Final Destination 5 (2011)

Directed By: Steve Quale
Written By: Eric Heisserer
Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto
  Emma Bell
  David Koechner
  Tony Todd
Final Destination 5

Who remembers the fifth film in any franchise? Really? What about Dream Child? Revenge of Michael Myers? Saw V? Fields of Terror? Forsaken? Seed of Chucky? Perhaps only Leprechaun in the Hood can actually be classed as a “memorable” fifth in a horror franchise, but that’s because it was so bloody ridiculous; pitch one psychotic Irish midget folklore creature against a pile of gangster rapper clichés. Faintly genius. Final Destination 5 has landed, sheepishly arriving after the “final” Final Destination received a critical mauling two years ago. Has Final Destination 5 achieved the impossible and become a genuinely excellent Fifth-in-the-franchise?

Yes.

Somehow yes.

Final Destination 5 is hilariously fun.

The storyline? Well this feels like I’m repeating myself, but here goes. Another Final Destination blurb – office worker and sometime super-chef Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) is off on a team-building trip à la Severance, but doesn’t even get as far as some scary woods. The under-maintenance suspension bridge collapses under their coach, killing them all as they attempt to escape. Worse than a team building weekend, but only just.

Luckily our man Sam has a convenient premonition of this horrific disaster moments before it happens and he saves a lucky few colleagues from certain death. As the survivors realise they’ve dodged a large blood-soaked bullet, they move on to grieve, steal from the dead and get eye-laser surgery. But Death has other plans and the survivors begin to die in bizarre and horrible ways, forcing them to work out a way to cheat Death… at any cost.

In an article about the franchise I wrote recently – check it out HERE – I bemoaned the last film lacked comedy and invention, and Tony Todd. Final Destination 5 has it by the bucketload. The blood-filled bucketload.

Oddly, this is the first 18-certificate Final Destination film of the franchise – R-rated across the pond – and although it might damage box office not pandering to the teen crowd, it certainly earns it’s gore-soaked stripes. Final Destination 5 is an explosively violent, claret covered rollercoaster; it’s vivid, mad, brutal, funny and just hilarious fun throughout.

It has its faults – it’s a Final Destination film! – but they’re mostly aesthetic in regards to some shonky CGI and awkward 3D effects.

Final Destination 5 addresses a number of problems the last couple wallowed in – Tony Todd is back as the mysterious and creepy Bludworth, the dark shadow representing Death returns (omnipresent wind included), and the film is absolutely packed with references to the previous flicks; I would list them all, but discover them yourselves as it’s really lovingly done… and there are a LOT of them.

After the lacklustre mess that was The Final Destination, it seems the creators of Final Destination 5 decided to up their game in most respects, especially the casting. Rather than a bunch of unknown morons, the cast is packed with slightly recognisable “I know him/her from somewhere” actors. Grabbing people from a mixture of horror and comedy backgrounds, it ensured the correct balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and explosive horror that the Final Destination series thrives on.

Emma Bell (of Frozen and Walking Dead fame) and Arlen Escarpeta (from Brotherhood & the Friday the 13th remake) join comedians P.J. Byrne (from Horrible Bosses & Dinner for Schmucks) and David Koechner (Anchorman’s Champ Kind), forcibly mixing together drama with some much need comedy in brilliant fashion. This was something horribly missing from The Final Destination, one of the many reasons it fell flat on its soulless face.

Our protagonist Sam is played with gusto by Nicholas D’Agosto, but it’s a difficult role as it was guaranteed to be an amalgamation of Devon Sawa, A.J. Cook, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Bobby Campo – a precognitive lifesaver who questions sanity mind and is hounded by the authorities and his friends for answers. D’Agosto isn’t a patch on Sawa’s panicky Alex, but he’s much better than Campo’s forgettable performance in 4. He also has more motivation than previous “survived death” protagonists. In fact, every character has their own very unique, fleshed out character, from Sam’s love life /career problems to Arlen Escarpeta’s frustrations at being a young boss in a factory full of disrespectful older employees. It’s not just cardboard characters here – it’s got depth. Not much, but certainly enough.

Then there’s Tony Todd.

Good old Mister Todd was in Final Destination 1 and 2 as the slightly sinister mortician William Bludworth, a mysterious character who appeared to know waaaaaay more about death and our protagonist’s situation than anyone should. Then in 3 and Final, Todd gradually disappeared, much to fans lament. In 5 he’s back, with a much beefier role and the film benefits hugely from it. Tony is superb in it, and adds a much needed gravitas and maturity the previous two films massively lacked. He’s excellent as always.

Essentially, however, most people don’t bundle into the latest Final Destination film to witness awesome character work. It’s all about a witty script, superb set pieces and a fast-paced direction. But who was in charge of this boat? Troublingly, our scriptwriter on this project was the man responsible for the Godawful remake of A Nightmare on Elm StreetEric Heisserer.

Unlike Nightmare’s lamentable mess of a script, Heisserer’s screenplay for Final Destination 5 is excellent; witty, punchy, clever, sly and packed with “in-jokes” for franchise fans. This is good news for those troubled by his credit appearing on the prequel to The Thing. It might actually be okay. Might be okay.

Steve Quale does an excellent job of directing Final Destination 5, despite only having a C.V. containing one short film, one TV movie and the James Cameron documentary Aliens of the Deep. His work on the visual affects for Avatar, however, is probably what helped him create one of the best openings to a Final Destination film since the horrific car crash in Final Destination 2. Despite the CGI being a little ropey, the suspension bridge collapse is thrilling, well shot and utterly compelling. And BRUTAL.

The deaths. That’s what people want to know about. Having perhaps seen a couple on the trailer, this was otherwise a relative unknown to me, so I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and scope of the kills – some were lengthy and drawn out and horribly tense, others were sudden and brutal, and others were fuck-obvious but very funny. The first death of a survivor is drawn out and incredibly surprising – and one that immediately entered my top three Final Destination deaths! Sorry Seann William Scott.

3D.

Final Destination 5 is in 3D. Most people know my feelings on the added dimension and added expense, but – to be fair (for once) – the 3D in Final Destination 5 is bloody good. The opening credits are phenomenal, and the 3D gleefully adds a sense of fun to the rest of the film. Is it necessary? No, but it’s certainly not unwelcome.

So is Final Destination 5 worth seeing? Yes, especially if you liked Final Destination 1, 2 and 3. It has charm, wit, invention, brutality and sense of fun that all the other three had, but then tripled and playfully splattered in blood. And what if you liked The Final Destination? Well it’s irrelevant, because you should be in a f*cking asylum.

The fifth film in a franchise – forgettable no more! Final Destination 5 is superb and possibly the best in the series (controversial, I know). It is brutal, fun, funny, sly, clever, bloody, tense and simply hilariously enjoyable. Watch it for the bridge collapse, watch it for Tony Todd, watch it for the inventive deaths and watch it for the shocking end. WATCH IT. Final Destination 5 is excellent.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

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