By Christopher Campbell | Spout August 12, 2011 at 2:33AM
There's not much to say on the quality of "Final Destination 5" other than it's the best-directed of the series since the second installment. And if you're a fan of the first two movies, even if not the subsequent two, you should enjoy the latest just as much. The kills are just as elaborate and tense as ever in their Rube Goldbergian fashion, but for some reason they're also more exaggerated in their implausibility. Skulls are completely squashed by objects not likely to have such impact, people crash through windows that one would expect to be stronger, a gymnast twists into a grim position that nobody even on screen accepts as making any sense. And it all begins with the usual opening stunt of epically deadly proportions, which as thrilling as it is watching Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge crumble and whip about, it never seems believable in any way, shape or form.
But that's part of the point this time around. It must be, given how often in this installment people comment on the absurdity of specific accidents more often than their collective coincidental nature. The bridge tragedy, which is explained as being caused by strong winds combined with circumstances from construction, is better acknowledged as being of supernatural origin. It's a more sly way of making fun of its own franchise than "The Final Destination," which had a very pronounced theme based on over-stimulating thrill-seeking spectators by killing them in their seats at a racing event or a 3D movie. Part of the exaggeration in Part 5 (aka "5nal Destination," or "Fivel Destination") also has to do with that extra-dimension. A realistically crushed skull is no good for 3D; it must squash like a watermelon so the blood and guts splatter out at us.
And if you missed that kind of popping-out gore in parts 1 through 3, don't worry because this one ends with a montage of all the series kills with added-in blood squirts and such flying at you. It's like getting a quick re-release of all the movies converted with retro-fit 3D just for this sake, without having to fork over the cost of a 3D ticket for each one. Thank you, New Line, for being quite reasonable in respecting the franchise fanbase. And thank you, screenwriter Eric Heisserer, for finding a nifty way of tying this installment back to the first couple of films, particularly the first and second, through Easter eggs and a narrative connection not unlike that of Part 2, where the new characters were revealed to be linked to characters in the first film. I sincerely missed that with the last movie. I can't say what's done here is entirely logical, but again logic is clearly the opposite of intentions this time around.
Regarding Heisserer's intentions, I can't imagine he meant no significance to the overall plot, in which a large majority of employees at a paper company branch (in case you're not reminded enough of "The Office," David Koechner bridges the show and film further) are killed in the kick-off accident while en route to a corporate retreat. Later Koechner, the branch manager, has difficulty dealing with the great loss of employees and having to fulfill some of their duties on his own, which could just as well be the effect of layoffs. Same goes for the remaining workers who reference the quiet of the office and their worry that they'll be next to go. But instead of pink slips they're given toe tags. Somewhere off screen a greedy, villainous CEO is grinning at having a reason to shut down the office without the burden of disgruntled former employees. Let's just hope no real bosses, insane from current economic woes, is inspired to similarly downsize his company through mass death.
There is actually a guy who fits the disgruntled ex-employee role, and for a bit near the end his motives manage to turn "FD5" into an action movie more than a horror flick. And that's somewhat disappointing if you come to this series for the ridiculous accidents, though it proves director Steven Quale, who did second-unit shooting on "Avatar," should find further success with the action genre. If you're at all underwhelmed by the bridge scene, I recommend renting Stephen King's "Maximum Overdrive" if you've never seen its opening. It took until this installment for me to see that movie's certain influence on this franchise, which appears to be just as into AC/DC, too. Who made who?
"Final Destination 5" opens today nationwide.
Recommended If You Like: "Final Destination"; "Maximum Overdrive"; "The Sweet Hereafter"