A slow death – The Final Destination review

The Final Destination – Starring Bobby Campo, Nick Zano and Krista Allen. Directed by David R. Ellis. Rated R. Originally published October 14th, 2009. By Simon Miraudo.

The Final Destination is a groundbreaking piece of cinema. There is no other way to put it. Imagine a film that features an endless cavalcade of people being eviscerated in the bloodiest and bone-snappiest of ways, yet which somehow manages to inspire the audience to envy the victims. Ladies and gentlemen, that movie has arrived. This film’s very existence can only be understood as a desperate attempt to attract 16-year-old boys with low standards and spare cash; so much so that it actually feels as if it was directed by a ham-fisted and clumsy virginal teenager (a metaphor which is only strengthened by the film’s multiple anti-climaxes). Director David R. Ellis’ latest is a clunker. In fact, it makes clunkers look like buoyant achievements. At only 82 minutes, The Final Destination feels like a test of endurance. If you can sit through it without wanting to tear out your own eyes, you win!

The first Final Destination film was a breath of fresh air into the horror genre. While not being incredibly innovative, it introduced a new angle on the typical slasher flick: What if death itself was the enemy? It was as if Ingmar Bergman’s classic film The Seventh Seal had been turned into a horror movie and now starred the cast of Dawson’s Creek (and I mean that as a compliment). The original set the template for its numerous sequels (this is the fourth of the series) in which a group of impossibly attractive teenagers manage to escape from a horrific tragedy thanks to a well-timed premonition. Each of the survivors are then knocked off one-by-one in Rube Goldberg-esque scenarios that are as funny as they are disgusting; proving once and for all that The Grim Reaper is actually a bit of a jokester.

Well, whatever fresh air that first film delivered has now been distilled into a stale, gaseous poison, not unlike the final trapped breath released from a corpse’s mouth. The Final Destination follows the exact same progression of the previous films (the tragedy from which the teens escape from this time is a NASCAR accident), except with none of the payoff. The film has been shot to accommodate 3D screenings; therefore, pretty much everyone dies by being impaled on something that can poke out towards the audience. The effect is about as impressive as an annoying acquaintance threatening to jab you in the eye for an hour and a half. Wait, I lie. In the latter scenario, you don’t have to wear those headache inducing 3D glasses. There isn’t a shred of ingenuity or cheeky fun in these kill sequences, which, let’s face it, is all anyone is paying to see. Here the characters are disposed of without much foreplay at all. It will leave you begging for the comic nuances of the first film, in which one character accidentally slit her own throat, stabbed herself in the chest and then blew up her own house. Hmm, maybe nuance isn’t the right word.

Mr. Ellis, clearly aware that the film’s death scenes are neither scary nor funny, has filled the cast with experienced and talented young actors to carry the film. For instance, Bobby Campo takes the lead role, although you probably know him best as Don from Vampire Bats. His girlfriend is played by Shantel VanSanten, who we all remember as Beautiful Girl in the TV movie Three Wise Guys. And Nick Zano, graduating from his plum role as Pierce in My Sexiest Year, also solidifies his future star status by playing Campo’s cocky best friend. I kid, but to be honest with you, each of those performances would surely have to be better than the ones given in this film. Each line is delivered with the gravitas of Shakespearean tragedy, yet the deaths themselves are almost immediately forgotten. Dude, your best friend just had his guts sucked out of his colon by a swimming pool drain! Could you at least furrow your brow in concern?

To be fair, a lot of the blame needs to fall on the shoulders of screenwriter Eric Bress. I can only assume that Bress is a maddened shut in, because if he ever met a real human being, he would immediately realise that the characters he has written for this film barely register as mannequins. There are no personality traits amongst the film’s entire collection of bodies; just jaws and arms and boobs and scalps waiting to be dismantled. I’m not even sure anyone in this film even had a name. If they did, I certainly don’t remember them. One particular character is continually referred to as The Racist Guy. Now there is some quality writing.

The Final Destination doesn’t so much require you to switch off your brain, but instead to completely forget everything you know about quality cinema, basic physics and the way human beings interact with one another. I have so many complaints about this film that there is almost no point in recounting them all here. I could say how the cinematography, shot specifically to enhance the 3D experience, fails basic mise-en-scene 101. Everything is pushed into the foreground, so that the retinas can’t even comprehend what is going on (or, as is usually the case, being thrown at them). I could comment on the sheer vapidity and carelessness that has gone into the construction of this monstrosity. But the very experience of sitting in the cinema and watching this film has me feeling defeated. The undoubted financial success of The Final Destination is just another nail in the “quality horror movie” coffin. At one point during the film, one of the victims is dragged behind a car; face down and on fire no less. I couldn’t help but think to myself: “lucky jerk.” Sure, he died a slow, horrible death. But at least he never had to watch The Final Destination.

0.5/5

Check out my other reviews here.

Simon called The Final Destination the worst film of 2009. Share your thoughts here!

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