Judge Patrick Naugle prefers not to know his fate, nor mess with those who do.
Death doesn't take a holiday.
Five movies in and the Final Destination franchise shows no signs of slowing down. First there was the original in 2000. Then came the obligatory sequels Final Destination 2 and Final Destination 3 (natch). Then the filmmakers fooled viewers into thinking the series was coming to an end with The Final Destination ("The" being the operative word of finality). Liar, liar, pants—and legs, and torso, and genitals—on fire seemed the appropriate response, when Final Destination 5 showed up in theaters in summer 2011 to propel the series forward. If you missed it then, you can now catch it on Blu-ray, care of Warner Home Video.
Facts of the Case
When a group of co-workers get on a bus for a company retreat, they get a lot more than they bargained for. Lowly corporate intern, Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto), has a premonition the bridge they are on is going to collapse and kill everyone in the most horrific ways imaginable. When said premonition ends, Sam freaks out and leaves the bus, prompting his girlfriend (Emma Bell), co-workers (Ellen Wroe, Miles Fisher, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, Arlen Escarpeta, and P.J. Byrne), and their slimy boss (David Koechner) to depart with him. The visions turn out to be true, the bridge goes down with these nine employees escaping unscathed, which doesn't sit well with the one and only Mr. Death. One-by-one, the survivors start meeting a grizzly fate, as Sam must unlock the mystery of Death's plan before everyone ends up prematurely in their Final Destinations.
The Final Destination movies—along with the Saw franchise—are the closest we've gotten to the golden age of '80s horror. Where else can you find a group of movies that continue on without really advancing the film's main themes and ideas? The only reason the Final Destination movies exist is to showcase spectacularly gruesome demises of characters that never get past the script description of "teen male #1" or "busty female #4." The main crux of each film—a group of people cheat death and are then subsequently stalked by an unseen grim reaper—plays out in the same exact way with clockwork precision. No shocking revelations are offered, no astounding insights into human nature (or human death) are explored, just carnage filled with oozing eyeballs, dismembered limbs, and geysers of sticky hemoglobin. If horror is fast food, Final Destination is the reigning Big Mac.
That being said, I have to admit to being partial to the franchise. There is something warm and cozy about a horror series that refuses to deviate from the norm, by offering up only the slightest of variations each time around. Say what you will about originality, but you always know what you're going to get with a Final Destination flick. By this point, the series isn't constructed to scare but rather to entertain; there is nothing that happens in Final Destination 5 that is the least bit frightening. Cringe-inducing? Sure. Queasily repellant? You bet. But terrifying to the point of making your palms sweaty and knees knock? Not a chance.
As with almost every horror series that ends with the number "5," Final Destination 5 has long since passed taking itself seriously. With the inclusion of a comedic actor like slack-jawed David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), you can tell the filmmakers aren't looking for a stoic rumination on death and dying. The rest of the cast are all cookie cutter teens who stand around waiting for a safe to drop on their head or a pan of hot grease to singe their faces off. Even semi-famous faces like Emma Bell (so good during the first season of AMC's The Walking Dead) is given little to do but look pretty and gasp in terror as her friends all become cinematic meatloaf. Candyman horror staple Tony Todd's creepy coroner shows up again (absent the last few films), but his reason for being is never explored; the character seems to have a lot of knowledge about what's going on, but the screenplay keeps us in the dark as to why he seems to be an omnipotent benign presence.
Final Destination 5 races along with the same exact plot line as the previous four films (heck, this might as well be the previous screenplay, just with new names) and deviates only momentarily at the end for a "surprise" ending that, while thought provoking, still doesn't do much to add to the mythos of the series. All it does is bring the series full circle from its start more than a decade ago. Fans who have followed this series closely will be fascinated but underwhelmed to learn the latest movie ties in with the whole series in the most fundamental and obvious of ways (even if you don't see it coming). At least the death scenes are inventive enough to keep you watching until the final reel.
Look, you can pooh-pooh the franchise all you want, but the fact remains these Final Destination adventures are well constructed sensory machines (the opening sequence on a bridge over a river is a wonderful bloodbath of brutal action and icky horror) that know what its audience wants to see. They function the same as movies like Terms of Endearment, eliciting the correct audience response with accuracy and skill. Only, you know, with Candyman and razor fast decapitations instead of slow moving cancer and Debra Winger.
Final Destination 5 is presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, a transfer rendered almost as beautifully as its flying body parts, with color saturation and black levels all looking wonderful. It's clear a lot of time and effort were put into crystal clear visuals with hardly any visible defects (save for a few brief moments of negligible digital artifacting).
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. Those hoping for a lot of squishy, nasty sounds careening through your speakers are in luck; Final Destination 5 sports an abundance of ambient effects that will make your ears want to fold back in on themselves. This is definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of eardrum. The mix is often dynamic and bombastic with effects pouring through the side and rear speakers. Also included are alternate Dolby 5.1 language tracks in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.
Bonus features are scarce. Fans get around 16 minutes of "alternate death scenes" (which aren't all that different what you see in the film), a standard EPK prop short titled "Circle of Death," and a split-screen comparison of various special effects sequences ("Visual Effects of Death"). We also get a bonus DVD and Ultra Violet digital copy of the film.
As cliché as it sounds (even THAT statement is cliché), if you liked the first four Final Destination movies there's no reason why you won't get a kick (to the spleen) out of Final Destination 5. Warner Bros. has done good work on this disc, thought don't expect a lot of deep insight into the production.
Final Destination 5 is better than most sequels sporting a "5" in the title, but it's still redundancy at its most refined.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Alternate Scenes
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