An obvious underlying principle of the horror genre is to take a franchise which makes money, and wring it until every last penny and last spark of originality which made it a success in the first place are extracted (see “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “Saw,” etc.) It appears that “The Final Destination” has undergone the same treatment. This lifeless and boring addition to the series is nothing more than a reheated version of the last three with only the gimmick of 3-D to save it from complete uselessness.
Like in previous installments a group of people are saved from a tragic and bloody disaster by a fortuitous premonition only to be hunted down by some non-corporeal version of Death himself. In the first movie it was a very scary plane crash, in the second a brutal highway pile-up, and the third was a kind of silly but still fun roller-coaster accident. Here it is a car crash again, signal one that we are in for nothing new, though it is at a local stock car raceway instead of the open highway. Then the inevitable slaughter starts as the survivors are picked off in elaborate Rube Goldberg type deaths.
While “Final Destination 1-3” could never be thought of as the greatest horror pictures of all time they provided dumb thrills in the form of interesting and over the top murders and a moderately original concept. “F4” strives to keep up, but falls way short. Writer Eric Bess provides deaths that aren’t as ridiculous as in the first three thus way less fun or interesting. The red-herring devices used to throw the audience off guard and toy with their expectations are too obvious, and the actual deaths too telegraphed. In particular is the death of a suburban mom played by “Emmanuelle” star Krista Allen, which no matter the ample amount of misdirection the outcome is obvious a long way off.
After helming the second, and easily the best of the series, long time stunt coordinator and second unit director David R. Ellis is back in the director’s chair. However this film has none of the tension or wit his previous endeavor had, and in fact it is quite slack. Since the characters are one-dimensional the only thing the audience is looking for are fun death scenes, and though some have chuckle inducing gore they are too widely dispersed. As Nick (Bobby Campo) and Lori (Shantel VanSanten) race to save their doomed friends from Death’s list it couldn’t be more pedestrian. Toward the end of the picture the tone inexplicably shifts toward much lighter fare, and even attempts some knowing winks toward the audience about “count downs” and the inevitability of death.
As usual the film is populated by chiseled and nubile new comers who have better abs than screen presence. As Hunt Nick Zano, a former MTV News film correspondent, attempts some boorish comic relief though his relationship with the rest of the crew is never solidified or believable. The two female leads, VanSanten and Haley Webb as Janet are little more than scream machines and thus it is hard to do anything other than hope their respective demises are innovative or gory or something interesting. Veteran actor Mykelti Williamson slums it as George, the former alcoholic security guard who is on Death’s list. One can only imagine he was on Bernie Madoff’s list if he is willing to go this low for a paycheck.
The 3-D angle is the only thing that saves this picture in the least. The few scares and the plentiful gore are heightened by the technique, but it only makes this film worth anyone’s while if they are true 3-D fanatics. To be fair the lack of subtly that was prevalent through the rest of the movie was somewhat made up for by the use of the 3-D. There were still lots of things shooting out at the audience, but as each successive picture comes out utilizing the process each one becomes more adept at its integration. Hopefully by years end “Avatar” will seamlessly blend the technique with the film making rendering it less of a gimmick than a part of the whole.
El Luchador Rating: 2 out of 5 (2 out of 5)
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)