If the measure of a good horror movie is its ability to cling to you even as you leave the cinema, Final Destination 5 is somewhere at the high end of the chart. After the screening of this fifth filmic dance with death, this writer had to brave crushing central London crowds, plunging escalators and barrelling tube trains just to get home – and that horrible feeling of “What if?” haunted me all the way to the (supposed) safety of my front door.
What if the tube doors malfunctioned? What if the escalator started eating limbs? Final Destination 5, like its predecessors, excels at playing with that creeping paranoia, heightening our awareness of the lethal potential of so many everyday objects and places. Like, for instance, suspension bridges – which just so happens to be the scene of this movie’s central disaster.
It’s the series’ biggest and most ambitious yet, not only factoring in massive amounts of real and CGI carnage, but also 3D – here smartly engaged to amplify the in-yer-face horror. People plummet great heights, get impaled on spiky things and generally perish in horribly inventive ways – which, of course, is this franchise’s bread and butter.
Caught in the centre of the chaos is Sam (Nicholas D’Agosta), this entry’s resident premonition-haver. While he’s on his way to a team building weekend with his co-workers, Sam forsees their icky fates as a suspension bridge collapses and drags everybody to their deaths. Duly avoiding the catastrophe, Sam saves his on-off girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and a handful of their co-workers – only to find, as a creepy corner tells him, “death doesn’t like to be cheated.”
That premise sounds familiar because it is. We’ve had four movies before this that all played with the same concept. However, FD5 knows it can’t just tread water, and it’s to its credit that the film attempts to stir a few new ideas into the blender. Among them is the suggestion that taking a life could save your own – something that comes into play for FD5’s standout final 20 minutes.
While that new twist does freshen the franchise somewhat, FD5 is still constricted by the formula it’s expected to follow. Thankfully, that formula includes the requisite OTT death scenes, and the filmmakers aren’t wanting for new ideas here. The series of gooey, gory demises they create are as unpredictable and full-on as ever.
It’s essentially business as usual then, but FD5 should be commended as the fifth entry in a franchise that is still thinking on its toes. The film’s stunning opening credits are a masterpiece in themselves (they elicited a cheer at my screening), while an effortlessly creepy but under-used Tony Todd makes a welcome return after skipping episodes three (for which he merely provided a voiceover) and four.
Most impressive, though, is a jigsaw-piece ending that ties together some surprisingly subtle visual gags purpose built for franchise fans. It’s a climax that seriously boosts FD5’s IQ count, and proves there are just as many brains behind the scenes as balls. FD5, then, is a fun thrill-ride with its thinking cap on – but it’s hard not to consider this the perfect place to jump off. 3/5