of nowhere.
This is true of the first two deaths most certainly, as there’s an awful lot going on and the way the deaths pan out leave a few elements either unexplained or unused, there simply to fool the audience into going in one direction before taking them in the completely the other. Saying that, I’m not complaining about that, as it shows there’s been a fair amount of thought put into each of them, and some of them are really original and clever with a decent amount of blood and gore thrown in, and I’m always appreciative of that. On top of that, the film actually look pretty damn good, the CG work looks convincing and the direction of Steven Quale, whilst nothing special, is better here than in certain previous instalments, clearly taking a cue from his experience as second unit director on Avatar.
The performances are, throughout, nothing special. None of the lead actors/actresses deliver anything special, but I put the blame for that squarely onto the script. Whilst the story holds together, much as it has done for the four previous films, and the death scenes are done well, the dialogue stinks. It’s classic horror tropes played out over 90 minutes; there’s the guilt of the party, the love story between the two leads, the “we cheated Death” moments, there’s an asshole who deserves to die, there’s an innocent who is too stupid to live, there’s a schemer who gets their come-uppance... These characters have all been done before and, frankly, they’re all played. Even Tony Todd comes back and plays the same role he played in 1 and 2 and isn’t given anything special to do, which is somewhat of a waste. However, amongst this criticism, I will say there’s a very nice, clever little twist at the end which I won’t spoil, but quite honestly I was impressed by it and I really didn’t see it coming. If you did, you’re a better man than me.
Overall, I had low expectations for this, but this surprised me by being mildly entertaining and able to justify its creation. It’s certainly better than the last two films I’ve seen, and definitely better than the last two Final Destination instalments. Obviously, it could never reach the ‘heights’ of the first, much as in any horror franchise, as the element of surprise is lost, but it plays out fairly well, ambles along towards its conclusion and ties things up in a neat little bow. Hollywood needs to learn the distinction between so bad it’s good and just plain bad. To be fair, there are points in which this is actually stand-alone good, but for the most part, it’s a good piece of silly, cheesy fun where you know exactly where things are going. However, for a film called FINAL Destination, it’s already at its fifth instalment. You can almost guarantee there’s going to be a sixth, but I won't complain as long as it's as inventive as this one.