They say you can't cheat death. According to this long running horror franchise, however, you can milk it like a cash cow. After three previous installments in which an airline disaster, multi-vehicle highway crash, and rollercoaster accident lead to a game of cinematic chicken with the Grim Reaper himself, Final Destination is back for what some have suggested is the last chapter in this oddly popular series. After what this weak effort has to offer, there's no doubting this is (probably) the end. Article continues below
When four teens attend a NASCAR race, they are almost killed when a deadly pile up occurs. Luckily, Nick (Bobby Campo) has a premonition of the catastrophe, and manages to save the lives of his friends Lori (Shantel VanSanten), Hunt (Nick Zano), and Janet (Haley Webb), along with several others. Now, it looks like those who made it out alive are "accidentally" dying off, one by one. Nick believes it is part of some pre-destined plan, personal payback for their cheating death. While the others have a hard time believing him, George (Mykelti Williamson), a security guard who worked at the track, does. They hope to save the others before it's too late.
If all you care about is gory deaths delivered in a cheesy, B-movie manner, The Final Destination 3D delivers. Percentage-wise, it's about 75% blood and 25% boring exposition and lax characterization. Indeed, the storyline here is so stock, so calculated and by-the-numbers, that only mathematicians might appreciate it. Worse, the actors are nameless, faceless cogs in a macabre machine that constantly breaks down whenever the grue-filled stunts leave the screen.
In the original film, there was some ingenuity and Rube Goldberg-like logic to how the victims were picked off. Even in sequels one and two, a similar kind of clockwork rationale applied to each kill. But this time around, returning scripter Eric Bress and director David R. Ellis (both delivered part 2) just aren't trying. In almost every case, fire, explosions, and flying debris do most of the damage. There are no quirky set-ups, no "didn't see that coming" conceit to the events. A rock lands near a lawnmower? You just know it's going to fly into someone's face. Pipes and pieces of wood protrude from unlikely places? Get ready for a little equally random skewering.
3D only adds to the aggravation. Aside from various "gotcha" shocks and old school Dr. Tongue-type tricks, the cinematic gimmick adds nothing. Even when one of our plot statistics buys it, the arterial spray is phony, flung at the lens with CG accuracy to heighten the dimensional effect. Sure, a darkly comic splatter fest can be a lot of gratuitous fun -- and there are a couple of examples of squished supporting players that do work. But for the most part, the material in between the bloodshed is too tedious to keep us interested.
And then the movie cheats. Badly. We do expect a little motion picture prestidigitation, especially with a tale that constantly questions who will live and who will die. But is it really fair to forward two premonitions, especially when the second suggests a finality that the film eventually recants? Audiences don't like to feel used, to have whatever they've invested in a scene or series of events pulled out from under them like the appearance of Bobby Ewing in a shower stall. Yet The Final Destination 3D does this... and never apologizes for it.
Like the Friday the 13th films, built on flimsy narrative foundations and a fan curiosity about the ingenious ways the cast will expire, this fourth take is tolerable. If you're looking for more however, you'll have to seek out a different destination.