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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Final Destination 5

(Two Stars)
U.S.: Steven Quale, 2011

In Final Destination 5, as in the other Final Destinations, blood is the money shot, the actors, or at least their characters, are expendable , and a guy named Bludworth, or his boss Destiny, is breaking up that old gang of mine (again).
 
For only the price of a movie ticket (and refreshments, which you may want to skip), you get to see in this movie, a half dozen or so personable young actors and actresses hideously killed in highly imaginative ways. People are bashed to death, sliced in two, pursued with cleavers, lasered to death, blown out of planes and dropped off a disintegrating suspension bridge — and each time, the sequence is carefully planned, ingeniously set up, and meticulously executed. There’s no denying that Final 5, directed by Steven Quale, James Cameron’s second unit director on Avatar, is well-made, and it may well be the best of this tawdry series, as some say, though I haven’t seen enough of them to judge. (Just the last one, which was awful.)
 
And it didn’t really help that, in this movie, the death scenes were done with such unusual care and such obvious technical skill, edited so crisply, shot so well.
 
As in the previous four entries in this popular horror movie series, a young character experiences a premonition of death (usually in a plane or vehicle about to crash, here on a suspension bridge about to collapse). They wake up to avert the catastrophe, and help others escape — but then they all find themselves the targets of a malicious destiny (represented here as previously, by actor Tony “Candyman“ Todd playing a coroner named Bludworth). Death apparently feels it was robbed, and that the inappropriately alive survivors must be rubbed out in a series in a series of seemingly spontaneous “accidents.” There’s one new wrinkle: You can avoid death a second time if you kill somebody to take your place.)
 
That’s the main appeal and marketing hook of the movie: those ingeniously staged accidents that look like Rube Goldberg inventions in reverse, or like the torture murders of Saw, rescripted by a second, more finicky maniac, as if they were part of some evil mechanism of fate. And they include gory, painstakingly staged scenes of a beautiful young gymnast jumping on a gym-horse, on which a screw has been dropped (that and the bridge collapse are the movie’s showpiece sequences); a lecherous schmoo named Isaac (P.J. Byrne) going for an oriental massage and acupuncture session that turn nasty; and (my nomination for the movie’s low point), the eye-opening fate of bespectacled, leggy Olivia Castle (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), who has laser corrective eye surgery, during which, outrageously the ophthalmologist walks off while the laser is running and just as it’s about to go berserk.
 
None of these actors are bad or mediocre, but none of them are really very good (here) either, not even Byrne who tries hard to find some comedy and ham it up for us. And though Quale shows off real, flashy technical expertise in his series of bloody set-pieces, it gave me no pleasure to watch them. Nor did I feel any suspense, because according to the rules of the Final Destination game, there’s no way that any of the main characters (those who were spared in one accident to die in others) can survive. You know they’re goners almost from the moment you first see them, or at least if you’ve ever seen another Final Destination. Nor is there any explanation of why there’s been no investigation into this mysteriously recurring phenomenon, or why this stuff keeps happening — other than the fact that it’s time for another sequel.
 
You think I’m being a grouch. But, by now, I estimate I must have seen 10,000 or more kids in horror movies getting mangled and killed (if I didn’t, it felt like it), some imaginatively, some unimaginatively. I’m sick of it. What good does it do to see a well-made movie, if what they’re making annoys the hell out of you?
 
That’s how I felt about Final Destination 5. And it didn’t really help that, in this movie, the death scenes were done with such unusual care and such obvious technical skill, edited so crisply, shot so well. I guess I would have liked the movie more if the non-carnage dramatic scenes in between the slaughter were better done, but they were vapidly written and indifferently or pushily acted. It’s clear that those scenes, which were admittedly better than their equivalents in some other horror movies, including some previous Finals, weren‘t regarded as important, just drama stuff — which is a common failing of today’s horror movies.
 
How can you blame the writer, who was just churning out the bloody business as usual? How can you blamed the director, who was engaged to stage torture with pizzazz? How can you blame the actors — who know they were hired to get ripped apart?
 
The big question: Why do so many teenagers and twenty-somethings love to see movies, even badly made movies, where a bunch of young people — all young, all attractive, except for an occasional goofball — are slashed, bashed and bloodily massacred one by screaming one, by either a psycho serial killer, some kind of fiendish monster or zombie, or here, by the not-so-fickle, relentless finger of fate? I just don’t know. But believe me, a lot of Hollywood is looking for the formula — and their patron saint may be a maniac swinging a marketing hook.
 
   Oh year, the movie was in 3D. See it in 2D.

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Wilmington

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas