Final Destination 3

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"Oh Shit! Not again! "

March 8th, 2010

On the 26th of August the Final Destination series returns to cinema screens with its 5th entry. We contiue our look back at the series with the 3rd film.

Recently I read a review about a DVD called Chuckle's Revenge that touted it as the first choose your own story tale. This was not the first (and poorly executed by all accounts) interactive experience as I have seen two others, Return to House on Haunted Hill and the DVD release of Final Destination 3.

Before we get into the special features let's take a look back at the final numbered entry in the Destination series. When going into a sequel you expect a drop in quality but with this one James Wong had returned (he directed the first) so I had high hopes for a more visceral experience.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was with this entry. I had a blast with the first two films, which in truth were nothing more than glorified slasher flicks. While there is some enjoyment to be found here it's clear that no effort was put into the script and it seeps into every scene.

I racked my brains trying to figure out what new spin they'd put on Death and his 'plan'. For the longest time I had to question why Death just didn't give everyone heart attacks, but the latest film (The Final Destination) put paid to that by giving me a satisfying answer in its closing moments, that movie sucked by the way. Part 3 was released without too much build up and the only thing I knew about it was that the opening accident would involve a rollercoaster. When all was said and done this was a hollow remake of the first.

After a vision saves a few teenagers from a fatal rollercoaster ride it's up to two of the survivors to convince the rest that Death has not finished with them yet. Rather than bother with a new take we are given nothing more than a series of events where characters are slaughtered one by one as we speed towards the credits.

The story is a strange one, despite just going through the motions of the first movie everything is accelerated to an incomprehensible speed. After the main accident, Wendy (our hero), before any strange incidents have occurred decides that everyone is in danger as she has read on the internet this has happened to people before. I'm sorry, lock that bitch up, that's crazy talk.

If this wasn't bad enough they decide to add in a new theme by suggesting that your last photograph before your death depicts the nature in which you are going to die, if this is true why did they feel the need to give her visions (it was in the other movies I suppose). Clearly this was added so that the writers could add in a controversial scene to get the film noticed (didn't work though), they knew it was going to be pants.

When explaining the "logic" of photographic premonitions they suggest that Death caused the World Trade Centre attacks. Really? This is pathetic, there is no reason for this to be in this film as it has no context in the overall scheme of things. Don't get me wrong I'm no prude and I don't think anything is off limits as long as it has purpose but this gratuitous 9.11 reference doesn't.

The most memorable thing I got from this was not the film but the experience I got in the theatre. The audience were really into it; screaming, shouting and laughing at all the death scenes, it was all pantomime behaviour but fun. I suppose that's why I have a soft spot for it even though I know its trash.

One thing pisses me off about franchises and that is lack of continuity with previous entries. The whole purpose of a sequel, studio-wise, is to guarantee an audience based on an existing fan base, so they are essentially made for fans of the original. Is it too much to ask that when writing a follow up that they go back and watch the films that precede it (to pick out the rules they had already established)? Later in this movie once everyone has accepted they are in danger (for no reason) there is a discussion about how to defeat Death and leads to a confrontation later in the film. One character suggests as there is a set order in which the characters die if Wendy is to commit suicide before it's her time it may disrupt the plan. This is pointless as it was already established in the second movie that its impossible to take your own life or die before it's your time. Proved as one character tries to kill himself by shooting himself in the head, the gun doesn't go off despite the fact all the chambers were full. Lazy writing.

As the characters are nothing more than cannon fodder (with the exception of Mary Elizabeth Winstead who walks away with a bit of pride) I feel it's more appropriate for me to discuss the death scenes. Unfortunately they suck balls when compared to the rest of the series.

The first film was a lot darker in tone and relied on the tension and the fear that would come from finding yourself in said situation, thus the deaths did not need to be elaborate. The second movie played with our expectations by setting up red herrings and shocking us with surprises making the death scenes a spectacle. Here you watch the build up to a death and it plays out exactly as you'd expect, no tension and no fear. They aren't really that gory either, with a tendency to use an abundance of CGI blood (I hate this effect).

What really saves this film is its ending. The only original idea rounds off the series with a great conclusion – it's too bad they ruined it with another one. I get the feeling this was written first and the rest of the film was added only to get to this moment. I won't spoil what happens but it's quite a dark bittersweet ending that doesn't 100% fit the tone of the 90 minutes before it. To give you an idea it's like the way Terminator 3 ended (most people have seen that, right) – very dark for such a light-hearted romp.

Now the DVD is quite unique as it has a special feature called 'choose your fate' and is the main reason I bought it despite not caring for the movie that much. When this option is selected at certain points during the film you will be prompted with two actions that can change the course of the movie. In theory this was a great idea and is quite exciting when making your choices. In practice however things never go the way you may want. The choices don't actually affect the story in a profound way with the same conclusion occurring in slightly different ways. I wondered if the actors had returned to film new scenes or had filmed them while on set but all became clear as these were just from alternative takes of the death scenes.

For example if you choose to change the temperature in the sunbed room the two girls who burn to death in the theatrical feature manage to escape the sunbeds but are still burnt to death in the ensuing fire. When making your choices it is also very jarring as the DVD searches for the appropriate scene to play and can take up to a minute before the film resumes (on occasion it crashes completely). Even so this is a nice feature that gives an alternate way to watch deleted scenes which have higher production values than the grainy clips you usually find on DVD's.

This film is average at best but I'm sure you'll get a lot more from it if you haven't watched the first two films in the series. The ending and interesting DVD release has increased my enjoyment but I can't recommend this to anyone. Due to my own personal experiences I like this a lot more than perhaps I should and my score reflects that. 6/10

Additional: The 'choose your fate' DVD was obviously a gimmick tacked on to improve sales but it wasn't half bad. Return to House on Haunted Hill was a straight to DVD release built around choosing you own storyline. Did it fare any better? Find out soon in an upcoming review.

In Japan, the film is renamed "Final Deadcoaster".
Tony Todd provides the voice of the devil above the entrance to the roller coaster as well as voicing "This is the end of the line" in the subway towards the end of the movie.
Originally in development as a 3-D film, with the title 'Final Desination 3-D' (so they saved this for part 4, huh?).

Director: James Wong
Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Release: 2006
Rating: 15
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Amanda Crew

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