'Final Destination 5' falls prey to formula

Updated 8/11/2011 2:33 PM
  • Molly (Emma Bell) struggles to survive a horrible bridge collapse in the horror sequel "Final Destination 5." It's in 3-D, of course.

    Molly (Emma Bell) struggles to survive a horrible bridge collapse in the horror sequel "Final Destination 5." It's in 3-D, of course.

Fans of the popular "Final Destination" horror films will be thrilled and amazed by the clever ending of the fifth entry in the decade-old series.

But first, they'll have to sit through 90 minutes of some of the most creatively torpid filmmaking since the last "Friday the 13th" sequel.

For readers unfamiliar with the "Final Destination" formula, here are the basics:

An attractive young adult experiences a premonition of disaster just before it actually takes place. (So far, we've seen a jetliner explosion, multivehicle pileups, a stock car race demolition derby and a fun roller coaster accident.)

The prognosticating protagonist survives, along with several other people susceptible enough to his delusional ravings to follow him to safety.

But Death will not be cheated, you know.

So, each of the survivors gets systematically knocked off by a giant shadowy entity that sets in motion a hilariously intricate sequence of improbable events conspiring to kill the unsuspecting victims in inventively gross methods that Rube Goldberg might conceive during an acid trip while watching a Dario Argento movie.

In "Final Destination 5," Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto) dreams that he and his fellow employees at a paper company (not Michael Scott) are on a bus headed for a retreat when a suspension bridge becomes de-suspended.

The buckling bridge tosses Candice (Ellen Wroe) on to a ship's mast, forces hottie Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) to eat a car, burns boss Dennis (David Koechner) with oil and dismembers several others.

All this happens in a vivid and bright 3-D process that's quite effective here, especially when intestines on the ship mast get shoved into our faces.

Sam wakes up, rallies his pals to leave the bus, and saves their lives. So he thinks.

At a funeral for the foolish paper employees who stayed on the bus, Sam and his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and jerky best friend Peter (Miles Fisher, whose eyebrows are a 3-D effect by themselves) spot a creepy coroner named Bludworth (horror icon Tony Todd). He mutters to them, "Death doesn't like to be cheated." before he vanishes.

This sets up the expected series of bizarre fatal situations that befall the survivors, knocked off in the same order in Sam's premonition.

Most of Eric Heisserer's dialogue is shopworn twaddle (he even recycles "I see dead people!" as a joke).

He does concoct a new twist in the formula: a survivor can cheat death by killing another person, thereby switching fates with the person he/she kills.

This opens the story up to some serious contemplations about morality -- for about a nanosecond. Then it's back to the film's raison d'être: watching people be killed in ridiculously cartoony and gory ways.

This film is directed by former second-unit director Steven Quale, who has no understanding of how to maximize a horror bang for a buck.

Instead of going for the quick cuts that maximize shock and dramatic impact, Quale allows the camera to linger on his horrific visuals just long enough for them to lose their punch and start to repel us.

"Final Destination 5" is a disappointing, generic slave to its own formula.

The only way to redeem this series would be for "Final Destination 6" to take place in a movie theater where a young man with big eyebrows has a premonition about audiences being heinously killed off by a marathon of the earlier films.