(Judge Dredd Megazine, Rebellion)
Final Destination 5 opens with a set-piece spectacular around a high road bridge, and anyone with a passing acquaintance with the series won’t need telling what happens. Oh, all right. The bridge falls down, very impressively in big-screen 3D, with a few moments of true terror amid the synthetic gore. The eleven year-old Final Destination franchise is possibly the most mechanistic of all the horror brands, based not around a guy in a hockey mask but rather an invisible abstraction, death itself, which plants Rube Goldberg death-traps in the way of Useless Psychic Teens. These are the schmoes who stop their friends dying in a spectacular disaster – a plane explosion, a motorway pile-up, the collapsing bridge of number five – so that they can die in smaller-scale, ignominious, far more painful ways, which are likely to involve kitchen implements or construction equipment, and have their obits sniggered over by the Fortean Times.
Honestly, if I lived in the Final Destination universe and a loon started shrieking that the car/plane/rollercoaster I was in was going to fry in the next few minutes, then I’d go for the grand spectacle set-piece death, thank you very much. At least I’d expire in company. The suggestion all through the Final Destination series is that Death gets peed off when it’s “cheated” of its intended victims. On the evidence of the films, though, Death (a) likes a cruel laugh as much as the next chap, and (b) is a horror-film geek who spends long hours slo-mo-ing the “David Warner’s severed head bouncing on the glass” bit in the first Omen, from which the Final Destinations derive.
Perhaps more than any other episode of the series, Final Destination 5 feels like a compilation of cartoons of the Road Runner/Itchy and Scratchy variety, where the content is telegraphed from the scene’s first shot (Oh look, it’s a laser eye-surgery clinc; Oh look, she’s going to do work on that dangerous-looking gymnastics equipment). The Death of Destination has usurped Freddy Kruger as horror’s stand-up, building each routine to a splatty punchline that’s incidentally different from the one we expect, while being just as splatty, and bestowing bonus splats on audiences like loyalty points.
Taken in that spirit, Final Destination 5 is fine. In the screening I was at, the audience – all older than the target teen demographic – was whooping at each flying eyeball or skull fragment (the lurid smash-the-screen 3D titles got a special cheer). Compared to past Final Destinations, the build-ups are funnier, the killings punchier, and the last-minute plot reversal – a fan-flatterer that assumes you recall how the series started – is a graceful send-off to such trash.
Whether it ends the series is another matter. After five films, there are still obvious options and gimmicks; a bad-taste historical episode (Final Destination Hindenburg? Final Destination Pompeii?), or a Wes Craven’s New Nightmare episode in which the old cast members return as themselves to be offed yet again. The only thing that would really kill the series is if an episode coincided with a real tragedy too close to the current disaster of choice. It’s the series’ own commercial Russian Roulette, and the longer Final Destination continues, the more danger there is of a splat timed just wrong.
(c) 2018 Rebellion A/S. Reprinted with permission.