2000’s Final Destination was ushered to the screen by the then white-hot writer/director duo of Glen Morgan and James Wong, who’s work on The X-Files, Millennium, and the short-lived (yet much-loved) Space: Above and Beyond, had earned them both studio clout and serious geek credibility. With Final Destination, the duo took a throw-away script from the X-Files (written by staff writer, Jeffery Reddick), and honed it into a comically absurd and violent slasher in the supernatural mold, featuring a antagonist that was not merely some masked instrument of death, but, rather, Death itself. With a hip young cast that included Ali Larter, Devon Sawa, and Seann William Scott, as well as the presence of genre vet, Tony Todd, Final Destination rode the wave of the post-Scream revitalization of the horror genre, and started a franchise that, for better or worse, continues to this day.
In its latest installment, 2011’s Final Destination 5, Death is once again robbed of a group of potential victims when, on a bus en route to a work retreat, Sam Lawton (Nicolas D’Agosto) has a premonition of a bridge collapse in which his co-workers plunge to their deaths, followed by himself after he manages to save his (soon-to-be-ex) girlfriend, Molly . A panicked Sam grabs Molly and urges everyone to get off of the bus, but only a handful of concerned friends follow after him, including his best buddy, Peter (Miles Fisher); Peter’s gymnast girlfriend, Candice (Ellen Wroe; sexy bespectacled office assistant, Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood); plant manager, Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta); office lothario, Isaac (P.J. Byrne); and their boss Dennis Lapman (Anchorman’s David Koechner, who is also the only recognizable name in the credits beside Tony Todd). The accident happens just as Sam described, and, as is the case with all of the Final Destination films, Death isn’t happy about being cheated, and comes for each of his victims in the order they were meant to die. What follows is the usual attempt by the protagonists to somehow fool death into skipping over them, but we all know how that works out. It’s a simple formula that hasn’t changed a lick since the first film because, well…it just works.
Besides, no one really cares about the plot of a Final Destination film. The real reason people watch these movies are for the death scenes, and Final Destination 5 offers up some of the series’ most creative, surprising, and squirm-inducing demises yet. I won’t give any of them away, but my personal favorite has to be the one involving a visit to an Asian massage parlor. Believe me; you’ll never look at acupuncture the same way ever again. It’s all presented in the same manner as previous films, with a variety of potential hazards serving as “accident” red herrings, but, when the actual death comes, the cause is hardly ever what you expected it to be. It’s actually pretty suspenseful in a “watching NASCAR for the crashes” sort of way, and, for closet misanthropes such as myself, oftentimes very fulfilling.
Final Destination 5 comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Brothers, sporting a spiffy 2.40:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer on a region free 50GB dual layer disc. The image on this 2-D version is sharp and nicely detailed, especially for a film shot for the express purposes of 3-D, but there are moments where the quality of the image betrays the sometimes plastic looking CGI effects (something that would probably have gone unnoticed in a 3-D presentation). I also found the color palette somewhat drab, with lots of muted tones. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a total beast once the action gets going, with a fantastic mix that, thanks to some smartly implemented directional effects, really puts you in the action. The highs are crystalline, while the bass is positively crushing, yet dialogue still rides above it all in crisp and clean fashion. It’s a solid presentation, but I’m guessing it has more visual impact in its 3-D incarnation.
The supplied extras are as emaciated as Death’s bony fingers, with just a few supplemental features included. We’re given a collection labeled “Alternate Death Scenes” that are mostly the very same death scenes we see in the film, with only a handful offering anything new or slightly different from the finished product. We also get a short by-the-numbers promo piece called Circle of Death, that features a few interviews and scenes from the film. Rounding out the extras are a short FX featurette entitled Visual Effects of (wait for it…) Death, and a collection of trailers for other Warner releases. All of the above are presented in HD.
Fans of the Final Destination films know what to expect from these movies, and, frankly, no review, good or bad, will sway them from grabbing this one sight unseen. The good news for non-fans is that this flick’s actually pretty entertaining stuff, perfectly adequate for a night of friends, popcorn, and copious amounts of beer. It’s gruesome and goofy fun with a neat twist ending (that most people already know about, but I’m not going to ruin it) and the perfect ratio of blood to belly laughs.