According to the producers, 2009’s The Final Destination was supposed to be the final Final Destination movie, but as with most sentences beginning with “according to the producers”, that changed when the film went on to make buckets of money. In hindsight, a more apt title would have been Semi-final Destination, or in the likely event that even more sequels are made, they could have gone with: No, We’re Not There Yet, So Stop F***ing Asking (3D).
But let’s not dwell on the past! Today, I’m here to talk about Steven Quale’s Final Destination 5, a film that boldly distinguishes itself from the four previous outings by containing the number five in the title. Aside from that, you could almost mistake Quale’s instalment for a remake of the original, what with Hunky Teen #304 replacing Hunky Teen #153 as the chap who foresees his own death during a catastrophic event — in this case a bridge collapse — and manages to escape with a few of his similarly-attractive colleagues just before it happens. But Death, being the spiteful bastard that he is, isn’t about to let them off the hook, devising a series of freak “accidents” to kill off the remaining survivors, along with the careers of the actors who portray them.
My snarky tone has probably misled you to believe that I didn’t enjoy Final Destination 5, but that’s not the case. I enjoyed it considerably. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been a movie in the series that I haven’t enjoyed. While I’m not particularly proud of admitting that I source pleasure from such gratuitousness — particularly in its cash-grabbing fifth incarnation — I do take comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. In fact, I’ve come across so many moviegoers who consider the Final Destination movies to be their guilty pleasure, I think it’s about time the status of the series was officially upgraded to just pleasure, minus the guilt.
But until that day comes, we FDFs (Final Destination Fans) must be ready to defend ourselves in the likely event that someone looks down on us for revelling in a movie where a girl is impaled on the mast of a sailboat. That’s why, in defence of the Final Destination series, I have prepared the following points all FDFs should arm themselves with:
1) In the pantheon of horror villains, Final Destination arguably features one of the most terrifying death dealers in cinematic history: Death himself. He isn’t just another axe-wielding lunatic with an uncanny ability to be standing behind you when you’re looking the other way. How cliché! Rather, he’s an inescapable entity that is both nothing and everything; nowhere and everywhere. He could be a knife dangling precariously off the edge of a table, or an air-conditioner leaking onto a severed power chord. He could be neither, instead guised ever so innocuously as a cuddly teddy bear with an unstitched eye. Final Destination doesn’t merely tap into our fear of the unknown; it evokes a fear of the known. It puts into perspective the fragility of human life by demonstrating a simple, chilling truth: the whole world is teeming with things just waiting to kill you.
2) As bleakly macabre as the above sounds, the series has never forgotten its place as entertainment. If it has ever been said that the Final Destination movies are unintentionally hilarious, then it has been said wrong; the hilarity is very much intentional. These films are gloriously (and gorily) self-aware, never to the point where they become complete satires, but certainly to the point where the horror is mitigated by humour. In the previous outing, for example, the explosive climax took place in a cinema playing a 3D thriller, whereas in Final Destination 5, all of the survivors work for a paper company called Presage. Coincidence? Not on your nelly. Then there’s the 3D, which despite being an unnecessary gimmick in most films, is a welcome gimmick here. If anything, it enhances the film’s morbid sense of humour by heightening the gore to such ludicrous levels, laughing is just about the only response that makes any sense.
3) Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, the Final Destination series overcomes one of the genre’s greatest pitfalls: predictability. That’s not to say the five films aren’t predictable, because they are. Very much so. But in an age where nothing is surprising, it’s futile for a horror movie to even attempt to keep its audience in the dark, which is why the Final Destinations don’t even bother. Instead, they embrace inevitability with open arms, clearly pointing out to the viewer the various tools of a character’s demise — the loose screw, the vibrating phone, the dripping candle — long before the characters themselves have any notion of their impending doom. It’s the very opposite of the maddening ‘cat-leaps-out from-nowhere’ scare because you can see it coming from a mile away, yet you’re utterly powerless to stop it. All that’s left to do is tremble on the edge of your seat as you anxiously wait for the inevitable to occur, a wait that the filmmakers tease out for maximum suspense. Ironically enough, it’s the journey, not the destination, that makes these movies so damn fun.
But do the above examples excuse the series from its thin characters, inane dialogue and lack of any real innovation with each sequel? No, I suppose it doesn’t. But then again, we humans are creatures of habit. For instance, I always have my coffee white with one sugar. And that’s not because I’m particularly against trying something different, but because I happen to really enjoy it that way. Likewise, I enjoy the Final Destination formula just the way it is: bloody with no survivors.