Sunday, February 19, 2012

One A Week Reviews #7: Final Destination 5

There was a period during my twenties, right after college, where I just couldn't stomach horror movies. There was something about finally getting out of school and entering a not-that-friendly real world, that had me finally grappling with an end to "adolescence."With that came a loss of that youthful viewpoint that nothing could hurt me, an innocence I luckily was able to maintain for a large period of my life.

The Final Destination series aims squarely at that adolescent sense, taunting and amusing it's target audience with stories of attractive teens unable to escape their fate. Unlike the slashers of the eighties, where sexual moralizing ruled the day, these films had a pretty bleak representation of death as something coming unstoppably for you. For all their contrivance, they're a little too realistic. Horror movies let people process fears, but sometimes you don't need to be reminded that no matter what you do, it's coming for you.

Now that I'm at an age where I spent less time inspired to consider my mortality and more calculating the increased insurance rates all the poor innocent venues are going to get stuck with after these poor, doomed soul expire there... these flicks are a lot easier to watch.

From the rather ugly credits, which check manners of death from the last four films, to the impressive CGI disaster, Final Destination 5 wallows in 3D effects porn. One more trip to the well, the film features yet another group of attractive young people, lead by one who predicts it, evading a disaster that goes on to still cost them their lives since death just won't be denied. This time, the members of a corporate retreat narrowly escape a bridge collapse. For the series, this may be the most impressive disaster yet.

(Youngins in peril, after the break...)

We the audience know that the eight survivors are now all kinds of buttered toast, it's just a matter of how and when. Series star Tony Todd even shows up to drop some ominous plot exposition. While his is the only character that carries through the series (appearing in person or voiceover in 4 of the 5), the individual protagonists hardly matter. Personality-wise, they're pretty much the same types who survived the last four flicks. Though perhaps a little older, they're in no way wiser. A couple of couples (leads Emma Bell, Nicholas D'Agosto, Ellen Wroe, and Miles Fisher), a nice guy (Arlen Escarpeta) and a few secondary misanthropes (including David Koechner from The Office), all terrified as they're run down by death - usually in some pretty witty ways. The misanthropes this go round, Issac and Olivia (PJ Byrne and Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) get the most modern age fates, thanks to acupuncture and Lazik.

Easily the film's most famous image...
I won't further spoil the details of how our survivors get moved into the kill-colum, but suffice to say, each sequence is a delightful, over-the-top exercise in building tension. How you can watch one of these flicks and not want to move into yurt far away from the modern world is beyond me. Mechanical failures have never been so scary. Every creaky bolt, water droplet, and duct-taped power cord adds to the "any second now" anticipation. You know these characters are going to get it, and get it horribly, it's just a question of when and how. The law (here represented by Courtney B. Vance) makes a cursory stab and finding motive, but the audience knows what's what.

In retrospect, the twist ending is also foreshadowed and, if not obvious, at least a "fair-play" finale. The plot is serviceable, though disposable, to some fantastically fun shock effects sure to satisfy gorehounds. I jumped, I flinched, and actually even laughed, knowing all the while what to expect. The obvious term, "overkill," even comes to mind. Excessive gore and pretty bad taste. In the end, that means this lark of a the movie succeeded at it's job.

When done with the movie and popcorn, along with enjoying an over-the-top horror entertainment, you'll likely be busing making your home maintenance to-do list.

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