New Line Cinema provided a special treat for Philly area Final Destination fans as they presented a marathon screening of Final Destination 1 and 2 along with an early look at the third installment in the series due out on Feb 10th. The whole experience provided an interesting perspective on the series, which now spans about the last 6 years. Seeing them all back-to-back on the big screen proved to be an interesting experience. Turning the standard slasher formula on its head, The Final Destination films have provided us with an interesting premise...death itself, as a serial killer. The appeal with each film then comes two-fold. Audiences expect to see an impressively executed disaster during the films opening moments and a slew of creative, gory deaths throughout the remaining film. Shallow? Yes. But at the same time, an acceptable form of entertainment and release...not much more, not much less.
James Wong returns to the director's chair with writing buddy Glen Morgan by his side, after the two performed a mysterious disappearing trick from the series' second outing. Despite the fact that neither had a hand in the second film, we wind up with a bit of the best of both worlds when it comes to the third film in the series. Part 3 takes some of the seriousness and darkness from the first film, and mixes it with the creatively bloody over the top, tongue in cheek deaths from the second. The film itself, takes on very little meaning, other than to carry us from death...to death...to death. Characters and their motivations become almost null and void as rules become muddled and we find ourselves eagerly anticipating the next violent scene...and unfortunately little else.
We're introduced to a whole new cast of characters with little to no reference to the previous two installments (save for a refresher course - campfire story style). A group of high school students on the verge of graduation spend the evening at an amusement park, which culminates with a ride on Devil's Flight (an underwhelming roller coaster to say the least). Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has the fatal vision this time around, the vision of a thrill ride gone horribly wrong. A handful of students are excused from the ride after Wendy's freak out which is followed by the inevitable tragedy. As with the previous films in the series, death follows those who made it off the coaster alive and claims them one by one in gruesomely original ways. The only link for the survivors is a digital camera and the curious photos that were taken the evening of the fatal accident at the amusement park.
First things first. When I think of the Final Destination series (as I'm sure many do) I think of the opening tragedies, a la the frightening plane crash from Part 1 and the expertly executed car pile up from Part 2. The roller coaster mishap, as presented here, is a bit of a disappointment. But only when compared to the openings of the previous two films. Standing on it's own, it's pretty horrific. But held up against the previous two installments opening moments, it's definitely lacking. The filmmakers had their work cut out for them with this one. And they unfortunately fell a bit short. That being said, the remaining deaths spread throughout the film (I'm not going to spoil the fun by going into any specifics) easily makes up for the lackluster opening. As does an unexpected added bonus we're hit with during the final moments of the film (something that is sure to please fans of the series). It may not be all that spiritually fulfilling mind you, but it's still pretty cool as hell.
The Final Destination films are nothing more than a series of updated slasher flicks...mindless, mostly uninspired gore-fests. They're not deep, meaningful or hiding some sort of inspirational message. The third in the series really meanders with the plot and any level of consistency as to why things are happening is pretty much thrown out the window. This much of the film I disliked. However, if you're selective in the mindless entertainment you choose from (as I am) and had fun with the first two films in the series, you'll probably dig the third. It's certainly not for everyone, particularly those who are looking for 'smart horror.' However, in the end, FD3 proves to be an entertaining horror flick, nonetheless.