Among the vast pantheon of splatter horror franchises that have been prevalent since the 1980s, the relatively recent Final Destination films have slowly become some of the most fun. Unlike many of its contemporaries, there is no signature villain of this series, instead it focuses on the inescapability of fate, and destiny is what ensnares and dispatches of its young casts with increasingly inventive glee. Each instalment follows the same simple formula – a group of friends, co-workers or classmates put themselves in a potentially high-risk situation – be it an aeroplane, rollercoaster, or in this case traversing a large suspension bridge – only for our hero to have a vivid premonition that they will all die. He or she speaks out and the catastrophe is averted, only for each of them to fall foul of a fatal accident shortly afterwards.
Quickly these slasher films have devolved from actual thrillers into simply a string of increasingly inventive and ridiculous death sequences, and it is around this absurd challenge that Final Destination builds its entire premise. Each film is populated by a fairly loathsome bunch of characters, giving its audience no obligation to care for them or pray for their safety. Instead, we are asked to delight and be impressed by the filmmakers’ creativity and inventiveness in orchestrating a series of overly elaborate and gruesomely violent accidents.
Unlike the Saw films, which are similarly structured around the deaths of its characters, Final Destination is not interesting in punishing its victims or having them learn valuable life lessons. They are simply bags of bone and flesh to be tossed about for our amusement and then torn to pieces, and viewer enjoyment rests solely on how much these scenes entertain you. To its credit, Final Destination 5 does attempt, albeit without much conviction, to build on its mythology. Horror icon Tony Todd (Candyman) is introduced solely to suggest to our heroes that they can possibly evade death by killing someone else in their place, but the film fails to take this potentially intriguing concept anywhere of interest.
First-time director Steven Quale, who worked for many years in special effects under James Cameron, knows exactly how to exploit 3D to heighten the already gleeful gratuity of the film’s key sequences. While blockbusters like Harry Potter and Captain America scramble to up-convert their aesthetic to 3D for remarkably little pay-off, here it works an absolute treat. Blood, guts, knives, scrap metal and all manner of heavy and sharp projectiles fly out of the screen time and again, only underscoring the ridiculous, exploitative nature of the film and its intentions. There are no messages or life lessons to be learned here, and the squeamish had better steer well clear. However, gore fans looking for late-night base level titillation will delight in this carnival of death and destruction.