Retro Review: THE FINAL DESTINATION (2009){0}

It’s a phrase that a lot of film critics (and fans) love to throw around, but truth be told, even while digging through the lamest of the lame … I usually DO see some semblance of effort. Such is clearly not the case where the stupidly-titled The Final Destination is concerned. Considering I’ve seen unfinished work prints that look a lot more releasable than this flick, let’s just drop the pretense, shall we? It’s Final Destination 4, for cryin’ out loud, the third unasked-for sequel to a film that dared to bring a small dash of creativity to the “mad slasher” concept … and then begat three progressively stupider sequels. Again, this is what we get for making a movie a hit.

The plot of every Final Destination movie is precisely the same, so it’d be stupid to single out this most recent one for all of the formulaic claptrap … but never before has the concept felt so flimsy, have the actors seem so cluelessly disinterested and have the results been this unwaveringly amateurish. Truth be told, Final Destination 4 feels a whole lot like an over-caffeinated 12-year-old’s recap of the first Final Destination: “OK, wow, so like, these people, right? They’re at a car race and there’s an AWESOME crash that kills like 60 people, some with gore! Only get this: It hasn’t happened yet! The main guy gets this VISION, see, that SHOWS him the awesome deaths so he screams for his friends to get out of the racing place and then >blammo< the main people, like, escape! But I guess the death ghost doesn’t like being cheated, so like, the rest of the idiot people die ANYWAY! One guy gets sucked into a pool filter and this other guy (omg soooo cool) gets hit by a bus and …. !”

At which point you’d shoot the kid up with Nyquil and enjoy some well-earned peace and quiet.

Even going by the standards demanded of a “Part 4,” this is a woefully constructed film. Director David R. Ellis shoots every single sequence as if he’s married to the shape rectangle and madly in love with the directorial panache found only in Saturday Night Live skits. In other words, his actors give (woeful) line readings from dead-center-screen, and literally every dialog sequence is framed like an elementary school diorama. It’s a basic, lazy way to shoot a film, and the fact that the director couldn’t be bothered to yell “Take 2!” on his young actors’ fumbly readings makes me think he’s some sort of sadist.

For those who care about marketing gimmicks, it should be noted that the not-even-80 minute Final Destination 4 arrives in theaters wearing 3-D around its neck like some sort of prize. This gives Ellis the opportunity to throw hilariously bad CG implements at his audience members whenever his lead guy (a stunningly bland entity, believe me) gets another precognitive death-spurt. We’ll be in the middle of a blah-blah scene that feels a lot like every other scene in theFinal Destination series and then >blammo!< a CGI snake goes soaring past! Ack! Look out for that … rake! And what’s that? A scalpel? Scary! Now do a spatula!

One gets the impression from Final Destination 4 that nobody wanted anything at all to do with the “talky stuff,” and that the director would have been much happier throwing together a 20-minute collection of sadly moronic death scenes. Unfortunately even that approach would fail, as Ellis fails to grasp even the bare basics of “shock value cinema.” Here’s a tip though: If you hope your audience will be shocked by “Object A,” be sure to occasionally CUT AWAY to an “Object B” or (if the budget allows) perhaps even an “Object C.” Instead the director chooses to linger on, let’s say, a bizarrely THICK FENCE … and then we’re supposed to be shocked and amused when someone gets, yep, squished on that inordinately THICK FENCE.

An afterthought of a third sequel, pointlessly jazzed up with a terribly silly 3-D gimmick, and dumped into theaters with next to nothing in the quality control department, Final Destination 4 is easily one of the lamest horror flicks of the year … and it’s an absolute slap in the chops to the fans who made the franchise a hit in the first place. Between acting, editing, special effects, and (most clearly) screenwriting, I could ramble on about this sad film’s shortcomings for hours. But I won’t.

Bottom Line: Were it not for the money and effort poured into the 3-D nonsense, this movie would absolutely debut on your local video shelf. And even by that standard, it’d be borderline unwatchable.