Directed by David R. Ellis
The fourth installment opens at a raceway where a horrific car crash would have taken out an entire stand of spectators if not for the film’s hero Nick realizing it’s going to happen, warning his friends and inadvertently saving a group of spectators around them. Before anyone can breathe a sigh of relief, a tire flies through the air decapitating one of the survivors and we’re thrust into an elaborate opening title sequence that offers callbacks to many of the memorable deaths from the previous three movies. From there, we’re back to the exact same formula with Nick immediately realizing something is happening and trying to find a way to put a stop to the deaths. This is the first time where the formula feels stale, since we’ve already seen three others go through the exact same series of revelations. You also might realize how ridiculously coincidental it is that our heroes just happen to learn about these random deaths right after they happen.
Instead of using photos that give clues to the impending deaths, this time it comes down to Nick’s dreams and premonitions, which combined with the commercials, make most of the kills predictable. As has been the case in the past few installments, we see elements of the possible “accidents” starting to build with each death, but by the second or third fakeout, none of it seems very clever. When a mother tells her kids “I’m going to keep my eye on you,” you can pretty much guess which appendage she’s going to lose.
At this point, they’re not even bothering to try to develop the characters anymore, many of Death’s slaughter fodder not even having names, referred to merely as “Racist” or “MILF.” Not that any of the actors are good enough to actually develop their characters beyond being mere “Final Destination” stereotypes. Bobby Campo is another pretty boy with little personality, while Shantel VanSanten looks great when strutting around in her underwear but never exudes enough charisma to keep the audience interested in her. Nick Zano fulfills the role of the loudmouth sexist jerk that’s been a constant. Really, the only actor who stands out and actually comes off well in the movie is Mykelti Williamson as the raceway security guard George, who lost his family in a drunk driving accident, giving him very reason to want to live. (By an hour into the movie, we know how he feels.)
Even the extras are poorly directed, obvious from a later scene of an audience watching a 3D movie; their reactions seem so ridiculously overblown that the entire scene feels fake. Similarly, the opening set piece suffers from other problems, the main one being that–and not to stereotype here–the spectators don’t seem at all like a NASCAR crowd, so when they throw in an overtly racist prick and a ridiculous subplot involving him wanting to get revenge on the black security guard that kept him from saving his wife, it just leaves a really bad taste in our mouth.
Really, the only notable new attraction this time around is the fact that the movie was filmed in 3D and for the most part, it looks decent with great production values overall, but one might expect, returning director David R. Ellis–he also helmed “Snakes on a Plane”–tends to overuse the 3D by throwing as many things at the camera as possible. The 3D effects do little to help make the gore look very real either, whether it’s the CG or the slaughterhouse cast-offs variety. It all just look too fake and stylized compared to the earlier films.
Worst of all, this chapter just isn’t very much fun, because this time, Death isn’t just going after the jerks and morons we encounter every day, but it starts taking down characters we have grown to like, which feels like it’s taking things too far. At least the third act steps things up a bit with a great second set piece involving a mall explosion that offers Ellis a chance to go even bigger than he has in the past, but ultimately, this chapter of the series will leave even the most diehard “Final Destination” fan disillusioned and disappointed.
The Bottom Line: