Thursday, September 27, 2012

Final Destination 3

The Final Destination series is, in my opinion, one of the most creative horror franchises around. There's no evil mutant undead baddie with a pick-axe lurking around the corner ready to off some nubile big-busted teeny bopper who just had unprotected sex with her lacrosse playing jock boyfriend in her parent's bed while they were on vacation in the Caymans. In these films the villain is faceless, a force of nature... it's death itself and the only thing it can do is influence the surroundings to cause mayhem.

In the first film a teen (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that the airplane he and his French class are boarding for a school trip will explode in mid-air. He and a select few get off the plane before it actually does explode. These people were meant to die and escaped death, but that doesn't mean that they are safe. They all begin to die in horrific ways in the order they were to die on the plane by cause and effect means.

In part 2 a woman has a vision that her and her friends, who are taking a road trip, will all die in a violent pile-up on a major highway. She blocks the highway entrance with her SUV and saves a large group of people from the accident that happens moments later. The same fate begins to catch up with the survivors, only this time there are more factors that are contributing to the reasons these people lived and are now targeted by fate.
Now we have Final Destination 3. Same set-up as before, but the major accident that starts everything off is a rickety rollercoaster that malfunctions; the shoulder harnesses release in mid-corkscrew sending just graduated high schoolers flying in every direction, then a rail breaks and the rest that survived that bit of the ride are killed when the cars fly off the track at 80 miles per hour. It's a frightening scene that I'm sure anyone who's been to a theme park has thought about at one time or another. A handful of the teens get off/are kicked off the ride when Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has a vivid dream about the accident. Moments later it really happens and she loses her long time boyfriend in the tragedy. Being a photographer for the yearbook committee, Wendy took a slew of pictures of her classmates before the accident and within the photos are the clues that will lead to the eventual demise of the survivors.

It's the same formula that was used in the other films, only this time the characters have a means to see the cause of their death beforehand and might be able to use their knowledge to avoid it. But we all know that won't stop it from actually happening. If the characters don't die there isn't a reason for the movie.

The kills in the Final Destination series have always been the high points of the films. They are usually pretty creative and extremely cruel and twisted, most of the time coming out of nowhere. In part 1 the deaths were a cause and effect sort of thing. An extreme temperature change would cause a character's coffee mug to crack, and the liquid would spill onto the nearby computer causing it to short out and explode. Glass from the monitor flies through the air and hits the character in the throat, etc., etc., etc. In part 2 the deaths were all about misdirection. We would be led to believe that a character was going to die in one way, that wouldn't happen, then BAM! Out of the blue the death would occur, but as a variation of what was originally thought.
Here we have to figure out the clues that will lead to the character's deaths. It's a little more involving since the audience is trying to work things out along with the characters. Too bad the characters aren't all that interesting or entertaining to watch. Most of the time we're just waiting for the death scenes to occur because they're more than a little bit annoying.

Writer/director James Wong, who helmed the first film as well, seems more interested in coming up with cool ways to off his characters than making them believable or endearing. Sure there are some doozies (the nail gun one in particular was pretty brutal), but I want to give a shit about them before they snuff it.

That's not to say the movie is bad. It's entertaining, moves extremely fast and the build-up to the opening accident is ultra suspenseful and masterfully handled, but the accident itself is edited way too quickly to see anything except blurred flying bodies and splashes of gore. The ending is especially bleak as well, which I ate up since I like movies that aren't exactly happy happy happy all the time.
I got annoyed that the two main characters were always trying to convince the other survivors that death was coming for them, then that person would get slaughtered and they'd move on to the next person and try again. It got old. If I were them I'd have bugged out of town once I realized that when I was around people began to die in nasty ways. What was even worse was that even though the main characters know that they are going to die, they keep going on with their normal routine. It was dumb.

Still, I enjoyed it even though out of the three films this was the weakest one. The acting is decent, the direction is for the most part pretty good and the cinematography is fine, if a little too bright. Shirley Walker returns as composer and I got a kick out of hearing her haunting main theme once more (which was absent from the second film). If you liked the other two films in the series you're bound to like this one.

Personally I think the second one was the best.

2 out of 5

*written 2/10/06

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