Friday, August 12, 2011

Putting The Fun Back Into Senseless Violence: Final Destination 5

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Director Fritz Lang once famously said of Cinemascope, "Oh, it wasn't meant for human beings. Just for snakes, and funerals." I have a similar contempt for 3D, and find it an annoying intrusion that is only good for movies about racket-based sports and jugglers. But now I'll have to add one more genre to that list: Movies in which people are killed in a ridiculously baroque fashion.

Given the choice between seeing a movie in a standard screening, or one in which I am forced to wear sunglasses for the duration of an experience that doesn't offer any more depth than your standard lenticular postcard, I'll choose the former. I say, if you're going to go the 3D route, GO THE DISTANCE. Throw shit at my face. Make me duck. Be goofy! In good movies, 3D is merely a distraction, and in bad movies, it is too often just wasted. "Final Destination 5" gets it right: It is a stupid movie that uses 3D to make the experience better.

In fact, the opening credits of "Final Destination 5" are more fun than every single 3D movie I've seen in the past two years combined, (and that includes "Piranha 3D"). Now, if you're not someone who likes horror movies in general, and insanely gory ones in particular, this is not going to change your mind about the genre. But if you, like me, have grown a little tired of recent horror offerings, especially torture porn, then this is the movie for you, because it puts the fun back into senseless violence.

As with all "Final Destination" movies, the plot is the same. A group of good-looking people narrowly avoid death in some kind of catastrophe, are visited by the Candyman a coroner, (Tony Todd), and learn that death doesn't like to be cheated, and will soon be back to get them all.

In this version, the group of people work for a paper company, and are embarking on a work retreat. Sam, (Nicholas D'Agosto), (who, for some inexplicable reason, is also a chef at a French restaurant), has the premonition that saves his life, and the lives of his coworkers. And what a premonition it is. There are more ways to die on a collapsing bridge than merely falling to your death. Many, many more ways. And when those deaths happen, you can be sure guts, blood, and bones will be flying right at your head.

Thus the movie progresses, with grisly and elaborate Rube Goldberg demises galore, and plenty of twists along the way. (If you think that air conditioner dripping water onto that frayed wire is going to end in disaster, you had better think again, my friend.)

I'd say most people have a fear of impalements, and beheadings, or if not a fear, a general notion that these things would be unpleasant experiences. But I think where these films probably succeed best is when dealing with those phobias that not everyone shares, but will hit certain people right where those fears lie, such as in the eye (LASIK surgery!); or with needles (acupuncture!); or, as always, flying (that one's for me!).

I was fully prepared to have a horrible time at "FD 5." The screening was kind of late at night, I was surrounded by a family who were passing popcorn back and forth, with plenty landing on my head, and someone had the brilliant idea to bring a baby to the movie.

But once the deaths started flying, (and the baby and father left the theater), I was laughing, squirming, screaming "OHMYGOD," and trying to cover my eyes, (those 3D glasses sure get in the way of that), with the rest of the howling audience.

"Final Destination 5" offers about as much edification as your standard roller coaster ride, which is to say, none. And that's just the way it should be.

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