Hey there everybody. Gabe Nye here with my latest guest review. I'm doing something a little different this time, as I'm reviewing a marathon that I decided to partake in tonight instead of a single horror flick. With the 5th Final Destination movie somehow getting greenlit and released to theaters (I mock, but I'm hearing a lot of good things about it) I decided I should go back and get caught up before I go see it tomorrow. So here I am spending a Friday night getting trashed and watching some fairly mediocre horror movies. I've got a lot of strong nostalgia for this series that makes me enjoy them a bit more than most people probably would. The first movie came out way back “in the year two thoooousand” to quote Conan, back when I was about to finish high school. I found out about the movie because something akin to a primitive Digg, Reddit, or StumbleUpon had pointed me towards the movie's website (via dial-up, it was the dark ages) and its, at the time, innovative death clock. We've all seen them a thousand times now, but back then it was pretty cool to put in my birthday and a few other facts and get back an estimate of when I'd die. The rest of the website was similarly interesting, giving stories of people cheating death and meeting unlikely demises after the fact. It wasn't quite what we expect these days from viral marketing campaigns and the like, but back then it was pretty fucking cool. So I told my girlfriend about it, and we both got psyched to see the movie without ever seeing a trailer (How weird is that? Back in the day before we'd just YouTube it.). We went and saw it opening night, and were both pretty goddamned impressed. Keep in mind that this was mid 2000, and I was seventeen years old, and you can probably get why I was so stoked.
So here I am, eleven years later, getting ready to dive back into the series. Even though I loved the first one so much, and the second one had such awesome deaths, I never did watch 3 and 4. Should be an interesting night, and the alcohol will make it a lot of fun. I've been using twitter to make note of my observations, so this should be a bit more coherent than some of my typical drunken reviews.
Ok, part one, here's where it all begins. First off, I have to say that this movie has aged surprisingly well. I watched it so many times back in the day that I could still basically quote every line watching it tonight. Given that, I don't even remember the last time I watched it. I know for a fact it's been at least six years, but that's the closest I can narrow it down to. Anyway, you guys don't give a shit about when I watched the movie last. The point is, I remembered these epic death scenes that pushed the boundaries of what I had seen in horror movies as far as realism is concerned. So, did they live up to my memories? Yes and no. Yes, they are still some of the most interesting and occasionally hyper realistic death scenes in mainstream cinema. No, because some of the effects don't quite stand up to how they looked in my 17 year old brain. Here's the best part though, while there is a bit of CG in the move, they leave pretty much all of it out of the death scenes. There are some phenomenal practical effects here. So, the deaths are still awesome, and that's what the Final Destination movies have become famous for, but what about the movie itself? Frankly, I was astounded at how well this movie holds up, as a film. It's quick to get started, keeps up a good pace, and had a pretty clever plot. The subsequent sequels may have made the original premise seem pretty generic at this point, but it was a cool idea to begin with. It just got driven into the ground. That's kind of what sequels do though. Not much else to say about this one, so I'll move on to part two in a second. Before that I have to give this one a shout out for being one of, if not, the first mid face decapitations that I ever saw, and that's in my top five horror kills ever, hands down.
Part two can be summed up pretty simply: make the deaths more elaborate and gory, and take the plot to its logical conclusion. It's the perfect setup for a sequel, and it works really well. The initial disaster is a massive car crash this time, and it is glorious to behold. It is one of the best scenes in modern filmmaking, and it's pretty damned impressive when you think about how much work obviously went into it. From that point on, we're subjected to a series of well thought out, gory death scenes. Where the first one left most of the gore to our imaginations, this one lets you see every last drop of blood. Whether or not that's a good thing is up to you. For one thing, it means using a lot more CG in the death scenes than we saw in the first one, and that's rarely a good thing in a horror movie. Still, they use it only when necessary, and the end results are pretty spectacular all around. Plot-wise, it's just building on the same premise from the first one. This time focusing on the domino effect of everyone not dying on the plane in part one. So, nothing terribly special. Still, it's all done with a nice tongue in cheek style that makes it a hell of a lot of fun from start to finish. Especially finish actually, the last scene in the movie is straight out of a goofy 80's horror flick, and it's one of my favorite movie moments. So that concludes the installments that I have warm nostalgia for, next up are the mostly critically maligned sequels. We'll see how I feel about them through drunken eyes.
Part three, not a lot to say about this one really. Some of the deaths are pretty fun, but there's more CG than I care for, especially in the roller-coaster disaster at the start. Really, when you're making a Final Destination movie, you need to start with a bang. The plane explosion in the first one was rad, and the traffic massacre in part two was awe inspiring. The roller-coaster crash? Pretty “meh” all around. As I was lamenting watching this one on twitter, our uber-blogger Tromeric (the creator of guts and grog, if you didn't know) imparted these words of comfort on me “...you have two things that will make it better the whole time...Mary Elizabeth Winstead's boobs.” As an unrepentant Scott Pilgrim devotee, this was all I needed to hear to get me through it. Honestly though, Ramona Flowers only made up for so much. This is a pretty disappointing film all around. Still, fun to watch, with some cool deaths. Enjoy it with a few drinks and you'll be A-OK. Next up is what seems to be universally considered the weakest link in the franchise. I'm running out of mixers for my vodka, so here's hoping I don't sober up halfway through.
Quick side note before I really dive into part four, I have to mention what I consider to be the best part of the series so far. Starting with the first movie, with Sean William Scott's character Billy Hitchcock, it seems to be a running theme to have characters that share famous horror directors' last names. Part one also had a Murnau. (If you don't know that one, you have no business watching horror, just sayin') In part two we got Carpenter and Corman. Part three gave us Romero, and part four brings O'Bannon along for the ride. But the absolute best is that one of the main characters in part four has the last name Wynorski, clearly named after Jim Wynorski, who directed such gems as Chopping Mall, Deathstalker 2, and the Not of This Earth remake starring Traci Lords in her only non-pornographic/underage nude scene. That's just the tip of the iceberg for Wynorski, but the point is that the people who made Final Destination 4 get some mad props for that reference, even if theirs isn't the best of the franchise. Anyway, on to the actual review. (PS: a quick look at IMDB tells me that part five has Friedkin, Hooper, and Castle. You know you were as curious as me.) Also, there are probably other director references, so don't be pissy if I missed some. These are just what I noticed offhand.
Ok, so number four definitely lives up to its reputation as the worst of the bunch. It has a great opening sequence, definitely better than the roller-coaster from part three. After that, though, it just falls into the trap of doing more of the same. The deaths are pretty forgettable, or worse, just rehash deaths from previous movies. All in all it's a big disappointment. I'll be stoked to see number five, if nothing else it's supposed to be as good as part two. It'd have to try pretty hard to be worse than this one.
I could definitely go on for awhile about the intricacies of these films, but nobody cares about that. The whole point of them is to have fun watching gruesome deaths, and they all deliver on that, some better than others.
So how do they stack up for me? I'd have to say the first is still my favorite, the combination of an original plot and elaborate deaths made for a cool flick that was very different from what we were used to. The second one is really close, with better deaths and a nice lighthearted vibe overall, but it's just trying to recapture the magic of part one. Three is slightly better than four, but not by much. They're both pretty generic sequels that don't move the franchise forward at all. As a side note, why did they stick with the whole “everything is ok x months later, then they all die” ending? It worked great in the first one, because we didn't expect it. Then part 2 had a more down to earth surprise ending. But 3 and 4 both went straight back to the same essential ending as the first, like it was going to shock people at that point. Three is the worst, without giving anything away, because it teases a resolution that it fails to give you. At least four had sweet x-ray skeleton deaths. Still unoriginal, but at least visually interesting. Again, I could nitpick these...to death. (with Tony Todd's voice) But I'll just leave you with my ratings before I pass out in an alcohol induced mini-coma. AKA: the best kind of sleep.
Final Destination: 4/5
Final Destination 2: 3.5/5
Final Destination 3: 3/5
The Final Destination (part 4) 2.5/5
Gabe Nye the Science Guy