The Final Destination series of films have officially become the moviegoing equivalent of the tuxedo T-shirt. The first time you see it you say to yourself, “That’s a really clever subversion of my expectations at this party.” The second time you see it you’re thinking, “Man, I should have seen that coming, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.” The third time it’s more like “Well, at least they washed it.” The fourth time you wonder just how long this gag is going to be milked because it really stopped being amusing several years ago. Ten years after the first wearing of the shirt and five parties later you just want the person to either grow up or get rid of the shirt. What I am trying to say with this messy metaphor is that Final Destination 5 is an atrocious mess, but it is admittedly barely better than the last installment.
Who Honestly Gives a Shit 5 opens with a group of victims — sorry, “potential” victims for those who don’t want spoilers — embarking on a corporate retreat on a bus that is on the highway to hell. Good looking guy #1 has a premonition that the bridge they are on is going to collapse and he tells everyone to get off the bus. Blah blah blah, they cheat death, blah blah blah, they all die one by one in the order they were originally supposed to die in horribly implausible ways. There is his ex-girlfriend, the other good looking guy, the black guy, the pervy nerd, the intern gymnast, the girl with the boobs, and the terrible boss. There will not be a test on this later since everything plays out exactly how one would expect it to. I’m not even going to give the names of the actors because it honestly doesn’t matter who played any of them. They might as well have been crash test dummies.
I should probably back up and say that I am actually a big fan of the first film in the franchise, a begrudging admirer of the second, a bit of an apologist for the third, and a hater of the fourth. This film is better than the previous entry in a few key departments. Unlike the last film, this movie does have one memorably crazy death sequence involving a loose screw, some ceiling fans, a puddle of water, resin, and a set of gymnastics equipment. It brings back the sorely missed coroner character played by Tony Todd who had been absent on screen since the second film. There are a few nice references to the previous films and the opening set piece is actually staged quite nicely.
Sadly, my charity ends there. The biggest problem with the film, and about the series in general, is that after five films the filmmakers seem to think their audience just doesn’t understand the mechanics of the films. An extremely long chunk of the film is spent rehashing what the audience already knows going in. It is really boring and mechanical and made worse by the fact that this time out they are trying to actively develop characters that no one can be bothered to care about since the audience know exactly what is going to happen to them. The performances range from laughable to barely conscious. Screen veterans Courtney B. Vance and David Koechner show up as a police detective and the aforementioned horrible boss, respectively, but neither can be bothered to inject any life into the film.
On the technical side of things, first time feature director Steve Quale fails to deliver the goods in almost every possible way by staging deaths that aren’t up to the spectacular standards of the first few films. The script from Eric Heisserer (who was also responsible for the Nightmare on Elm Street remake and the upcoming remake of The Thing) is so bad that saying it was probably written on a bar napkin would be too kind. It’s more like it was written on a bar napkin that was pulled from a toilet after being puked on. Oh, and the 3-D doesn’t necessarily suck, but it is never put to good use or used in any sort of new or imaginative ways.
The film ends with a plot twist that simultaneously makes no sense and will shock no one who was paying attention, but what comes after the actual ending of the film and before the credits illustrates what Final Destination 5 should have been. After sitting through 90 minutes of mindless filler, the audience is finally treated to the good stuff: a two minute montage of clips from the preceding four films. No context or plot, just Rube Goldberg on acid style deaths. The two minute montage of past clips is assembled with more love and care than the rest of the film. The fact that one needs to sit through the entire film just to get to it might be the biggest sin this film commits.