There is a scene early on in David R. Ellis’ The Final Destination where a neo-Nazi—who is drunkenly attempting to set a cross ablaze in the front yard of a black security guard—is set on fire. He is consequently dragged down the street by his own runaway tow truck, while the sounds of WAR’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” blares from the truck’s stereo.
And with that scene we get the litmus test for whether or not this movie is for you. If the idea of a bunch of pretty TV actors you’ve never heard of (and Bubba from Forrest Gump) being shuffled off this mortal coil in all sorts of precariously messy ways—from killer pool filters to murderous escalators—sounds entertaining to you, then this movie may be for you. And if not, well, you’re classier than I am.
The Final Destination is no different than any of the previous three Final Destination films, aside from the fact that it’s being shown in 3-D in a handful of theaters (Finally! The pinnacle of movie gimmicks for the apex of gimmicky horror subgenres, the creative-death school of horror). All of the Final Destination movies are pretty much transposable, with a group of people being saved from a dirt nap by someone’s last-minute premonition, only to have Old Mr. Grim go after each and every one of the survivors, popping them off in elaborate freak accidents that always end in bursts of flying viscera (some well-placed corrective lenses, a pile of sawdust and barrels upon barrels of flammable liquids can go a long way).
In The Final Destination, we get Nick O’Bannon (TV actor Bobby Campo), your run-of-the-mill hunky twentysomething, who—through the aforementioned fit of precognition—sees disaster mere seconds away at the stock-car race he’s attending. He, his friends and a mix-matched group of survivors (thankfully, only enough to fill 90 minutes worth of carnage) manage to escape their fates. Where the film goes from here is no surprise. There’s some semblance of a plot, which involves Nick and his girlfriend (Shantel VanSanten) trying to save whoever is next on the list (Death is a stickler for formalities, you see).
But plot, characterization or production design that looks better than an after school special gone awry isn’t what is important to The Final Destination. No, what is important is exploding movie theaters, falling bathtubs and decapitation by Goodyear tires. While all this might sound morally repugnant or tasteless, it manages not to be—assuming one has the stomach for all this hokey gore—simply because the movie has a sense of humor about itself. It’s closer to Wile E. Coyote than it is to Eli Roth in its depictions of blood-splattered death, and becomes something more approximating deadpan splatstick. I’m not making an argument that The Final Destination is good filmmaking or all that terribly original. But it is entertaining. Rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality.