Even the greatest trilogies have a hard time carrying success over into a fourth film. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Nuked the fridge. The Phantom Menace? Gave us Jar Jar Binks. Terminator Salvation? Couldn’t even stand up to a Michael Bay movie. Surely some of the disappointment comes from high expectations, so what if the previous movies were average at best? Should make it easier to enjoy, right? Even with that bar lowered significantly, the people behind The Final Destination can't seem to hurdle it.
Before Saw came out in 2004, if horror fans wanted to see characters die in elaborate and creative ways, the Final Destination series was the way to go. While they weren’t exactly the highest quality films (very few in the genre today are), they were vaguely enjoyable for audiences who take pleasure in seeing the spirit of death as a Rube Goldberg fanatic. It wasn’t much, but the first three films were able to hold onto that idea as each sequel tore more and more of everything else from the last. With the fourth installment, The Final Destination, the series is officially an empty vessel.
You know the set-up: a group of good-looking twentysomethings enter a potentially dangerous area (this time around it's a NASCAR race). The main character has a premonition about a horrific disaster, complete with gory details, and then takes his friends and a couple strangers to safety. Because Death evidently has a quota for each of its horrendous cataclysms, the survivors are then hunted down in the order in which they would have died.
Notice how I said “main character” instead of “protagonist”? Well, there is a reason. While he is the one that has the visions of destruction and horror, Nick (Bobby Campo) ranks amongst the most useless individuals in the history of the genre. The guy is meant to have the ability to see into the future so he can help his friends, but instead spends 90% of his time running around searching for the next name on the list, only to arrive just in time to see them die. The guy’s timing is so impeccable that I can't be sure he isn’t Death himself. In fact, the only time he isn’t at the scene, the victim lives.
Then there are Nick’s friends: Hunt (Nick Zano), the oversexed, self-obsessed frat boy; Janet (Haley Webb), a girl spooked by Nick’s visions to the point that she ends up crying before continuing on casually with her day; and Lori (Shantel VanSanten), Nick’s doting girlfriend. Also along for the ride is a racist redneck (Justin Welborn), a grieving security guard (Mykelti Williamson), a vain mother of two (Krista Allen), and an asshole mechanic (Andrew Fiscella). While no character individually matches Nick in the incompetence arena, each one deserves a sock crammed in their maw every time they speak, as not a single word from these characters help move the story in any fashion -- they are merely instruments to give audiences a biology lesson, with the accompaniment of awful CGI.
Probably the worst offence by the film, however, is the endless amount of foreshadowing. T-shirts reading, “Life’s a bitch and then you die,” coffee shops named “Death By Caffeine,” and a movie titled “Love Lays Dying” make the viewer feel like they are sitting next to director David R. Ellis, who keeps elbowing them and saying, “Did you see that? Wasn’t that clever?” The first few times you acknowledge him, perhaps giving a fake laugh. The next few times, you may just tell him to shush, explaining that you are trying to watch his awful creation and don’t feel like being distracted. But by the time the characters are standing around in a hospital and there is a call for a doctor to go to the pathology lab, the ushers have to physically restrain you and attempt to calm you down before the veins in your forehead burst.
The Final Destination is a film that fails to meet even the mediocre standards of its three predecessors. If I had to sum up my feelings about this film in one sentence, this would be it: In a movie that is meant to examine how the tiny minutiae of everyday life can build up and cause scenes of death and destruction, one character dies when he is hit by a speeding car. Death is officially out of ideas.
For such an incredibly awful film, The Final Destination comes through surprisingly well in the way of extras. Included in the package is both a 2-D and 3-D version of the film (two pairs of red-cyan glasses come in the box); behind-the-scenes looks at seven of the film’s gorier death; breakdowns of both the opening and the climax (including storyboards, animatics, and effects), nine deleted scenes; and an alternate ending (which actually manages to be worse than the one they chose for the theatrical release). Do these extras make the movie worth the buy? Not even fucking close.