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The Final Destination
Sure to make money and be forgotten.
The Final Destination
The Fourth Installment of "Final Destination."
OPENING WEEKEND: $28,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $80,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

July 13th, 2009: On what should have been a fun-filled day at the races, Nick O'Bannon has a horrific premonition in which a bizarre sequence of events causes multiple race cars to crash, sending flaming debris into the stands, brutally killing his friends and causing the upper deck of the stands to collapse on him. When he comes out of this grisly nightmare Nick panics, persuading his girlfriend, Lori, and their friends, Janet and Hunt, to leave... escaping seconds before Nick's frightening vision becomes a terrible reality. Thinking they've cheated death, the group has a new lease on life, but unfortunately for Nick and Lori, it is only the beginning. As his premonitions continue and the crash survivors begin to die one-by-one--in increasingly gruesome ways--Nick must figure out how to cheat death once and for all before he, too, reaches his final destination. The film marks the latest in the highly popular "Final Destination" series, and its first 3D installment, giving horror fans an especially visceral thrill ride.

What to Expect: When we talk about movies, we tend to remember the ones that either did really well or really poorly. The ones that are the most memorable are the ones where there were high expectations that were not realized, or the ones that had zero expectations which succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The truth is, 90% of films fall into none of these categories. The lion's share of films released are modestly-budgeted films which turn an equally modest profit, make no one's Top Ten lists, receive no award nominations, get roundly panned by nobody and aren't memorable really in any way. It's these films that are the working stiffs of the movie business, the films that prop up a studio's operating budget and provide reliable sources of income that enable studios to take risks on more expensive projects with less predictable chances of success.

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A huge category of these workaday films are horror films. Most horror films are cheap to make, because they use mostly practical effects, workmanlike directors and low-priced talent (which is why you see so many TV actors doing horror films during their summer hiatus). They're shoved into the multiplexes with minimal fanfare, draw audiences that just want to see some people get killed real good, and turn a painless profit, usually managing to double their production budget. Since that budget is usually low in the first place, their box office takes are rarely deserving of mention as huge financial windfalls, but they're easy money for studios.

Which is why they're so thick on the ground, and why when one formula succeeds, eleventybillion sequels are made. Sequels to horror movies are so simple that a computer can write them. Most of the time, since the cast of the first was gruesomely murdered, all you have to do is recreate the exact plot of the first film with an entirely new stable of on-vacation TV stars and dime-a-dozen studs and starlets. How many of those "Saw" movies have there been now? I've lost count. Even the films that aren't sequels have a kind of sameness to them. Group of winsome young kids are menaced by X, where X is an escaped lunatic, or a grisly creature of some sort, or a deranged family of inbred psychopaths...take your pick. The winsome youths are picked off one by one until only one remains, half-crazy, who manages to escape, sometimes after getting the best of X and sometimes not. Even if the survivor does defeat X, you can be sure there'll be a way to revive he/she/it for a followup. These horror flicks are the modern equivalent of pulp fiction, interchangeable cheap entertainment. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But it's rare when one of these films shows some creativity or rises above its formula. "The Descent" was one that I thought stood out, as was last year's "The Ruins."

As was the first "Final Destination," at least in my opinion. It was creative, it was creepy, and because you already knew that everyone would be meeting unusual, inevitable ends, you were constantly watching for things that could kill them, which the film gave you in spades...and then managed to kill them in a way you never would have predicted, as the result of some Rube Goldberg series of unfortunate events, as it were. Almost like Death was having a bit of fun with them.

So were the screenwriters, because in subsequent sequels they kept devising more and more unlikely and gory ways to off their cast members. The series has been released with admirable regularity. The first came out in 2000, the second in 2003, and the third in 2006. Their box office has been equally predictable. Each cost about $25 million, the first and third installments made almost identical box office takes ($53 and $54 million, respectively) with the third lagging a bit behind at $46 million (ironically, this film was the best reviewed, by a small margin). Each of them made tidy sums for New Line with a minimum of effort. It's not surprising that they'd continue the series. In fact, the only thing that surprises me is that supposedly, this will be the last installment. Perhaps with the demise of New Line, Warner Bros. doesn't care to expend any energy in continuing.

And they're attempting to end with a bang, it seems. This film will be released in 3D (all the kids are doing it these days, I hear). The original title was "Final Destination: Death Trip 3D." Happily, this cheese-filled mouthful of a moniker was exchanged for simply "The Final Destination," in yet another example of sequel-makers eliminating the numerics from their titles, as if that'll make us forget that we've seen this movie already, not once or twice, but three times.

This series has had an oddly sporadic continuity of production crew. The first and third films were the product of "X-Files" producer/director team James Wong and Glen Morgan, while the second film and now this one were directed by David Ellis. Toby Emmerich, formerly New Line's president of production, produced films 2-4 and screenwriter Jeffrey Riddick, who wrote the initial film, also produced the second. Still with me? There's been very little cast continuity, with only Ali Larter appearing in a major role in the first two films, and character actor Tony Todd appearing as that creepy mortician in the same two films. Wong was initially asked to direct this fourth installment, but scheduling conflicts caused the production to move on to David Ellis, who accepted the job because of his interest in the film's 3D technology, the same tech being used by James Cameron for the upcoming "Avatar" (which someday will be an actual movie instead of a bunch of vague rumors we've been hearing for years). Ellis is something of a schlockmeister himself. He had a long career as a stuntman before becoming a director; "Final Destination 2" was his first significant job, followed by forgettable thrillers "Cellular" and "Asylum." He does have one thing of interest on his resume...this is the man who directed "Snakes on a Plane." I don't know if that's bad or good, but at least it's a film we've all heard of, for better or worse.

Clearly, the filmmakers are banking on a better box office this time, since the budget for this film is reportedly twice the budget of the previous installments. Can the 3D aspect really deliver that much of a return? That film will have to top the explosive accidents and disasters of the first three and then some to entice weary, jaded viewers into the cinema. The granddaddy of Final Destination scenes, according to many fans of the series and the genre, is the apocalyptic car crash that kicks off the action of "Final Destination 2." I confess that I've only seen the first one and about the first half hour of the second, but I agree that it's a pretty eye-popping scene.

This film's vision-of-disaster involves a group of friends at a NASCAR race or similar events, and protagonist Nick (Campo) has a premonition of a horrific crash, hurtling debris and flaming cars into the stands, and then the stands collapsing on the crowd. He persuades his friends to leave with him, then the accident he foresaw actually happens, then the survivors start dying, blah blah blah we remember the first three films, thanks. The only suspense involved is exactly how all these blemish-free young folks with three percent body fat will meet their untimely but predestined ends. Still photos and video released so far have given a few clues. I'm dubious. One girl appears to meet her death by...car wash. How, exactly, is a car wash supposed to kill you? I guess I'll have to wait and see! A carnivorous escalator and a giant scaffolding catastrophe have more potential. The gore factor will likely be comparable to the first films. I admit I'm still creeped out by the guy who was partially decapitated by flying shrapnel in the first one, or the suddenness of that one girl's death-by-bus. I don't know anybody who doesn't jump at that part.

And that's all we want, isn't it? To jump and shriek and allow ourselves to be surprised? The 3D factor could definitely be more of a factor with these kinds of films where you're already primed to be startled, the addition of a dimensional visual element could intensify the experience significantly. Enough to warrant a king-sized budget? I don't know.

Although release dates are always subject to change, at this point it seems as if this film will be competing with Rob Zombie's "Halloween 2," if not opening on the same weekend, then at least sharing some cineplex time. I'm puzzled why the makers of H2 wouldn't release it...you know, at Halloween time, much less against this film, which is a more proven quantity as a franchise. The previous "Halloween" reboot made a fair amount of money, but was much reviled by many fans of the original series. With the 3D element factored in, I have to give this one advantage: Final Destination.

In Conclusion: A proven franchise with some new bells and whistles, the same grisly deaths and suspense, it's hard to imagine this one bombing. Likely it'll turn in the same moderate success as its predecessors. I can't imagine that the mere addition of 3D (which many film-goers are still a bit leery of) will catapult it into the stratosphere.

Similar Titles: Final Destination Trilogy, The Descent, The Ruins
August 28th, 2009 (wide)
January 5th, 2010 (DVD)

New Line Cinema

David R. Ellis

Shantel VanSanten, Bobby Campo, Hayley Webb, Nick Zano, Krista Allen, Andy Fiscella, Mykelti Williamson, Richard T. Jones

Total: 45 vote(s).

Horror, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.

82 min





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