During a visit to the racetrack with his friends, Nick has a premonition that one of the cars would crash, leading to a chain reaction of events in which most of the people watching would be killed. Convincing his friends and a few bystanders to leave, they get out just in time to watch the horrific premonition come to life. Shortly after, two of the other survivors are killed in tragic accidents. Nick and his friends realise that they may have cheated death once but it has come calling for them again.
If ever a franchise was going to jump on board the 3D bandwagon then the Final Destination series, with all manner of ridiculously contrived ‘accident’ set pieces, would be the one to showcase its multi-dimensional wares in the fad of the moment. Virtually a franchise built up around the ‘slasher’ formula. the Final Destination films simply follow the same structure but replace a masked killer with that of the Grim Reaper. Gratuitous set pieces with machetes and chainsaws are substituted for meticulously-planned mishaps in which unlucky teenage characters find themselves being buffeted around as if they were a participant in the old board game Mouse Trap (not sure whether it as out in the US or what it was called over there but Google it if you don’t know!).
Whilst the original seemed highly original, fresh and exciting (second and third viewings less so), the film still managed to eek out a small niche which has then been milked for every penny possible leading to a variety of sequels with diminishing returns in the novelty stakes. What were once unpredictable chains of events have been so elaborate that the set-ups are now so obvious. The third sequel to the 2000 hit, The Final Destination (I’m not overly sure why they ditched the sequel numbering) is a rush job from beginning to end and you can tell that whatever flimsy story it develops has been built up around the set pieces. There’s no room for character development here. The film just doesn’t stop to take a breath in between the contrived action.
Things get off to a poor start with some dodgy CGI in the opening scene at the race track and go from bad to worse with a barrage of overblown gore effects. What is going on? Who are these people? Why should we care for a redneck who says about ten words in the entire film? The script is atrocious and coupled with some awful delivery, the dialogue comes off sounding dull and is in existence purely because you can’t just sit and watch set pieces in silence. The token ‘rule explaining’ scenes are done quickly and the characters assume too much and add everything up too easily. Mykelti Williamson seems to have been cast solely in the role of Tony Todd’s replacement – one black actor with a deep voice replacing another one – to be the person who provides the necessary ‘You can’t escape Death’ monologues. But the scenes are skirted over quickly, such is the desire to keep the non-stop flow of the film going. You know at some point Hollywood is going to have to put the brakes on films and get them to slow back down and build themselves up like they used to. None of this rapid fire, all guns blazing nonsense – it’s just all spectacle and no substance.
Even the death scenes, once an ingenious concoction of bad luck, sod’s law and ill-fated timing, are now so lazy and run-of-the-mill that it’s hard to see where the series can go after this. Some of the set pieces in the previous entries took their time to build the suspense, foreshadowing the horror of what was to come and throwing in some red herrings as well before pulling the rug out from under you with a sucker punch. Here, there’s little attempt to draw out the chain reaction of mishaps beforehand and everything goes through the motions as quick as possible. It would have made more sense for a guy in a mask to come and wipe out the teenagers, such is the speed at which they’re all killed off.
Another huge problem that this film suffers from is the over-reliance on some really poor CGI effects. The set pieces designers have cut corners by using CGI as a way to avoid being creative with the practical effects. By being able to show more carnage on-screen as opposed to more convincing set-ups, they lose any sort of realism, ending up as a barrage of cartoon violence with which the audience will never once believe are real. The fact that they’re all telegraphed a mile away serves up little suspense and it’s more a case of “get on with it” when some of them drag on for too long. But hey, when this is just evident of the series itself – dragging on for too long.
As with traditional ‘slasher’ sequels, The Final Destination sees a higher body count, more elaborate kills and more blood. But the heart of the series has been sucked out, stripping the film of the character and soul that at least made the first two watchable entries. What we wind up with here is a loosely-connected series of 3-D set pieces which no doubt titillated the target under-17 demographics but offended even the least-demanding horror fans who want more substance to their slaughter. The series is scraping the barrel here and it’s time for Death to catch up and do us all a favour.