Nicholas D'Agosto - Sam Lawton
Emma Bell - Molly Harper
Miles Fisher - Peter Friedkin
Arlen Escarpeta - Nathan Gregory
David Kochner - Dennis Lapman
Courtney B. Vance - Agent Block
Jacqueline MacInnes Wood - Olivia Castle
Ellen Wroe - Candace Hooper
P.J. Byrne - Issac Palmer
Tony Todd - Bludworth
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Supernatural/Sequel
Running Time - 92 Minutes
PLOT - In the latest installment of the FINAL DESTINATION franchise, a group of co-workers decide to go on a weekend retreat to promote team unity. As their bus crosses a bridge, Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto), an aspiring chef, has a scary premonition where every one of them dies as the bridge collapses. Frightened by what he saw, Sam manages to get some of his friends, including his estranged girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), best friend Peter (Miles Fisher), and douchebag boss Dennis (David Koechner), off of the bus before his premonition comes true.
A federal agent named Block (Courtney B. Vance) investigates the situation, wondering if Sam had something to do with the bridge disaster due to his knowledge beforehand. While the investigation is pending, Sam and the rest of the survivors try to move on with their lives until each one of them is mysteriously killed one-by-one in order of how they would have died on the bridge. Creepy coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd) warns them that Death doesn't like people stopping it from getting what it's owed. However, if they do want to survive, they can balance out life and death by willingly murdering an innocent in order for Death to skip them. Will the characters do this to survive or will Death punish them for escaping its grasp?
STORY - Who would have known that I'd watch a great horror film called FINAL DESTINATION in 2000 and still be talking about it eleven years later? I never once thought that FINAL DESTINATION would establish itself into a major horror franchise, but here we are with FINAL DESTINATION 5, the fourth sequel and the second one shot in 3-D. If you know the history behind fifth installments in horror films, it's not good. HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS? Garbage. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING? False advertising. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 5: THE DREAM CHILD? Great premise but disappointing execution. SEED OF CHUCKY? Hated by a lot of horror fans. DIARY OF THE DEAD? Sigh. I could go on with the history of 5s. Yet in 2011, FAST FIVE managed to be the best film since the original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. It's ironic that FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the best film since the original FINAL DESTINATION. What the hell is going on here?
Seriously, FINAL DESTINATION 5 is a pleasant surprise! Even the screenplay by Eric Heisserer is well written and reveals a lot of focus and care into the set up of the death sequences and even the build up for the characters themselves - more than I was expecting out of fifth installment in a horror franchise. It's funny since FINAL DESTINATION 5 follows the exact same template that began in 2000's original and doesn't really surprise you in how the film will play out. But unlike the sequels, the script really helps add something sort of fresh to the tired concept by attempting to change the rules, create realistic characters, and even lead towards a twist ending that actually doesn't suck. That's right, readers! There's an actual story in this film! Who knew that was possible in Hollywood horror these days?
The characters in FINAL DESTINATION 5 are pretty much archetypes we've seen in these films and in many others. The hero has the premonitions. We have the girlfriend character. We have the best friend who slowly turns into the worst enemy. We have the prick boss. We have the nerdy guy who thinks he's a ladies man. We have the geeky girl who's really hot. We have the token black guy. And so on and so on. But surprisingly, the script and direction focuses on each of these characters long enough to build a bit of depth that they probably don't deserve. Sam and Molly have an on-and-off relationship due to Sam's wanting to take a cooking apprenticeship in Paris. Sam is willing to sacrifice that to be with Molly, which puts a bit of guilt on her as she's indecisive about Sam's decision. I can believe a job promotion across the world could strain a relationship because it's realistic. Peter's life takes a downward spiral after escaping Death's design, turning him against the others when he learns that one of the surviving group doesn't die on the bridge, making him bitter and envious of that. I believe it because it's realistic. Even the paper thin characters, such as Dennis and the wannabe ladies' man, Issac, are still very watchable and end up giving the film some comic relief that actually makes you laugh. Even Bludworth adds a layer of mystique and creepiness to the story, even though we know he knows more about Death's design than he lets on. There are a lot of other things that add development to these characters, but I won't spoil them. Let's just say that you'll actually care about these people, which makes their deaths a lot more effective than usual. I appreciated that Heisserer focused on something most screenwriters wouldn't care about by this point in a franchise.
I also liked the new addition to Death's design - kill someone that wouldn't have died in the situation in order for Death to skip you for good and move on to the next victim. There's so much you can do with a premise that FINAL DESTINATION is so known for and loved by its fans. This addition actually added a moral center to the situation, almost similar to the earlier SAW films. Would you kill someone innocent just to save your own life? It's an interesting thought that I honestly can't answer. A couple of the characters do linger on this concept and decide to take action, but it makes us think about what we would do if we were in a similar situation. Even though I do appreciate a bit of freshness to the concept here, I do wish FINAL DESTINATION 5 would have focused a bit more on it. This subplot is revealed within the last half of this very short film, which doesn't really allow it to deepen enough for it to truly be fully effective at the end. It is played around with though, especially during the final act, so it's not an afterthought. But I think it could have been used more effectively. Maybe in FINAL DESTINATION 6 if [or when] it's made.
As for the ending, let's just say that it ties up the franchise incredibly well. I won't spoil it at all, but you definitely need to see the first film to really get it. These two films are very connected in a subtle way, which I caught but had no idea where it was going. When the ending does happen, my jaw dropped and just thought how brilliant it was. You will never see it coming unless you were spoiled or psychic. It just shows how well planned out this sequel was. THE FINAL DESTINATION was a rushed project with stereotypical characters, a stale story, and not-so-great 3D special effects. FINAL DESTINATION 5 is the total opposite. Heisserer made sure everything made sense by building it up slow enough for audiences to care and see the hints.
I still have issues with the film. I think by now, we should learn why certain people are having premonitions while others aren't. Is Death just a prick and messing around with people? Or is it more to it than that? A character having a premonition should be in the film because it's the franchise's trademark. But this is the fifth installment - answers need to start coming out. Maybe that's being saved for the last installment [if that ever happens], but it's getting frustrating now. Also, who exactly is Bludworth? I'm wondering if the producers even know at this point. And last but not least, the film was way too short. With more depth to characters and a new added subplot to the original premise, the film deserved to be twenty minutes longer to set things up better. I just feel some things went a bit too fast. At least there was no filler, so that's a plus.
DIRECTION - Steven Quale does an amazing job with freshening up the franchise with this installment. The pacing is fantastic, the editing rocks, and Quale brought a lot of style in terms of composition and framing. I loved the tension and suspense created for the death sequences. This was due to these scenes actually steering away from a predictable path. You see what you'd think would be the obvious demise for the character, but then it evolves into something much more elaborate. I was really surprised by many of the deaths, especially since they were shot and presented with a lot of build up and tense moments. As for the 3D, it's a whole lot better than it was in THE FINAL DESTINATION. It shouldn't come to a surprise since Quale worked with James Cameron on the 3D for AVATAR. The opening credits, where things would smash through glass displaying the names of the cast and crew looked really awesome. The bridge sequence is amazing in 3D. And a lot of the deaths worked well in three dimensions as well. I'm down on this 3D trend, but when it works, I can't complain about it. I think the film would work in 2D as well, but I would definitely recommend the 3D version of this film. Quale did a really great job putting this franchise visually back on track.
EDGE FACTOR - While the language and sexuality is tame, the violence is not in these FINAL DESTINATION films. I won't spoil the death scenes because not knowing makes them more effective and fun. But let's just say you'll get impalements, objects falling on people, explosions, body parts going into directions they shouldn't be, fire burning people, and etc. You won't be disappointed at all. Plus during the end credits, you get a montage of all the deaths from the first four FINAL DESTINATION films. Gorehounds will love this film.
ACTING - The acting wasn't all that bad in this sequel. Nicholas D'Agosto was okay as the hero, Sam. He won't win an Academy Award or anything, but he did alright with what he was given. Not the most captivating lead in this franchise but I've seen worse. Fairing much better is Emma Bell as Molly. Very cute girl and quite a decent actress as well. She played the girlfriend role well and with a bit of depth as well. Miles Fisher was pretty intense as Peter. He looks like a much younger Christian Bale and actually has the deepest character in the film. He did a good job. P.J. Byrne and David Koechner also did well as the comic reliefs. And Tony Todd still oozes mystery as Bludworth. It was a very good cast for a very good sequel. Color me surprised.
MUSIC - Kansas' "Dust In The Wind" and AC/DC's "If You Want Blood" - I'm sold.
THE FINAL HOWL
I really thought this film would suck, but thankfully FINAL DESTINATION 5 manages to put life back into a franchise that was coasting for a while. With a good story, awesome death sequences, great direction and 3D, decent acting, and an ending that surprised me in a good way, FINAL DESTINATION 5 is definitely worth your time. It's not perfect and the concept still feels a bit tired even with that interesting new subplot, but the film is executed well and I can't complain too much about that. I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm kind of looking forward to FINAL DESTINATION 6. But if this is the final installment, then I'm more than cool with that as well. Best film since the original without a doubt.
3.5 Howls Outta 4