29 August 2011


If only I had Anton Ego's coffin-shaped office from Ratatouille, I could rifle through a filing cabinet of past reviews and enjoy reflecting on my review of the fourth Final Destination film, of which I said; "the trendy de-numbered title does nothing to hide the liver spots and sagging belly of a franchise that should've ended around number 2." Instead I must grimace at the fact that we've got another of these things to watch.

In Final Destination 5, our flavourless "characters" of the week are headed by Sam, a sales administrator for a paper company, who foresees a calamitous suspension bridge disaster on his way to a company retreat. He saves himself and seven of his colleagues with this foreknowledge, but as per usual, Death doesn't take kindly to being cheated and begins to systematically rectify their fates. However, courtesy of a mysterious coroner, the survivors are told that they could potentially save themselves by sacrificing an unmarked soul to Death's design.

While I hate to say I told you so, I refused to name Final Destination 4 as the definitive article we were supposed to, precisely because I knew we'd be here again two years down the line. The fourth instalment was amongst my least favourite films of 2009, and this one once again resets to zero for the opening. There are no existing survivors to let our new characters know the score, save for the infuriatingly unhelpful Tony Todd, returning to the series for the first time since Final Destination 2. And it still takes about the same time as it did in the previous instalment for them to catch up with the audience.

The last three consecutive films in this series have more or less rehashed the original, meaning the second instalment is the only film in the entire series that distinguishes itself from the others, by continuing the original story and creating some neat twists to boot. Somewhere in the process of even making one sequel, an innovative horror scenario became assembly-line death porn, with a bunch of unlikeable bumbags lining up to get it in the face, eyes or brain from a pissed-off supernatural force.

Why do people get these premonitions? How does the coroner know so much? These are questions that might be interesting to answer, even if whoever's working on the sequel has to simply make shit up. After you make five films, these are questions that arise, and the answers might even justify the continued flogging of this dead horse franchise. Normally, when horror sequels dedicate time to expanding a mythology by explaining all the shit that happened in the original, it takes the horror out of it. These films have long since stopped being scary, so at this point, an attempt to genre-hop might yet revive the series.

It's cold comfort to say that this one does more new stuff with the formula than any of the films since Final Destination 2, but I should give credit where it's due. The idea that lives are interchangeable, and specifically that killing someone else grants you a reprieve, plus the remainder of that person's time on this planet, is a strong premise, and one that might have deserved a film all to itself. Because the characters take so long to catch up with the basic premise, however, this isn't really explored, except in a third act heel-turn that is as interesting as the film gets.

I also grant that this one has more inventive death sequences than in the most recent instalments. Although you're always aware of who's going to die from the very beginning of each of these sequences, the manner of their passing is much less predictable in the past. Rather than a straightforward progression from "Ooh look, there's a rusty hook" to a grisly death, there are more red herrings, and more tricks in terms of execution. As I said, it's cold comfort, but it's not a total waste of film.

Final Destination 5 will surely benefit from the series' ardent fanbase in the long run, but it's unsurprising to see that the film has flopped at the box office. For the part of the filmmakers, it can at least be said that this one is less predictable than before. This includes a last minute twist in the tale, which reeks of half-hearted irony, but still proves to be wholly unexpected and in keeping with the series' humour. Should a sixth instalment manifest itself, this time in 2013, it either needs to be the series' answer to A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, or a conclusive final chapter that answers a few lingering mysteries. 

Final Destination 5 is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Final Destination 5, why not share your comments below? And honestly, are there any really good horror sequels?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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