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Final Destination 3: nothing could be finaler

by Glen Baity

Let’s forget for a moment that Final Destination 3 would be a ridiculous title even if it were subtitled by something along the lines of This Time We Mean It. Let’s also forget that the premise of the film has been commandeered and improved upon by ‘“My Name Is Earl,’” which also centers around a character piecing together the will of some ambiguous Force by finding patterns in the bizarre, unfortunate things that happen to him.

Finally ‘— and perhaps most contentiously ‘— let’s look past the fact that this, the most finalist of all destinations, is a bad movie, even though that point should be the most compelling.

No, all those criticisms take a back seat to what, in my mind, is the harshest indictment one can level at an already inconsequential sequel. More than anything, this latest showcase of occasionally funny (though not remotely scary) deaths is just wholly unnecessary.

When I say ‘“unnecessary,’” I don’t just mean that I didn’t like it. It’s unnecessary like the remake of Psycho was unnecessary ‘— the actors might be different, but it’s the same film. Not a single thing has changed. Not one. Which, of course, begs the question: Why bother?

If you’re unacquainted with the series, here’s the Reader’s Digest plot of all three films: a high school student, in the presence of several friends and classmates, has a premonition that some catastrophe is about to occur (in order: a plane crash, a 20-car freeway pileup, a roller coaster derailment). The student, convinced that the vision was real, freaks out and attempts to warn everyone present, which is met by predictable (and rational) skepticism. The hysterical student is carted off from the scene, along with several people who either follow to make sure the student is okay, or were somehow swept up in the commotion against their will.

While everyone is busy yelling at the student for disrupting their plane ride/road trip/turn on the roller coaster, the catastrophe occurs precisely as the student warned. Many people die, except those who followed the prophet off the plane (or out of the car, or off the roller coaster). Everyone is sad, most of all the student, who thinks he or she is going crazy.

Then one of the survivors dies in a freak accident. Then another, then another, until the remaining survivors figure out that ‘death had a plan,’ and now it’s coming back to pick each of them off in the order they would’ve died in the catastrophe.

The concept is a little stupid, sure, but the first one was inexplicably enjoyable (I won’t attempt to defend this position against anyone who thought otherwise, as they will almost certainly have a superior justification for their dislike of the original Final Destination ‘— but don’t ever say I’m afraid of a little mindless fun).

But as the first film has been remade twice now, even slow-on-the-uptake filmgoers like myself will find the film’s logical gaps, which were already glaring, almost impossible to ignore.

To name one example: capital-‘D’ Death doesn’t miss. The idea that someone can avoid their own death by just getting out of the way in time doesn’t quite jibe with the universal significance of living and dying as most philosophers understand it, even if you don’t really believe in predetermined fate.

That’s fine for a bargain matinee, I guess, as the visual thrill of the film is couched in dramatic irony ‘— watching Death orchestrate a complex scenario by which its victims get burned to a crisp, decapitated, or impaled while the unknowing patsy just goes about his or her business. But after three films, you have to wonder: couldn’t the same malevolent force that establishes the perfect circumstances for, say, someone to get their head sliced in half by the blade of a car engine, just grab that person’s windpipe and squeeze?

No, that’s not as entertaining (unless it’s Darth Vader), but in FD3, the unseen hand of Death looks more than ever like Dennis the Menace, wreaking havoc out of sheer boredom. That inexorable fate can be stymied by piecing together all the clues in time just seems’… well, kinda stupid, and no longer in that loveable way.

But like I said, the film simply has no reason to exist at all, other than to show how creatively someone can be killed. On this point, I return to what I said in my earlier review of Hostel: there are only so many ways to kill a person, and watching the latest Final Destination, it’s clear the minds behind this franchise have hit a creative wall. There are no surprises here, so even if you’re just in the mood for an insipid, intermittently suspenseful horror flick, you’re out of luck.

Much like the Friday the 13th series, these films, dedicated as they are to offing every cast member, could conceivably go on forever, since the filmmakers just usher in a new roster of lambs to the slaughter ever two to three years. And since these days, evidently, every bad film is entitled not only to a sequel but an entire franchise, it would be completely unsurprising if Final Destination 4 weren’t taxiing onto the tarmac before 2010. I doubt they’ll stop until viewers themselves start keeling over out of sheer boredom. With this installment, however, that likelihood seems much greater than it used to.

Glen Baity has been assured that he would’ve liked Final Destination 3 if he weren’t such a damn snob all the time. Send your thoughts on this argument to his spankin’ new, much-easier-to-remember e-mail address, glen.baity@gmail.com.

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