Monday, 8 August 2011

Final Destination 3

Hollywood does not save the best for the last.

Sequels adhere to the law of diminishing returns thus the end of a trilogy usually means good riddance. Final Destination 2000 was a high concept addition to the genre. The follow-up (by definition became low concept and) was formulaic but someone at New Line must have loved this franchise. The mistakes made in Scream 3 2003 and Final Destination 2 2003 were noted.

Final Destination 3 2006 did not promise its audience anything new or remarkable. In true capitalist-industrial sequel fashion it promised more of the same – only better. To this end the studio hired the original’s director James Wong (not his real name1) and writers2.

2 Wong and his writing partner Glen Morgan.

Jeffery Riddick3 conceived and co wrote Final Destination. He receives credit as creator in each instalment but has not worked on the franchise since Final Destination 2.

The story went back to beginnings to duplicate what worked in the original. A mistake in Final Destination 2 was to group together a bunch of strangers. It diminished the dramatic interaction between characters. Another error was the inclusion of a cop. His access to government computers diminished the threat. Third plot mistake was the love story subplot. It was an irritant.

Final Destination 3 returns to a bunch of school kids to whom death is an abstract concept – it only occurs to old folk and other people. The survivors all know each other but are not friends. The Final Girl and the lead boy have both lost their lovers in the curtain raiser catastrophe. They are not attracted to each other.
 “Kevin. If it wasn’t for you and Jerry being friends and me and Kerry being friends we wouldn’t have even hung out.” - Wendy

There are attempts at fine writing throughout the film: Lewis rants about his life plan: McKinley lumps Charles Manson, Osama Bin Laden and the Vice President in the same pot: Carrie’s confessing her plan to dump Jerry after graduation. These are the primal screams of youth. They are drowned by the perfunctory and pedestrian story.
With AJ Cook gawping her way through Final Destination 2 James Wong had to cast another Devon Sawa. He settled for Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Winstead awaits the release of her biggest role to date in The Thing 2011. A perusal of her curriculum vitae reveals enough credits for Final Girl4 status but she’s more of a Scream Queen5. In Final Destination 3 she tries to inhabit the role of lead character Wendy but there is nothing involving about her performance. Even with expectations for horror acting so low Winstead is begrudgingly adequate.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: will scream for food
Jamie Lee Curtis was a long time ago.

Some of the blame can be directed at her co star Ryan Merriman. His rendition as the lead male is as flat as a runway model’s chest. There are however flickers of bright spots. Kris Lemche as McKinley, Alexz Johnson as Erin and Sam Easton as Frankie Cheeks command the little screen time they have but the rest of the cast is anonymous. It’s that bad.

The real stars of these films are the gags: the stunts and CGI that death employs to entertain the renter. The Final Destination films have never elevated themselves to the folklore of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. None of the Final Destination 3 gags are memorable. They entertain in the moment but fail to resonate after the credits compared to Johnny Depp’s death in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 for example. A reason for this is the preposterousness of execution.

The highly advertised roller coaster scene is over detailed. The camera is close up on the teens faces thus reminding the viewer that it is only a movie. There have been videotaped rollercoaster tragedies shown on the news. In order to induce realism the filmmakers could have mimicked that ground level angle POV long shot vérité style. In making the choices they made they removed all tension.

Tension exists when the audience doesn’t see death coming. The kill is sudden and the viewer is jolted. Tension oozes from the screen as to what will happen next. This film had one of those instances. That’s not enough for 90 minutes.
This final chapter in the trilogy was a good riddance and although Hollywood doesn’t save the best for the last Final Destination 3 was an improvement on its predecessor. It also made more money6. In the current production climate that meant a franchise reboot was inevitable.

Only the music industry can wring more money out of death than Hollywood.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 100 Best Horror Films #3
1 James Wong Wikipedia
3 Jeffry Riddick IMDb
5 Scream Queen Wikipedia
6 Final Destination series The Numbers
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