Friday, October 16, 2009

The Final Destination

I don't think I'm violently throat-fucking anyone's worldview by reporting that The Final Destination, the bafflingly-named fourth installment in the increasingly tired Final Destination gore franchise, is one of the worst movies of the year. Once again, the premise involves some pretty teenagers escaping a catastrophe thanks to a psychic vision by the protagonist, only be mutilated one at a time with Rube Goldberg death traps arranged by the vengeful hand of the Reaper... except this time it's in goddamn 3D! I'm not a big fan of this new glut of 3D movies, but if it must be done, bullshit schlock horror is the right place for it, and it transforms The Final Destination into glorious kitsch. It's hard to say whether this movie or Final Destination 3 is worse — both are tired, predictable, horribly written, and only funny in the most ironic sense, but whereas this one has the 3D gimmickry, Final Destination 3 actually had a semi-capable lead actress in Mary Elizabeth Winstead. All The Final Destination has is a bunch of vapid Abercrombie & Fitch models running around giving performances so bland a junior high theater director would be forgiven for shouting "Cut! You're fired."

But whatever. No one goes to see these movies for a new plot or rich characters; the madding crowd wants five or six gory death scenes and the inevitable promise of gratuitous boobs at least once per picture, and that's it, and The Final Destination delivers. And frankly, I think the fact that this lowest common denominator shit makes bank is a real shame. If I was a filmmaker, with full knowledge that my movie will exist for the rest of recorded human history on DVD and the Internet, I would want to take some iota of pride in my work and try to do a good job. And I know that a good Final Destination movie can be made. How do I know? Because they made one in 2000; it was called Final Destination, and it was fresh, interesting, tense, gory, and funny. If a top genre filmmaker like Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams or Steven Spielberg was told they had to make a good Final Destination 5 or face exile in Egypt for the rest of their lives, I bet they could pull it off.

But I'm not just all talk and no action. I've compiled a few ideas that I think could shake up the formula and actually make the hypothetical (and inevitable) fifth Final Destination not an abominable piece of shit, or maybe, just maybe, even worth watching:

1. In each movie, the protagonist's prophetic vision leads to him or her saving a handful of people from a massive disaster (a plane crash in the first, a freeway pileup in the second, a roller coaster malfunction in the third, a NASCAR track explosion this time around). Each survivor is then killed in the order they would have died in the disaster, and each time the protagonist becomes aware of what's happening after the first few deaths... but the world at large never catches on.

So why not have the protagonist stop the entire opening disaster from happening next time around, only to have the hundreds of people saved getting offed by the Reaper en masse over the next several weeks? Suddenly, the world wouldn't be able to deny the sentience of Death any longer (a newspaper front page with "THE GRIM REAPER IS REAL" in huge letters would be hilarious), and there would be worldwide religious panic and fervor. The media would hound the remaining survivors and the public would begin making death pools as they whittle down to the last few. This would be a lot more epic, and more importantly, more fresh than the process we've repeated so many times now.

2. In all four movies thus far, we've had a traditionally heroic protagonist who goes out of his or her way to try to save everyone. Also, in each movie, they've had the theory that if there's a break in the order the survivors are supposed to die in, everyone after that break will be saved. So why not have an evil protagonist next time around, or at the very least a human antagonist, who tries to twist the situation to his advantage and create his own break in the chain by killing people ahead of him in death order? Slasher flicks on their own are pretty rote and predictable, but introducing a slasher component into the Final Destination formula on the other hand might shake things up nicely.

3. I've never read any of the Final Destination novels (I'd never claim that I only read high literature, but even I have something resembling standards), but I understand that in one of them it's actually explained in depth that the personification of Life is in fact the one giving these protagonists their psychic visions to try to save them from Death, and Life and Death are locked in an eternal chess match with humanity as their pieces. Why not actually have this discovered or explained onscreen in the next film? Hell, why not just go all out and have actors playing Life and Death show up? The series is already supernatural (and really, really bad), it's not like there's a shark to jump here.

Or, for that matter, why not do two of the things I've listed above? Why not go all out and do all three and try to make something completely different? The answer, of course, is because The Final Destination made $151.6 million worldwide on a $40 million budget, approximately $7 of which was personally contributed by me. So I guess I'm the asshole here, for thinking that filmmakers could actually dare to try to make good films. Someone kill me.

1 Star out of 5

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