For anyone who doesn’t already know how lovingly the Final Destination franchise clings to repeated tropes and gleefully gory shocks, the series’ fifth entry begins with a statement of purpose: a lengthy opening-credits sequence featuring random CGI objects (skulls, bloody nails, flaming windowpanes, an exploding microwave, a burning corpse, and much, much more) crashing through CGI glass and flying at viewers’ eyes in 3-D slow-motion. It’s painfully repetitive, context-free violence-fetishization, and it’s instantly boring, yet dragged out at vast length. That’s all fully appropriate for a series that’s been coasting on the same gorehound storyline for more than a decade. Still, it does make what follows feel creative by comparison, as Final Destination 5 tries to spruce up the once-fresh, now-familiar plot with a few new wrinkles.
Once again, a well-meaning kid has a precognitive vision that lets him save a group of people from horrific death. (By this time, the minor variations from film to film feel like something from a game of Clue or a Mad Libs sheet: In this case, it’s Nicholas D’Agosto rescuing his paper-plant coworkers from a suspension-bridge collapse.) Once again, the survivors begin dying in hyperbolically unlikely ways, and D’Agosto and company realize death feels cheated and is trying to reclaim them. One new twist: Candyman’s Tony Todd, reprising his occasional role as a creepy, mysteriously knowledgeable figure, claims the doomed cast can trade fates and lifespans with other people by murdering them. Another twist: In setting up the elaborate, gruesomely fatal accidents that are the FD movies’ raison d’être, director Steven Quale (Aliens Of The Deep) and screenwriter Eric Heisserer (the 2010 Nightmare On Elm Street reboot) actually insert a few red herrings for a little misleading tension.
And it practically counts as a twist that they also tried to personalize some of FD5’s characters. Most of them are generic chum-to-be, particularly the usual roster of mildly hateable stereotypes meant to attract horror fans’ bloodlust—including David Koechner slumming it as The Obnoxious Boss. But D’Agosto, at least, with his dreams of being a Parisian chef and his dedication to the girlfriend (Emma Bell) who just dumped him, feels like a more realized character than the series has seen in a while. Still, while FD5 is less generic and less facilely goofy and ironic than past series installments, it’s still a rote execution of formula that scores its biggest points with self-aware references to its predecessors—including a closing-credits montage of kills from Final Destinations past. Which echoes the opening credits, and reiterates the theme: Who needs a creative storyline or meaningful connections when you can just string some shocking images together?