Death takes its time in 'Final Destination 5'

August 22, 2011

Look. I'm no English instructor...wait a minute, yes I am. Perhaps that is why the "Final Destination" series irks me like that piece of skin on the roof of your mouth that hangs down after you've eaten too-hot pizza.

It's bothersome and somewhat disgusting, but I'm somehow drawn to it, flicking it with my tongue like a lizard.

The name itself is my main gripe. The mere fact that we are witnessing the fifth "Final" anything is a verbal rash to me. And then there are all the Byzantine lengths at which the deaths unfold that, while I'm sure are fun to design for the screenwriter, take great leaps of logic from an audience.

But what I do find quizzically engaging are the creative ways each character ultimately meets his or her fate. I know it's something I must perhaps share with my therapist at a later date, but I am merely a product of my generational exposure to all the "Halloween Nightmares on Friday the 13ths." There was something actually amusing, icky and, dare I say, "fun" about watching the cast list dwindle as death comes knocking.

It is what distinguished the franchise from more somber series of horror films, and made me wish to watch them despite myself. And it is my hope for the franchise that it concludes with "5," as it will certainly go out on a creative high note.

I am not professing these films to be any sort of art that will stand the test of time, but the conclusion of "5" brings things full circle in a way that is both surprising and clever.

A group of coworkers at an office-supply company is prepping for a team-building retreat (it's best to overlook the fact that it is the mostly ineptly assembled group of employees since Dunder-Mifflin opened its doors). Along for the trip are Sam (played by Nicholas D'Agosto), a drone who really yearns to be a chef, his girlfriend Molly (played by Emma Bell), middle manager Peter (played by Tom Cruise doppelganger Miles Fisher), his girlfriend/intern Candice (played by Ellen Wroe), the nerdy IT guy (played by PJ Byrne), the office boss (played by "Anchorman's" David Koechner), the office hottie (played by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), and the token black guy (Arlen Escarpeta).

Aboard the bus, Sam has a premonition (as leads of this series are wont to do) of everyone dying in a bridge collapse in a horrifying manner. When he awakens, he ushers everyone off, only to watch as said vision comes to pass.

Death, as we've been told throughout the decade these films have existed, has a plan. And thanks to Sam, it has been disrupted. So Death is anxious to cash in, and systematically offs the individuals who were supposed to bite it in the original vision. The one caveat in the plan is that if one of the meat puppets can find someone to take his or her place (i. e. die), then that person can be skipped and go on to live a longer life.

Will any of the survivors have the fortitude to kill another for their own survival? Or will they be stopped by a suspicious federal agent? I could not care less, but maybe you will. What I care about is how they are going to die and what that will look like on screen. The scenes are still elaborate, but not in an eye-rolling way, which stalled some of the previous entries. They are squishy and bloody, but elicit a chuckle along with a wince (kind of like watching someone get hit in the crotch with a baseball bat on “America's Funniest Home Videos,” but instead of a bat, it's a chainsaw).

The gore is elevated to a nonsensical level, and made even more so with the use of 3-D, which is a gimmick designed specifically for films such as this. The opening scene alone is not just the best of the franchise, but it is the reason 3-D exists. Marrying perilous heights with in-your-face splatter, the film's bridge sequence is exhilarating exploitation.

The film's finale also brings things to a tidy, inventive conclusion that would nicely bookend the series. Given the film's weak box office in its opening weekend, this may indeed be the final "Final." If that is the case, death could finally take a well-deserved holiday.

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