Movie Review: Final Destination 5 (2011)


Jacqueline MacInnes Wood in Final Destination 5
Photo: New Line Cinema

The Final Destination franchise has never been about acting or story. The idea you can’t cheat death and if you do escape its clutches it will come back for you isn’t fodder for high art, but rather an opportunity for cheap thrills and it’s been successful before. In my opinion the original film was decent and Final Destination 2 was downright entertaining, but since 2006’s Final Destination 3, the franchise has fallen.

2009’s The Final Destination was expected to be the fourth and final installment in the now-11-year-old franchise. Then it went on to make over $186 million at the worldwide box-office, thanks in large part to inflated 3D ticket prices, and New Line had no choice but to greenlight a fifth. This, despite the fact the fourth film was easily the weakest of the franchise, slathered with cheap 3D and unoriginal kills, the latter of which being the reason we show up to watch these films in the first place. So, the question now is whether or not the franchise was able to return to form with number five?

I can happily say, the kills in Final Destination 5 are some of the best the franchise has had to offer, primarily the way they play with your mind and expectations. The impressive suspension bridge disaster opening sequence offers an excellent impaling and after that, the same character meets her demise in an absolutely extraordinary accident that had members of my audience yelling every couple of seconds before the final splat. Deaths via massage, laser, hook and wrench place characters on the chopping block as blood flows and the use of CG is nowhere near as evident or cheap as it was in the last film. Even the 3D is used to death’s advantage.

However, while the deaths are impressive, the script and acting may be the worst this franchise has ever seen. Damn near from top to bottom this is some of the worst acting I can remember in a major motion picture in some time. It’s no surprise for me to learn Miles Fisher, easily the worst of the lot, channeled Tom Cruise in the 2008 spoof Superhero Movie because he is still trying to do it, though now he’s thrown in a bit of Jerry O’Connell into the mix, another C-level actor that once thought making fun of Cruise would bolster his career for more than 15 minutes. It didn’t.

Nicholas D’Agosto as Sam, the film’s lead, and Emma Bell as Molly, his girlfriend, are stone-faced and would be out of their league opposite a talking rock. Jacqueline MacInnes Wood and Ellen Wroe aren’t much better. David Koechner and P.J. Byrne weren’t half-bad, Arlen Escarpeta was the only character I half-believed and Tony Todd (Candyman) showing up as death’s expert was a bit of a left field decision, but fun.

There is no excuse, really, for bad acting other than the fact you’ve hired bad actors, but director Steven Quale (co-director of James Cameron’s Aliens of the Deep) doesn’t appear to have given his actors any help and Eric Heisserer’s script was certainly not interested in the idea of character building. The opening moments of this film are a drawn-out exercise in “how bad can it get?” From wooden introductions to simply delaying the inevitable, I was worried almost immediately. Thankfully, once the bridge begins to crumble and death is on the loose, Heisserer’s script is largely forgotten.

Fortunately for this film, and the franchise on a whole, Final Destination 5 is entirely watchable despite all of its negatives. In fact, sometimes the dialogue and acting are so bad it heightens the enjoyment. Not only can you laugh as death pummels its victims and jump when gore splatters the screen unexpectedly, but you can enjoy the amateurs on screen trying and failing to convince you their characters have actual emotions.

The joy of watching Final Destination 5 is in each moment death rears its head. There are also a few rule additions that make this one a little unique and an ending you won’t likely see coming unless someone foolishly spoils it for you. If you’re interested in seeing this flick then by all means do. You already know you aren’t in for a world class acting seminar and your hope is that you’ll get a bunch of gruesome and unique kills. To both points Final Destination 5 delivers and it’s one I would likely watch again.