The Final Destination series started out as a fairly serious horror movie built on a creative premise. Unlike just about any other horror franchise, the movie’s killer would not ever take tangible form. Instead the villain is death itself, as if death is an active force, which claims lives on schedule that must not be broken. It’s a brilliant horror premise and one the franchise has done a lot of good things with over the years, even if as it’s worn on the whole thing has gradually begun to take itself less seriously, to the point that now the deaths are generally ridiculous. As it turns out, that ridiculousness is half the fun of this horror franchise and while even that had begun to run out of gas in the previous installment, Final Destination 5 injects new life into this premise with a few fresh ideas.
First though it plods through a bunch of awkward character development. Great movies let you learn about their characters naturally, as the plot develops. This one has all the characters involved walk up and conveniently reveal everything you need to know about their personality to each other in the movie’s first five minutes. It does that to get it out of the way so we know which character’s to care about when it starts killing them, and it does that because it knows it’s not deep enough to do that same thing while they’re being killed. Nor is it particularly well acted, the cast is a mixed bag of stiffs and mawkish caricatures. None of that matters because while the script and the cast is all but useless when it comes to characters, Final Destination 5 is nearly pretty great at everything else.
It’s particularly great if you’re already familiar with this franchise, since the film is filled with all sorts of subtle and not so subtle nods to the movies that came before it. If you know why it’s significant that a truck carrying logs drives past the camera as the cast motors down the highway, then this is probably the movie for you. Actually, it’s more than just a few subtle nods, but to tell you anything more would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, if you’re familiar with this franchise, the way this movie’s constructed will blow your mind.
For everyone else it’s really all about the kills and while those are as utterly implausible as the Final Destination movies at their worst, they’re executed in a way reminiscent of Final Destination at its best. Some of them flat out don’t make any sense, but the ones that do are terrifying, cringe-worthy stuff. The first couple of Final Destination movies were so effective because they played into a lot of our most basic, day in and day out accident fears. The big deaths involved murderous household appliances, car wrecks, and exploding planes. By the third movie they got away from that and death began constructing elaborate Rube Goldberg like mechanisms to kill people, and while that was silly fun, it was never as flat out scary as those more realistic, basic fears given form. Final Destination 5 successfully splits the difference between those two possibilities while also adding in a few new wrinkles.
One of those new wrinkles, which you’ve probably seen outlined in the trailers, involves the victims’ discovery that murder may be a way to defeat death’s designs. The idea here is that if you cheat death by escaping some pre-ordained demise, then death has a quota to fill and will come for you anyway. Except, what if you murder someone and give death a cold body to fill your slot in that quota? Then you get to live out whatever time was left on that person’s life. It’s a premise so good that the only real problem here is that the movie doesn’t do more with it. Final Destination 6? I can’t believe I’m saying this after sitting through that awful fourth film a couple of years ago, but I’m all for it.
For existing fans of the Final Destination franchise, this movie is an absolute must see. For everyone else expect a lot of gore, a few effectively fun kill scenes, and a lot of confusion while everyone around you shouts in audible surprise at what’s happening on screen. This film wouldn’t deserve the three and a half stars I’m giving it as a stand-alone movie, but it’s not a stand-alone film. Final Destination 5 is the culmination of ten years of crazy kills and scared teenagers in the making. If you’ve seen any of the other Final Destination movies, don’t miss this one.
To find out whether you should see Final Destination 5 in 2D or 3D read our To 3D Or Not To 3D analysis.