Friday, 29 March 2013

You Can't Cheat Death: Final Destination Series Review

The formula for the Final Destination films is simple. Someone has a vision that results in a small group of people avoiding a major catastrophe that would otherwise have resulted in their deaths. Then, because it was “Death’s Design” for these people to die, one by one they start dying in freak accidents. The central and highly uplifting message being that you can’t cheat death.

Each of the five (to date) Final Destination films has had pretty much exactly the same plot, and yet people keep coming back for more because when it comes to the Final Destination franchise, plot doesn’t really matter all that much; it’s all about the cool deaths. These become more creative and more improbable with each movie, but never descend to the stomach-churning depths of the Saw films. This week we revisit the five Final Destination movies:


Final Destination (2000)

The first in the series, this is the film that lays down the ground rules. The deaths aren’t as elaborate as in the later films and it deals with the relatively serious themes of dealing with the deaths of your friends and survivor guilt, but the script is the best of the franchise. The characters are written as more than just cannon fodder and it includes a sub-plot in which the police suspect the main character (Devon Sawa) of being a serial killer (which is logical, when you think about it).

Initial Catastrophe: Aeroplane crash.
Survivors: 7
Best Death: Ms Lewton’s death by kitchen accident.
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd

Final Destination 2 (2003)

This film builds on the “rules” established in the first film by introducing the notion of “second degree survivors” (i.e. people who cheated death because the people in the first film cheated death) and the possibility of breaking “Death’s Design” through new life. However, in the process, the story becomes overly complicated. The initial catastrophe is pretty awesome (the best of the franchise) and it’s less serious than the first film, but the deaths become less interesting as it goes along. My least favourite of the series.

Initial Catastrophe: A multi-car highway accident.
Survivors: 8
Best Death: Evan’s death by kitchen accident (similar to Ms Lewton’s death in the first film but amped up a notch).
Stars: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, Tony Todd.

Final Destination 3 (2006)


Co-written and directed by James Wong who also co-wrote and directed the first film, this is the point in the series when the writers stopped worrying about plot and started focussing on making the deaths as elaborate as possible. No new rules are established and the rules of the first film are learnt pretty quickly via internet research (isn’t the internet wonderful?); the additional rules established in the second film are completely ignored. This gives the writers more time for the good stuff, including adding a second catastrophe on top of the initial one. As an optional extra, the DVD release of Final Destination 3 includes a “Choose Your Own Fate” version of the film. Making use of alternate takes, the movie is turned into a ‘choose your own adventure’ story, where it is possible to make (mostly minor) changes to the movie, although a correct decision at the first choice allows you to save Wendy and her friends completely, causing the film to end after 22 minutes.

Initial Catastrophe:  A roller-coaster accident.
Survivors: 10
Best Death: Lewis’s death by exercise machine.
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche.

The Final Destination (2009)

With respect to quality, The Final Destination represents the low point in the Final Destination series. The acting is wooden, the dialogue is clunky and the characters are so completely unlikeable that you want them to just hurry up and die. However, when the characters do oblige and do just that, you’ve got to admit, the deaths are better than they’ve ever been. The goriest (and funniest) film in the series, The Final Destination was shot in 3D, with the deaths designed to make the most of this effect (i.e. lots of deaths by flying object). The film makers also manage to, once again, squeeze in a second catastrophe by including the twist of having the main character have a vision any time any of the survivors is about to die.

Initial Catastrophe: Race-car crash.
Survivors: 10.
Best Death: The death of Carter the racist redneck during an attempt to burn a cross on someone’s lawn.
Stars: Bobby Compo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, Haley Webb.

Final Destination 5 (2011)

The final entry (to date) in the Final Destination series is amazingly good for a film so late in a horror franchise. So good, in fact, that it’s a toss-up between this film and the first for the title of best in the series. Final Destination 5 takes the best elements of all of the previous films (awesome deaths, dual catastrophes, survivor guilt, a sense of humour, 3D and Tony Todd), and raises the stakes by adding a few additions of its own. For the first time since the second movie, a new “rule” is introduced, whereby the survivors can avoid Death’s Design by offering Death someone else in their place. This takes the series in a whole new direction. The ending is very cool (I won’t spoil it by giving anything away) and as an added bonus, prior to the credits rolling, there is a montage of deaths from the previous four films. In addition, timed to coincide with the release of this film, actor Miles Fisher released a music video for his song New Romance (linked below), featuring several Final Destination 5 cast members meeting improbable and grisly deaths.

Initial Catastrophe: Suspension bridge collapse.
Survivor: 8.
Best Death: The death of Candice the gymnast.
Stars: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher and Tony Todd.

Which of the Final Destination movies have you seen? What was your favourite Final Destination moment? Comment below.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and I think the 5th. I actually really enjoyed these movies, though I'm not much of a fan of anything scary or gory. I couldn't even tell you my favorite deaths, because I would cringe and over my eyes as soon as they put that ominous music on and I knew someone was going to die. I didn't want to watch. LOL