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Staring Down Death

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Final Destination 5
Starring Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Arlen Escarpeta, Miles Fisher


EYE POPPING: Jacqueline MacInnes Wood turns heads with a different kind of appeal in ‘Final Desitination 5.’ Courtesy photo.

I’ve seen all five ‘Final Destination’ films. As far as horror franchises go, it’s one of the most entertaining. It’s a pretentious-free, extremely morbid, at times extremely hilarious, series of executions. The formula is extremely simple: Just before a disaster, someone has a prophetic vision and narrowly cheats death. Then, the characters discover that death doesn’t like to be cheated, and the audience gets to bear witness to an elaborate series of grisly death sequences.

The first “Final Destination” was one of my favorite horror films of the modern era, mainly because the creators were smart enough to realize how inherently fun the concept was and not fall into horror-film cliché by personifying death. No masked killer or cloaked monster, just a looming inevitability that every character who managed to survive only had a matter of time before they met a brutal demise. I can’t think of a lot of film series where audiences know upon arrival that the characters they meet in the first five minutes aren’t going to make it to the closing credits.

Most of the time I would fault a movie for being this predictable, but I still find myself enjoying this series. The mix of brutal violence and dark humor makes for an entertaining 90 minutes. This latest version of the series follows a group of students who manage to escape a collapsing bridge. As with the other “Final Destination” films, we get to watch the disaster unfold before quickly rewinding to the moment before. Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) has his psychic vision, on cue, and pulls his friends off the bus just in time.

The setup exists only to put our characters on a perilous ride through the most inspired of staged deaths. From the moment the scenes start, we know that the character is probably going to end up dying rather awfully. The thrill is in how long they drag out the sequences. Will the gymnast die from the screw on balance beam? Or will she be electrocuted by the exposed extension cord in a pool of spilled water? Wait, what’s that? The bolt on the uneven bars is coming loose? We know it’s coming; we just don’t know how it’s going to happen. Then it does. Boom! Dead. Gruesome. A little scary, often times kind of funny.

Yes, funny—because the characters in the “Final Destination” films are about as smart as a box of hammers. People are dying, death seems to be around every corner. Would this be the right time to go for an acupuncture session or laser eye surgery? Of course it isn’t. Then we wouldn’t be able to enjoy watching these morons get killed in new and creative ways. Tony Todd returns as the connective tissue of the series, showing up at inopportune moments to creep people out and warn characters about the hopelessness of their plight.

The film elevates itself into “cult classic” status with a final 10 minutes that brings the series full circle. I don’t want to spoil it for everybody, but there’s a fantastic ending that I didn’t see coming. I doubt most people will—mainly because a horror film series usually gets progressively dumber with every follow-up. This is not the case for “Final Destination 5.” I found myself laughing with delight as the fate of the remaining characters is telegraphed. If you’ve seen the first “Final Destination,” the end to the fifth feels like a fitting way to wrap up the series.

I don’t know if this is the last “Final Destination” film, but it’s easily the best since the original. This is good, old-fashioned horror-filmmaking fun. The kind of violent, escapist snuff film that feels as much like a cartoon as it does a scary movie. I wish more films were willing to not take themselves so seriously. If they did, we’d end up with a lot more fun little throwaways like “Final Destination 5.”

I’ve been stunned by the number of good times I’ve had at the movies in August, which is usually the end-of-summer dumping ground. With excellent B-movie fare like “Final Destination 5” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and the potential for more fun schlock with “Fright Night” and “Conan the Barbarian,” August could end up being the most fun month for film this year.

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