Retro Review: FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011){0}

There are many horror sequels that are A) redundant, B) silly, C) uninspired, and D) all of the above — but we like some of them anyway. The problem posed to the producers of horror franchises is this: how to give your money-holding ticket-buyers “more of the same” while still being able to “introduce something novel.” Some of the franchises, like Saw, do a pretty decent job of balancing basic formula with new ideas. You may despise the Saw flicks, but at least one can sense an attempt at relatively cohesive storytelling. Other franchises, like Final Destination, put on no such pretense. We began with a pretty fresh idea (the “slasher-free slasher flick”) that came with some truly creative murder methodology … and now we’re at Part 5.

The focus on new ideas is gone. What we have now is a series of films that have become virtual photocopies of one another. Given that these films are guaranteed to make huge money (they’re particularly popular overseas), one would hope that the producers would take a chance or two, or, barring that, insert something even remotely fresh or unique. Nope, the Final Destination series continues to play it safe in the most insufferable fashion possible: it just trots out the exact same formula with all but clear contempt for its audience. Here’s another hunk of the exact same stuff you lapped up last time. But fine, let’s pretend that a small thread of originality has literally no place in a Part 5 horror sequel; there’s still no getting around how lazy, chintzy, and consistently amateurish this film is.

Put aside the limp and witless dialogue. Ignore the plot that’s so slavishly beholden to the Final Destination formula that you can smell the blueprint. Look past the acting performances so wooden and flat they could pass for surfboards, the endlessly dreary “suspense” moments that show up on the screen like this: (look, a screw!) (a fan!) (a thumbtack!) (hey, there’s that fan again!) (whoa! a bear trap!), and an editorial approach that’s amateurish at best — because we’re just here for the kills. Really. What’s ironic is that smart, strange films like Saw and Hostel were derided as “torture porn” — yet the Final Destination films have no bigger aspiration than that of a simple, squishy death toll. In other words, everything in Final Destination 5 that is NOT a death scene is, truth be told, some of the worst filmmaking you’ll see all year. But when it comes to a big opening sequence of widespread carnage and a half-dozen “creative” death scenes later on, the flick becomes more or less giddy.

The filmmakers are so certain that all you want to do is cheer on gruesome death that they make it a little extra easy for you: aside from the thoroughly generic lead boy and girl, every single character is a hateful caricature (the sleazy jew, the skinny ho, the selfish hunk, and on) who says and does despicable things just prior to their stupidly protracted demises. Constructing hateful assholes just to slash them to ribbons isn’t horror. And given the witless nature of these screenplays, it sure isn’t dark comedy either. (Speaking of comedy, the lead performance by Nicholas D’Agosto is one for the record books. Nothing personal, but if an actor can look this lost in a movie this basic, something’s really wrong.)

Anyway, eight fools get off a bus just before a bridge collapses because head mannequin dreamed about it — and then death stalks them all because he doesn’t like being cheated plus Tony Todd shows up and then someone tries to figure out the “order” of who should die next and then I fall asleep because I’ve seen this damn movie four freaking times before. There’s “playing it safe” — which is generally smart business for horror producers — and then there’s plain old bald-faced laziness. On any scale, even that of basic “Horror Movie Parts 5,” this is a woeful piece of junk. One hopes the loyal fans (I was one up until Part 3) catch wind that they’re being sold the same thing over and over. As the icing on this classy cake, we also get a tacky batch of 3-D gimmicks and a “greatest deaths” montage during the end credits. Fun stuff. Let this series die already so someone can reboot it in nine years.

On the plus side, the opening credits sequence is a work of mad genius. And then, unfortunately, the movie starts.