The Final Destination
Rated: R :: Released: 28 August 2009
Director: David R. Ellis :: Starring: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Haley Webb, Nick Zano, and Mykelti Williamson
By James D. Deaux IV
17 September 2009 — The Final Destination: with a title as unquestionably creative as that, how could I possibly resist writing a review of it? With this and Fast & Furious out there, the movie title-making process has to be at an all-time low. I shouldn't be surprised by this considering that the Final Destination series is even staler than the Saw franchise at this point. Think about that for a second. The phrase "going through the motions" doesn't even begin to do this movie justice. I chose to not see this movie in 3D because, frankly, I knew that the whole gimmick was just going to be a thinly veiled attempt to cover up for the lack of any cinematic substance and the terrible acting. How prophetic I turned out to be.
As always with my reviews, I am going to spoil pretty much everything, so if you want to bore yourself senseless for 80 minutes by watching this movie first, then wait to read my review.
This one starts off as each previous Final Destination has:
01. Main character has premonition about a horrific scene of mass death and panic (this time at a race track).
02. Main character snaps back to reality, and starts mumbling and predicting everything that leads up to the trigger event (a huge crash).
03. Main character somehow urges his friends and a smattering of strangers to get out of the place in question just in the nick of time before all Hell breaks loose.
04. Trigger event occurs, causing dozens, if not hundreds of outrageously gory deaths.
Right off the bat, my biggest problem with this entire preposterous opening spectacle is the NASCAR racers themselves. You're seriously telling me that when all of these explosions start going off, and debris is falling everywhere, and metal shanks are decapitating / eviscerating people all over the place, that the NASCAR drivers are going to keep driving? Did their crew chiefs not happen to mention (or shriek) over their headsets that the race track is exploding? Are the drivers completely oblivious to the fact that there is a gargantuan plume of black smoke covering the entire track? Are they completely oblivious to the bleachers collapsing at every corner? And are they completely oblivious to the explosions engulfing the entire place, and the thousands of people fleeing in abject horror? This catastrophic display of colossal death and dismemberment goes on for several minutes, and these guys just keep driving — causing more fatalities and destruction! The second thing I don't understand here is how this race track could possibly be that dilapidated. Was Death bored one day? "You know, I think I'm gonna go down to Louisiana and wreck me a NASCAR track!" Is that what he thought? Seriously, if the real NASCAR had a firetrap disguised as a race track, this place would be it. Everything about this place screams "DEMOLISH ME NOW!" The stone beams have cracks running up and down them with eroding dust actively pouring out like bleeding veins. The benches break in half when Nick sits down, and no, he is not a large individual. Are there no inspections?
As with the previous installments, the survivors have to come to grips with avoiding what surely would have been their grisly demise. And once again, the survivors are cardboard cutouts instead of characters. There is no depth to anyone except George, and it's not like his backstory is one of great interest, either. One of the miscellaneous will-be victims is a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and he ends up dying while trying to put a burning cross in the yard of George; the racist drunk ends up causing his own demise by turning his tow truck's equipment on, resulting in a chain dragging him down the street. The chain starts sparking and some flammable liquid (which we'll see more of later) that doused the chain ignites, causing the truck to explode and the racist with it. Just for shits and giggles, while all this is going on, "Why Can't We Be Friends?" is playing on the radio. (I don't think it's ever explained how the KKK guy found out where George lives, but that's a minor plot hole amongst many larger ones.) George is portrayed by Mykelti Williamson of Forrest Gump, and we find out later that years ago he drove drunk with his wife and daughter in the car — killing them. Due to this, he's pretty much willing to accept that he'll die, so he can fully atone for his sin. His wife knowingly rode with him, and put their child in the car while he was intoxicated? Seriously?
The other major character is Hunt, the chauvinist friend of Nick, Lori, and Janet. He is "annoying" personified, and he dies when he jumps into a pool and gets his posterior stuck in the drainage vent. He doesn't drown, though; his intestines are violently suctioned out of his anus by the pool's drainage system, and shot into the air through the over-pressurized PSI gauge. I swear to you I am not making that up. Other wastes of screen time include a mother who gets a rock shot through her eye when a lawnmower runs over it, a mechanic who gets sliced to ribbons on a chain link fence, and a cowboy who survived being crushed at the race track. The cowboy is the plot device that causes Nick, Lori, and George to realize that their celebrating of saving Janet from the car wash of doom is premature. The chain of events isn't over yet. (I know, I know. I was shocked, too.) Cowboy guy ends up getting crushed again — this time by a physical therapy tub that's overfilled with water on the floor above him, which causes the ceiling to cave in. The physical therapist upstairs was called away and left the water running into a tub that was filled to the brim already. I think this supports my theory that every background character in these movies is completely brain damaged. Here's what I want to know: in these movies Death is about going after the people who were supposed to die, but escaped his impossible situation due to outside interference. The cowboy guy still wound up crushed while inside the premises. While he did avoid dying, he didn't escape the place. I'm sure he was trying to get out, but he wasn't with Nick, his friends, or the smattering of survivors the movie concentrates on. He was just one of the nameless thousands trying to flee the place. Using these movies' "rules" and "logic," he apparently wasn't supposed to die. He miraculously survived, but it wasn't because of Nick or a premonition. Yet all of a sudden he's on Death's list anyway? Does this mean everyone who suffered any level of injury at the race track was on Death's list? Were there kids who scraped their knees that should have been decapitated by a flywheel or squashed by an engine block? This cowboy guy was simultaneously a plot device and a plot hole.
The next scene I have to bring up is the scene outside the hospital after the cowboy guy is crushed to death. Nick and George walk outside now that their theory of this whole ordeal being over has turned out to be a pipe dream. George is absolutely destroyed by an ambulance driving full speed into him. Nick then tries calling Lori several times, but she doesn't answer. So he drives around until he makes his way to the mall where a movie titled Love Lays Dying is playing; remember, kids, the word of the day is "expositional." In the middle of all this, we see a group of construction workers renovating a large portion of the movie theatre directly behind the theatre auditorium where Lori and Janet's 3D movie will be taking place. (My gosh, how ironic and cleverly funny that their movie is in 3D, too!) You probably know what construction work coupled with close proximity to people means in one of these movies, so I'll spare you the rundown of the ersatz implements of death lying about. Lori and Janet make their way toward the movie theatre when Lori's shoelace gets caught in an escalator. Minor panic ensues for the girls, but she manages to get free at the top. False alarm. Or is it?! (I apologize for that. Watching movies like this tends to make me temporarily insane. Or maybe I'm already insane for choosing to watch things like this in the first place.) Either way, Lori and Janet go into their movie as we get yet another scene showing every little thing falling exactly into place to set up the next humongous display of death. This time it's that construction site I mentioned a moment ago. A pair of bifocals reflects the sunlight into a pile of sawdust, which has been doused with some unnamed flammable liquid (there it is again), which was spilled onto said pile by a cart that started rolling for no reason into a sawhorse with a nail gun on it. I promise you, I couldn't make this crap up if I had the reanimated corpse of Lewis Carroll and a bottle of opium sitting next to me. So Nick runs through the mall and makes his way into the movie theatre. He frantically gets Lori out, but Janet stubbornly refuses. As Nick and Lori plead for her to leave, a timer on the movie screen hits zero; a massive explosion occurs, followed by the real-life explosion from the construction site. Nails fly everywhere while people are impaled and incinerated, including Janet. Nick and Lori escape as a second and bigger explosion from a dozen canisters of some other unnamed flammable liquid and a huge propane tank causes an entire section of the mall to start crumbling apart. They make it to the escalators, but the one they get on breaks apart and Lori is sucked into the gears and is torn to pieces.
It was all another Nick premonition!
We go all the way back to outside the hospital, where Nick comes to his senses and tries to warn George, but it's too late. George is run over again for the first time, so Nick races to the theatre and tries to stop the first explosion before it starts. Unfortunately, the nail gun falls off the sawhorse and shoots several nails into Nick's arm, which pin him to a wall. He manages, however, to get the sprinkler system to turn on just as the dozens of canisters catch fire, saving everyone. How many things are wrong with all of this? Let me count the ways:
01. Going back to George's demise, how fast was that ambulance going? It had to be doing at least 75 mph through a hospital driveway because George was utterly obliterated by that thing. There was nothing left of him but scraps. I understand ambulance drivers are always going to be in a hurry to help someone, but never in my life have I seen an ambulance fly through a hospital parking lot at highway speeds. No responsible ambulance driver would ever do this. Furthermore, are you seriously telling me the driver didn't see George? It's not like the ambulance turned a corner and there George was. It was a straight driveway! I find it rather strange, too, that the driver of the ambulance never got out after eradicating George. I mean, even if he didn't notice that he just committed vehicular manslaughter, you'd think he'd get out in order to help the person dying in his ambulance.
02. There were enough flammable liquids and gasses in that small construction site to level a city block. Why would construction workers renovating a mall movie theatre need all of that? Were they planning on having a barbecue the size of Baton Rouge?
03. The nail gun that turned Nick's arm into a pincushion was clearly empty when we first saw it, because the worker who was using it tried several times to discharge a nail, but it doesn't work. So, did it get magically refilled by that chill wind?
04. Speaking of nail guns, there is no way in Hell that a nail gun would discharge that many nails just by falling on the floor. At most, one would pop out from a drop to the floor, but any nail gun worth a damn has a trigger mechanism that doesn't allow a nail to be discharged unless the nose tip is up against a surface. Some guns even have a nose tip that has to be pressed in against a surface or the trigger will not work at all. They are virtually impossible to use as projectile-firing weapons.
05. Nick pulls a fire alarm that is conveniently disconnected. (That's not a building code violation at all, oh heavens, no.) The wires are literally frayed out everywhere. (No one on that construction crew noticed this?) So then he tries using a fire extinguisher with enough extinguishing agent to maybe put out a campfire — if it had the help of rainfall. Seriously, with all of this combustible crap, plus all of the malfunctioning equipment, that had to be the most dangerous construction site ever — and it was only the size of your garden-¬variety living room.
06. Nick puts out a chemical / gas / oil / whatever fire with water, but water will only make such fires worse. The water that he pours on the burning oil drums, however, instantly extinguishes the flames. Give me a fucking break!
All of these things aside, those 20-ish minutes of the movie made perfect sense.
Of course, we can't have a Final Destination movie without some ridiculous, half-assed end scene where someone else dies, right? The conclusion of this movie is the single most rushed, abrupt ending to a movie I have ever watched. The three survivors celebrate their new lease on life (for the third, maybe fourth time in the movie) at their favorite café named Death by Caffeine, and suddenly Nick starts seeing virtually every terrible event that led up to this point. (Okay, seriously, were the Saw creators working on this movie, too? It is freaky how similar these franchises are.) He sees the NASCAR event on TV, a swimming pool, the movie title, the whole nine yards. So, once again, he relapses into "what if it isn't over?" mode and the girls act as if he's crazy. First off, after everything these three have been through, why would those two girls think he's nuts? How dumb are they? But more importantly, after the morons question Nick, some scaffolding across the street collapses, causing a dump truck to swerve out of the way. It comes barreling through the wall of the café, killing all three. They show their bones being crunched apart in X-ray mode à la the opening credits. What the hell happened? Did they get caught up in their circle-jerk of "How can we top ourselves this time?" and suddenly have an epiphany?
"Oh, crap, we need to kill these three off! Don't you know? No one can survive! Um, let's have them get crushed by a truck! Inside a building!"
"Brilliant idea! And, hey, the building they're in is named 'Death by Caffeine.' It's so perfect!"
I'm sure it went something like that, anyway. Quick question, though: why is it that Death always has to mutilate his victims beyond all reason in these flicks? Can none of these people simply have a heart attack or get some fucking food poisoning? Death is a crying baby that had his rattle taken away, so he throws a tantrum and exterminates a bunch of people. That's not healthy behavior, if you ask me.
I suppose I should be thankful for this movie being so short and for it to end so abruptly. It allowed me to leave the theatre before I fell into a boredom-induced stupor. It is an absolutely terrible and unapologetically lethargic film. This franchise has gone from legitimately freaking people out (which, admittedly, the original Final Destination did to me) to seeing just how absurdly over-elaborate they can make their death scenes. It really is just a Saw wannabe at this point. The script of this movie could have been written by children, and they probably could have given better acting performances than most of the cast. Several scenes consist of nothing but one cliché after another: "We have to stick together," "We can beat this," "Don't give up," and so on and so forth. The plot was supplanted with ridiculous, preposterously convenient, and brutal deaths. And as I said before, I purposely did not watch this in 3D for the simple fact that I wanted to see it in its normal, crutch-less form. Maybe the 3D visual element adds a little empty excitement to the experience for audiences who aren't as jaded as I am. (Hell, just look at how many god-awful movies and shows I've reviewed over the years. I'm the Gregory House of movie critics.) That's all well and good, but really, if you can't see this thing for all of its glaring flaws, then you simply aren't paying attention. Me? I can see this movie for what it is: a terrible, apathetic piece of garbage that should have been called Final Destination: The Revenge of Rube Goldberg.
Grade: 5 / 100