Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
August 2009

'Destination' nowhere

And I can only imagine how bad 'The Final Destination' would have been with those dumb plastic glasses

The Final Destination
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: David R. Ellis
Screenplay: Eric Bress
Starring: Bobby Campo, Shantel VanSanten, Nick Zano, Haley Webb, Mykelti Williamson, Krista Allen and Justin Welborn
Rated R / 1 hour, 22 minutes
Opened August 28, 2009
(out of four)

Before the opening scene of The Final Destination had even finished, I had already lost count of the number of self-gratifying 3D shots. And I can count pretty high. Let's just say I was all out of fingers and had moved on to my toes.

I didn't even see the film in 3D, but the "object flying at or poking into your face" shots are so intrusive, they're a cinch to spot no matter what.

What's so pathetic about the shots is that the filmmakers clearly spent much more care trying to come up with new things to shove in the audience's face than they did with anything else. You could almost say the film is about things poking into your face, and that the rest of it is just details.

Then again, as details go, these ones are pretty spare. I'm no connoisseur of the Final Destination franchise, but I would assume that it's essentially the same formula each time - group of young, F-list actors escapes a horrific accident thanks to the main character foreseeing everything in some sort of vision. Then they spend the rest of the film trying to outfox death.

But Fate has come to have its way with them, and the film proceeds to come up with various ways for most of them to get maimed, bludgeoned, pierced, dismembered or disemboweled.

Unofficially, many films have this same basic concept, but if Final Destination's founding fathers have the official trademark of the You're Going To Die No Matter What market, more power to them. But as far as suspenseful filmmaking goes, at least in the case of The Final Destination - or Final Destination 4, if you're confused about the timeline - the premise leaves little to get excited about.

Naturally, the best case scenario is for the film to remain consistently creative in the ways it comes up with to do away with its cast members. I'll even admit, during a few moments in the film, there is some genuine wit at play. Too bad more effort wasn't spent developing that, but instead wasted on such powerful 3D effect shots as . . . wait for it . . . the cork from a bottle of cider popping toward the camera. Ooooh, chills!

The film introduces four rather annoying collegians - our hero, Nick (Bobby Campo), his girlfriend Lori (Shantel VanSanten) and their friends Hunt (Nick Zano) and Janet (Haley Webb). They're taking the afternoon off to see a Nascar race, only Nick has a sudden vision of death and destruction and urges his friends to get out. And just in time, too, as a violent crash, in conjunction with several accidents and coincidences, turns the speedway into a death trap.

Our friends get out unscathed, but death isn't through with them. They're gonna get theirs; Fate will make sure of that.

Unless, they posit, they can find a way to stop the chain by intervening in another's almost-death. Now, I'm not sure how that logic works - seeing as how the whole point is that characters will die, in the order they were "meant" to, no matter what. The kids' plan seems a little flimsy. Then again, the whole things is flimsy, so let's go with it.

The Final Destination features some of the worst special effects in decades, though director David R. Ellis does seem to be going for camp value here. If the film had much in the way of cinematic creativity, I might be OK with that. Instead, we're subjected to mostly banal scenes of near-death and carnage, broken up by lifeless characters who aren't even much fun when they're knocking on death's door. The least the film could have done is give us a rooting interest.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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