Review: “Final Destination 5″ (2011)

Of all the horror franchises, Final Destination is at the same time the simplest and the most psychologically confounding. Five films in (with little sign of stopping, even when the series professes to end), we have seen only minute variation from the basic premise: a person foresees a horrific bloodbath and manages to save a group of people from it who are then picked off in predetermined order in increasingly elaborate accidents designed by fate to reclaim them. Despite the characters’ attempts to identify and disrupt the pattern, they are almost always proven wrong and end up dead.

While this formula is as bare-bones as they come, the experience of actually paying money and sitting down to watch one of these gorefests is much more complicated. The most puzzling element in the formula is the fact that there is no antagonist – there’s not a masked guy or a vampire or zombie in sight. The enemy, as it were, is the omnipresent threat of danger that always surrounds us in our daily lives.

So viewing an FD film is essentially watching household items conspire to brutally murder people who did nothing worse than escape deaths they didn’t deserve to begin with. Despite the simplicity of its design, there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it; stripping the murders of any conscious human or supernatural motive beyond “death’s design” or “fate” also eliminates any chance of survival, making the FD films the most cynical horror series of all time.

So why was this movie so much fucking fun?

In FD5, the strongest film of the series thus far, the filmmakers opt to give us a bit more drama and a few likable characters before hitting us with buckets of blood, a new diversion from the rule, and an unexpected twist that elevates what could have been just another bumper crop of mutilated bodies to something much more satisfying, if your sense of humor is sick enough to appreciate it.

Speaking of, here’s a recap of all of the deaths thus far in the series, in case you need a refresher:

The story begins in the parking lot of a paper company where aspiring chef Sam (Fired Up‘s impossibly adorable Nick D’Agosto), stuffed-shirt Peter (my new boyfriend Miles Fisher), blandly likable Molly (The Walking Dead‘s Emma Bell) and their friends work, and it actually takes a good amount of time before we get to the site of the disaster that will mark their fates: A huge suspension bridge that spans a very wide river.

The bridge collapse is absolutely terrifying, borrowing from disaster classics and horror films alike in its visceral, graphic 3D depictions of the deaths of the central characters. Impalings! Crushings! Burnings! Decapitations! And one particularly nasty “splat”.

Sam wakes up from the premonition, yadda yadda, we all know the rest. But when the survivors start getting picked off by a dark gust of wind that throws everything from errant screws to acupuncture needles to lasers to Tony Todd (returning after an absence as the coroner) in their paths, they get the idea that possibly killing someone NOT intended to die in the collapse might spare their own lives.

Hey – human drama! Careful, FD – you might be getting ahead of yourself.

Because the recipe for survival is of course overshadowed by all the spectacular carnage, which is truly horrifying (the third dimension, turns out, is guts). As in past installments, the opening credits (which are fantastic) give us a glimpse of the instruments of death that will befall our friends. I would recommend paying close attention.

Because after all the dismember-by-numbers suspense sequences (very well designed and executed, I might add), Final Destination 5 leaps ahead of its predecessors by delivering a fantastic late-game twist that cements it as one of the cleverest installments of the series. Seriously – I keep thinking about it and chuckling, a day later.

Even more, FD5 features the best use of 3D in horror movie I’ve seen since My Bloody Valentine (and it might even be better). You’ll be amazed at how many knives, poles, spears, logs, pipes, and other protrusions they manage to thrust at you – I haven’t had that many phallic objects shoved in my face since before they closed The Gaiety.

Do I want to see more Final Destinations? Honestly, not really – again, unless the series deviates from its macabre but exhausted central conceit there’s really very little to add. But if the sure-to-arrive sixth and seventh films are as lithe and smart and strike such a good balance of humor, suspense, and splatter as this one does, I would definitely check them out.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

Final Destination 5 is Rated R for every type of atrocity to the human body you can imagine, harm to public property, and a scene of foodie porn.


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Buzz created CampBlood.org in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.