(This review was first published in 2006.)
The first installment of Final Destination I have nothing but the utmost respect for. How could I not, it being one of the extremely small handful of films that actually made me jump (not to mention reminding me to always look both ways before crossing a street).
Final Destination 2 impressed me with its opening multi-vehicle collision scene, even if they did bend a few laws of physics to make it so spectacular. And both films entertained me to no end when it came to playing the Misdirection Game of Death.
So of course, I had to go out and see if three times really is a charm when Final Destination 3 opened today. In my experience, the third movie in a horror series is generally the worst. Think Halloween 3 (aka "Where's Michael?"), and Jaws 3 (A great white shark vacations at Sea World).
Of course, there are always exceptions. I think The Exorcist 3 was actually an apology.
Because my butt is still sore from sitting on the theatre floor during the completely sold-out opening night of Hostel, we played it safe and caught the late Friday afternoon showing instead. Of course, this did cut down on the audience numbers and deny me a lot of those viewer reactions I love so much.
Like the other films, we start out with the teenager who is suddenly struck with a bout of psychic ability and foresees terrible things about to happen while getting on a roller coaster. No subtlety or irony here, mind you, the big red demon at the entrance to the ride tells you quite frankly that there is no return. Did I mention that she's a yearbook photographer too? Its kind of important, because her camera also seems to have been blessed with psychic abilities as well as she snaps photos of all her friends.
If you've seen the first two films, you already know whats going to happen here. Yes, she freaks out just before the ride starts and a whole gaggle of teenagers get off the ride before it has a chance to derail. And derail it does, in a way that plays into the fears of anyone who has ever stood in line to ride the 80-year-old wooden Cyclone at Coney Island. And, in the tradition of FD movies, it does fudge a little on reality while doing what every coaster-phobic always dreads - coming to a complete stop while in mid-loop.
If you'll pardon the pun, things just go downhill from here for everyone involved... audience included.
After two death-is-coming-for-you movies, you would think that the film-makers would realize that they have to be craftier than ever before in order to shock and awe an audience with clever misleads and impressive death scenes. Unfortunately, theres that damned camera I mentioned earlier that gives everyone clues as to how the coaster-dodgers are going to get it. So much for the thrill of trying to figure out what little thing is going to be the key to someones demise. For me, it was about as challenging as an open-book quiz.
So how does FD3 attempt to shock us? By treating its characters like special guest watermelons in a Gallagher performance.
The film does set us up with a few characters that you really cheer Death on for. You know, the type of character that makes you cringe so much that you spend every second he's on screen fantasizing with the anticipation about his slow, agonizing, and well-deserved death by torture, preferably involving the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and a pail of rusty nails soaked in well-cured wasabe. I tell you, we were robbed on this one. Although to the director's credit, we do get to see a bit of the messy aftermath. Unfortunately, he's stopped twitching by then.
The much-talked about tanning booth scene was fun, even (dare I say) cute, but terribly predictable all the same. They didn't even bother trying to mislead you about how they were going to sizzle the token annoying ditzy girls.
So one by one, our hapless teens fall back into Death's design, even when armed with the psychic photos. I'm sorry, but when you figure out that Death has it in for you and have the photos to prove it, you don't go to work at a dangerous job surrounded by power tools or fireworks.
On the plus side, the visuals were fairly good, even though some of them you'd miss if you blinked.
All and all, this could just be another case of my being entirely too jaded on horror movies to appreciate its simple shock value, so it's worth having its day in court.
Film information: Final Destination 3