Final Destination 5 Shocker!

It's the horror sequel that doesn't suck.

click to enlarge HANG IN THERE: Nicholas D'Agosto clings to life in Final Destination 5. - New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
HANG IN THERE: Nicholas D'Agosto clings to life in Final Destination 5.

In previews, Final Destination 5 has the look and feel of an atrocity that doesn’t even deserve B-movie status. FD5 is being released a mere two years after what was supposed to have been The Final Destination, has a director (Steven Quale) and writer (Eric Heisserer) with slimmer resumes than Sarah Palin, and would seem to be an unwanted addition to a series that was already gasping for air (pun completely intended) last time around.

Given all that, I feel juvenile admitting to you that I enjoyed FD5. Softening my embarrassment is one simple yet impossible to accept fact: This movie ain't bad!

FD5 uses the same basic formula as prior films in the series: A protagonist has a graphic vision of a catastrophe that will kill a whole group of people, warns these soon-to-be-dead folks of their impending doom, and watches as some people listen and avoid death while others deem the info insane and march headlong to their fates — which usually arrive by grotesquely comic means. Those who cheat death are then killed off through even more laughable and gruesome means, as death rather impatiently sets out to finish what it started.

This time around, Sam Lawton (Nicholas D’Agosto) is the guy with the premonition, who realizes that death is prepping a suspension bridge collapse right in front of the bus he's riding on to a business retreat. Despite his warnings, most of his coworkers end up on the receiving end of a Mortal Combat-style “fatality,” leaving us with a handful of characters still awaiting their demise.

Much of the next hour of the film is straight rehash. Like the Saw franchise, the reason we watch FD5 to catch the inventive ways the characters bite it. While that may be unsettling for some, staring into the abyss of our own mortality is human nature (otherwise they wouldn't sell as many tickets). While Saw has kept its murder contraptions interesting from film to film, Final Destination has grown more predictable (and less chilling) with each new installment.

However, filmmakers Quale and Heisserer keep things interesting by accentuating that which the audience wants to see — surprising, gruesome deaths — all while using 3D to their advantage. Any moviegoer who claims they predicted one of the multiple deaths in the film is lying, as these scenes are full of building anticipation that gets you creeping toward the edge of your seat. There’s even a new twist in the plot that will keep things fresh even for series vets.

Peter (Miles Fisher, who looks like a young Tom Cruise, and ironically played Cruise in Superhero Movie) isn’t the same friendly guy after witnessing his girlfriend die at a gymnastics practice that follows the bridge collapse. He desperately buys into the notion that if the survivors murder a stranger, they will claim the years they’ve just taken from someone else. As such, instead of just one antagonist throughout the story, FD5 presents two.

The acting is still poor, of course, but that's to be expected and then forgiven, seeing as the script doesn’t take itself seriously either. Courtney B. Vance, David Koechner and Tony Todd all ham it up, but they’re doing so in roles for which they’ve been well cast — Koechner as the dimwitted comic relief, Vance as the puzzled investigator (finally, a competent law enforcement enters this series) and Todd as Bludworth, the coroner from the first two installments who knows far too much about the grim reaper’s plans.

It should also be said that FD5 offers more genuine laughs than The Hangover: Part II, and the final act, which features a well-executed twist, is surprisingly creative and pleasing. Give a tip of the cap to director Quale for tapping into some beginner’s luck while revitalizing a series that was deader than its characters. If the filmmakers had any sense, Final Destination 5 would be the end of this franchise. Not just because another movie would be overstaying its welcome, but because FD5 is about as satisfying as possible a way for this series to go gently into that good night.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry Daniel, but the filmmakers are already prepping FD6 AND FD7 for shooting back-to-back. Some series just never die …

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