Just from the marketing you can tell Final Destination 3 is scraping the bottom of the film franchise barrel. With a tagline like “This ride will be the death of you” you can almost hear the cheesy jokes coming. And with a poster that looks it’s shilling for Cedar Point, you get a glimpse of the misguided campiness of the movie.
With Final Destination 3, first impressions are good impressions. Article continues below
The movie starts with a high school trip to an unnamed amusement park, where we get a flurry of cheap introductions to cardboard characters. There’s Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the control freak. There’s Kevin, the hapless and stupid looking jock (Ryan Merriman). There’s the stereotypically pissed-off macho other jock, Lewis (Texas Battle). There’s your pair of bimbos: Ashley and Ashlynn (Chelan Simmons and Crystal Lowe). There’s the hornball that lusts after them in vain -- Frankie (Sam Easton). And finally there’s your pair of know-it-all goth kids Erin and Ian (Alexz Johnson and Kris Lemche).
These characters really are as cardboard as they sound… almost everyone except Wendy and Kevin appear only in the opening scene and just as they’re getting done in. In fact they are so cardboard that the filmmakers actually only cast the actors a week before the filming began. I guess they figured the actors would just learn on the job.
As in every Final Destination movie, one especially clairvoyant kid on an adolescent outing of some sort has a vision in which there’s a horrible accident about to take place. The first was a plane that exploded. The second was an interstate pileup. These are both realistic and completely out of someone’s control. In this one, Wendy sees some schmuck drop a camera onto a rickety rollercoaster with hydraulics issues. Just looking at the different circumstances, this is both the least creative and the least likely of the three. It also has a plot hole you could fly a 747 through -- the schmuck (and the video camera he drops) both get off of the roller coaster after the control freak pictures everyone’s death.
The rest of the pieces are spelled out pretty quickly for us. Kevin manages to do enough online research to explain the rules of the game to Wendy (you’re screwed, unless you manage to save someone else, and then you’re screwed six to eight months later), who doesn’t believe them until Ashley and Ashlynn get tanned to death (I wish I was joking). She then figures out that the photo of Ashley and Ashlynn from the high school trip was a clue to their death. She also notices that lights flicker, wind blows, and any nearby radios get tuned to a creepy song.
The whole “there’s a clue in the picture” is the source of most of the cheesiness that oozes throughout the rest of the movie. Her initial “evidence” of this is a crease on the last photo of Lincoln before he was shot and a blur in a photo of the Twin Towers just before they got hit. But it gets hard to keep a straight face as you see two actors that look like they just got out of a high school play try to scrutinize a photo of a strong man and a sultan with a saber for clues. I’m moderately sure the whole device exists only as a way to give product placement time to a digital camera I refuse to name.
In the end Final Destination 3 takes away the only joys its predecessors had – the borderline camp that’s actually funny and those unexpected means of death. The third installment lays its cheese on thicker than Philadelphia cream, and you can see half of the deaths coming a mile away. It’s too silly to be creepy and too lame to be funny. It’s just pure, 100% grade-D gunk.