At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Final Destination 5

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P. J. Byrne, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance, Tony Todd, Brent Stait, Chasty Ballesteros/Runtime: 92 minutes

Well this is unusual movie goers. For the first time in perhaps the last 60 million years (plus or minus a few million) I can honestly say that I am not entirely sure how I am supposed to look at the slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today, 2011’s Final Destination 5. By that I mean it’s not exactly a horror movie since there isn’t anything really scary about it (minus scenes that cemented how I feel about, in no particular order acupuncture, trying out gymnastics, and getting Lasik so my glasses can finally become a thing of the past…yeah not happening). It also isn’t a horror-comedy, much as comedic talent David Koechner and character actor P.J. Byrne’s presence in this would very much I’m sure like it to be. It also doesn’t immerse itself in the mythos set up already, throw any new wrinkles into the time-honored rules of the game Death loves playing with these tools, or finally reveal just what is behind the visions that the protagonists are the recipients of. Oh and the fair amount of victims in this are fairly one-note and even the return of this series’ prophet of sorts in the form of Bludworth the mortician who knows way too much about what is going on for any one man fails to reveal anything worth noting (like how he knows all this for example). Yet even with all that in mind, this entry in the franchise showed up in theaters in the long gone year 2011, did fairly well at the box office, and left for DVD without moving the narrative forward even an inch. Oh don’t get me wrong: the kills are still just as twisted and Rube Goldbergian in the best way possible, the blood flows just as much, and watching these fools try to outsmart Death will keep you at least mildly entertained if you’re into that sort of thing. I guess I’m just starting to wonder if they can really keep this up for much longer without doing something fresh to keep things from derailing completely like they did in the 4th one again….

The plot is as follows: Blood-loving bozos and death-loving deviants (and of course ladies and gentlemen) may I proudly give you your next batch of morons for the chopping block. Final Destination 5 introduces us to a group of people who all happen to work together in the form of overseas Iron Chef hopeful/saddled with another job he isn’t really the most passionate about Sam Lawton, his decent yet not willing to hold him back girlfriend Molly, Sam’s best friend/ super intense and desperate to do anything to get ahead in the office co-worker Tom Cruise Jr. ehhh Peter, his secret/not-so-secret office girlfriend Candice, their self-obsessed boss Dennis Lapman, a slimy office lothario by the name of Isaac, a very attractive (if only for the sake of the narrative) co-worker by the name of Olivia and, last but not least, their ladder-climbing warehouse-working chum Nathan Sears, who incidentally I liked the most out of all these whack jobs and should have been this slice of cinematic pie’s main character). As our film opens, this group of 8 doomed, doomed, and very doomed co-workers are with the rest of their office onboard a bus and headed for a weekend corporate retreat.  Well at least they were….before the bus they were riding decided to take a swift and quick detour into the water courtesy of the bridge they were traveling on deciding it was fed up with working efficiently and thus completely and utterly collapses from all the stress….literally.  Wait a minute though….we soon learn that this is just a vision that has been gifted to our intrepid hero mere minutes before the calamity is to ensue. Thus doing whatever he can to get as many people out of harm’s way, we soon see that Sam and 7 of the people onboard are able to escape the perils of virtually certain annihilation… only to find themselves caught in a t’d off at being cheated yet again Death’s all-too-familiar crosshairs. sigh Here we go again….

Now a quintet of movies in, and I can honestly confess to each and every one you that I am still in the dark as much as I was when the credits appeared at the end of the first movie. I mean as engaging as this movie series typically is, it really is in need of some repairs since all it seems to enjoy doing at this point is repeating the same old, same old. Yet, you could rightfully argue, the fun of this film is in seeing the characters bumped off not the conclusion. Well is that still true? I ask because what could once not be seen coming from a mile away is now being telegraphed so far in advance you’d swear this was the telegraph line from Schoolhouse Rock. Even worse is the fact that Death at this point seems content with just toying the heck out of you and utilizing easy to spot misdirection in order to keep you occupied while then crafting a different manner of devilishly delightful demise. 5 movies into this magic act though, and the trick has lost its shine and the illusionist isn’t really trying that hard to hide things from you anymore. I mean fairly early into this I got the impression, following my eagle eye noticing several distinct differences in the predestined disaster and the actual calamity, that film helmer Steven Quale and scribe Eric Heisserer might have been giving this franchise the shake-up it so desperately needed and I was very happy to say the least. Imagine how crushed I was then to learn that differences were actually because the FX department fell asleep on the job…..sigh

With that being said there is still in my opinion for this series though and for all the flack I could throw its way this 5th installment is most certainly a much better, well-constructed film than the last one. I mean the moral conundrum introduced in this one of kill or be killed actually is quite riveting (if underserviced), the demises in this one are actually fairly well thought-out, and only the most eagle eyed among you will figure out this film’s conclusion before it hits you with the force of a speeding jet airliner. In fact, I would even argue that this movie’s ending by itself manages to nearly balance out every single missed chance that came before it and might even hoodwink you into thinking this movie was more enjoyable than it is. Yet with all of those positives, this franchise does need a blood transfusion and fast. I mean here are just a few things I would like to see a new installment try to answer: What is giving the protagonists in these films their premonitions? Is Death really out to get these people or is it something else entirely? Oh and of course the ones that have been around since he appeared in the first Final Destination: Who is William Bludworth, what is his purpose, and how in the world does he know as much as he does about Death and the game that Death (assumedly) is playing with these hapless victims?  I mean with all this rich soil waiting to be plowed and utilized why is no one trying to farm on it and grow something other than weeds that could be distant cousins to the rumor weed from that one Larry-Boy episode of Veggie Tales?

I guess more than anything, if there was one thing this movie kind of nods towards, it would be the fact that there is still potential for this series to expand without throwing on the bonfire every single thing that has come in this previous 5 films. I mean I know that typically when horror franchises in the past have thrown key elements under the microscope or expanded the narrative significantly it hasn’t always worked out well, but I feel this is one series where it just might work. I say this because as much as I treasure this series, it is starting to grind on my gears just a little bit. Thus if you really increase Todd’s role in all this, really go head-on into the whole “Death’s design” schtick, give us a glimpse as to just what is giving our heroes these visions, and keep the trademark death traps running then Final Destination 6 could be really distinct to the point that it could bring this franchise back from the coma it’s in and surprise even those of us who have been with the series from day 1…or it could just give us more of this, collect a fairly nice paycheck, and set us up for another sequel that is just like it. Therefore to quote Robin Williams from Good Will Hunting: “Your move chief”.

All in all yes Final Destination 5 is thankfully better than the last film in the franchise, but at the same time this franchise is in desperate need of a new paint job (among other repairs). I say this because the latest odyssey through Death’s messed-up boogie wonderland has issues with nailing a specific tone that it wishes to operate with, completely misses some huge chances to give audiences something different yet equally as riveting, and really doesn’t come into its own until the ending comes along and leaves you riveted to your seat with a twist that I promise you will not see coming. Yes the movie also has some decent moments, and this series does still have a degree of promise, but in order to mine said promise I strongly feel that the next installment is going to need to go down a different dark and creepy alley entirely. Thus, and if nothing else I have said gives you comfort, maybe the next one will be better…..WHENEVER the next one is supposed to come out that is…..On a scale of 1-5 I give Final Destination 5 a solid 2.5 out of 5.