If nothing else, the moneymaking “Final Destination” series sports one of the all-time best premises for a horror franchise. Each film is nearly-identitcal in structure: Prior to engaging in some everyday activity, a character is seized by a vision of a horrible accident that causes the deaths of multiple people, themselves included. As a result of this character’s subsequent “freaking out,” they and several others exit said situation and thusly are spared when the horrible accident actually happens! However, the “force” of Death (or fate, or whatever) isn’t about to take such “hiccups” in it’s “who-goes-when-and-how” plan in stride, and the survivors find the universe bending over backwards to wipe them out anyway through ever-more elaborate “accidents.”
Call it John Calvin meets Jason Vorhees, or the ultimate abstraction of the “Black Christmas” unknown-killer phenomenon, but you can’t say it isn’t clever. It’s broad enough to be reworked to infinity with new casts and settings, since the only recurring character is a “force;” but specific enough that it can honestly call itself a functional series. The setup just BEGS for a succession of ante-upping FX-aided “kills;” and while the series has so far avoided the mistake of delving into it directly, there does appear to be some real subtext to the theme of the disaffected youth of a post-Christian America running in terror from… what, exactly? “Death?” Fate? Innevitability? Spirituality itself? I mean, if the object of fear is an all-powerful supernatural force that decides who lives and who dies… has the “Final Destination” series essentially replaced Michael Meyers with God?
Bigger issues aside, this has now led to three watchable, well-made teen-targeted horror films. This go-round, the setting is a rural town, the victims to be are high school seniors just about to graduate and the big accident is a massively-malfunctioning roller coaster. Some new elements crop up, with varying success, like digital photographs that seem to contain clues as to the when and/or why of various deaths, and the usefulness of Google searches in determining whether strange occurances have occured strangely before.
The kill scenes, which is what you’re really paying for in this series, are generally fun. To rattle off highlights would kind of spoil the fun, but machinery and electricity are the favored playthings this time around. And not only this installment, but perhaps the whole series, reaches a kind of ultimate “thats just asking for it” crescendo when our heroes rush to meet the next expected victims and we see that they are… employees at a giant hardware store!
This is fun for the right kind of mood, and reccomended. And while the series presumably could go on forever, it might be best to let it conclude sooner than later. In the first film, the characters were survivors of a massive plane explosion. In the second, it was a highway pileup. Now, we’re down to a rollercoaster flipping over. If they keep this pattern up, the audiences for “Final Destination 4” may have to settle for a guy falling off his bike.
FINAL RATING: 7/10
Note: The film, as I saw it, included a scene involving “clues” to disasters in photographs. Among the evidence offered was an eerie snapshot of the World Trade Center with an airplane shadow (reflection?) appearing on it’s side. The jury’s out on whether this is “too soon” still or not, but the audience I saw with gasped at this more than they did at some of the death scenes.