Sunday, August 14, 2011

Final Destination 5 (2011)

Death's pissed for the 5th time!

At one time, before it became the franchise and formula it is today, "Final Destination" was entirely fresh and new. It created a twist to the revived slasher genre that was building up and starting to die off again when it hit theaters in 2000. There were teens and they got knocked off one by one just the same, but it had such an ingenious reason for doing so: a deadly shadow was following them around to collect owed lives for dodging its originally intended plan. How are you supposed to escape that? An invisible killer that can be anywhere at anytime, not just some psycho that you can at least run through the woods from, or get on a plane and fly to some other country. But here this is the supernatural we're talking about, something that's probably as ancient as the first people to accidentally die doing an everyday thing like eating the wrong plant and berries or running off a cliff chasing a sabertooth.

"I had a vision," Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto) said as he's being grilled by the no-nonsense agent Block (Courtney B. Vance) before all the facts are in about the bridge collapse that he and his friends got away from just in the nick of time. At first the eight survivors don't think anything more than they're just lucky, that is until the snide, low-toned William Bludworth (Tony Todd) shows up with ambiguity because he either has a message to tell--or is it a warning?--or he's just passing by to do his job as the local coroner. Each of the other movies had a gal and a guy who tried to prevent each accident but, of course, were always just too late. This plays on that somewhat with a cell phone call here and a show up there, but instead proposed a new rule that would allow said person to accumulate someone else's life total if you kill them. It creates a moral dilemma and inner tension to the story, though it got quickly stopped by its own creative hand when it pulled the plug on itself for a shock--a shock that might just make the audiences' mouth do an "Ohhh."

There are a few aspects thrown in to give the new set of characters--or should we say victims?--personalities, such as the young foreman named Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta) at the factory catching flack from the union rep, and Sam going through a split decision with a far away internship or a life with his girlfriend named Molly (Emma Bell) in New York. Though the thriller-like pacing often moved so fast as to run over its own dramatic scenes at the same time as building them up. It feels like a few back and forth views on what the filmmakers thought the flow should have been in the editing room. One foot in to make them memorable, one foot out because it's going to eventually not matter.

If you have no recollection of the other films, then this might be a more titillating experience. You can still definitely count on it to deliver the gory bits but it didn't always capitalize on the nail-bitting anxiety and anticipation of something chasing the characters. The performers often act oblivious, helpless or like hamsters in a cage with something so much bigger to the point of being a condescending bully looming over top that they can't even focus on it with their eyes. The other films had a certain nervousness at the forefront about them, especially the first film, in that Death could be anywhere at anytime. "FD3" at least proposed the question of: Would you want to know or not know when you're going to die? Because knowing comes with extreme unease and paranoia, and not knowing comes with numbness, even though you don't get to say your goodbyes. "FD5" could have taken it to the hilt but plays on a tense and release outlook instead. It has a number of quips and one-liners to get the audience loosened up--especially with P.J. Byrne and David Koechner--but it makes the shadowy, people-dying-left-and-right experience less oppressive than made out to be to cater to the portion of the audience who's a cross-armed skeptic of the supernatural.

The gore traps look pretty grisly and can often catch you by unawares. Though some deaths aren't always playing on something that would be a relating experience to a general audience, since they have to tap into what hasn't been done beforehand. It creates some distancing from the screen, as the first and second film had more relating elements that made seemingly innocent areas now have a deadly shadow cast across in your mind: a kitchen, a bathroom, a stove, an elevator, crossing the street. For instance, here, a factory with dangerous machinery is only going to lead to dangerous accidents or most people aren't going to touch a gymnasium.

The cinematography and the picture quality looked great on screen compared to the slapped together job "FD4" was. This time around the new director has the technical side well worked through and used the 3D aspect to its advantage at points with various objects actually projecting out compared to the depthless job the recent "Harry Potter" had and "Captain America" with only so many things popping out. "FD5" still feels more a ritual and routine than a complete refresher. Though there's still some sadistic fun to mine and effort put into this as a fifth installment, even if the novelty is diluted if you've kept up since the beginning or at least watched the previous films a few times.

Rating: 5.5/10

Director: Steven Quale (second unit director "Titanic," "Avatar")
Stars: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Alren Escarpeta, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance, Tony Todd
Link: IMDB

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