Sunday, August 21, 2011

Final Destination 5 (Steven Quale, 2011) -- B

What audiences and critics alike seemed to miss about Scream 4, above all, is that it takes a pop cultural pulse, concerned foremost with evaluating not only the latest generic artistic endeavors, but also integrating its characters' reliance upon technology, which results in their deaths, socially causal instead of arbitrarily "cool." Now, almost ten years after the first Final Destination, the fifth installment takes a cue from Craven's nearly patented brand of modern horror, new director Steven Quale hinging most of the horror upon class issues, technological failure, and workplace anxieties. In addition, Quale makes appropriately goofy use of the 3D, devises several "oh shit!" deaths, and prizes his characters far more than any of the previous installments (perhaps sans the original).

Unsophisticated horror buffs (gore-hounds, they're called) and especially non-enthusiasts will be unable to see through the IMDB plot synopsis while watching the film, which reads, "survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there's no way you can cheat death." Less high-concept than high-aptitude, Quale takes the franchise's now famous central destruction sequence, which threatens the lives of several employees of an upstairs/downstairs, Marxian office; the workers/groundlings are beneath, slaving away, while the bourgeois, college-educated sit behind desks up top. The desk-jobbers are those whose lives are spared, though of course, that's but temporary, as death lurks for each not far into the future.

Quale's concern with inter-office impersonality makes for amusingly morbid fun, especially when prick-ish boss Dennis (David Koechner) asks to speak with someone in the office, needs to be reminded that they were killed in the tragedy (this comes not soon after the funeral). Even better, Dennis laments when hearing that he might soon lose his job, that the "factory workers are usually the first to go." Playful, understated, but exact, Quale navigates social angst precisely, while systematically killing off characters because of their inadequacies (the highlight is a douchebag who refuses to turn off his cellphone). Furthermore, the franchise finally explores moral dilemma with at least considerate thought, now offering survivors a way out: if they kill someone else, they trade lives, taking the years that person should have had. Preposterous, of course, but that's beside the point - those hung up on the film's "ridiculous" premise are unable to feel Quale's multi-layered depth, taking death seriously and irreverently simultaneously - the best way to play it. Final Destination 5 eventually devolves into routine thriller territory, with people chasing each other around a kitchen, pointing guns, but much of what precedes is proficient genre work.

3 comments:

  1. Five was probably my favorite of the series besides two. All of these films have played out like glossy but gruesome ad campaigns for life insurance, but you are right, screenwriters Jeffrey Rieddick and Eric Heisserer do pay an awful lot of attention to this bushel of victims before killing them terribly.

    I feared that four was the death knell for the franchise. It was so unconcerned with its characters that they didn't even bother having the obligatory scene where they learn about the machinations behind the franchise. It's like they suddenly realized they were in a Final Destination film and moved on from there.

    Great twist-ending, too. With the less than stellar box-office results, it would appear the franchise shall conclude here, and I can't think of a better way to end the series.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I also enjoyed the "this was actually a prequel" ending, but I would be surprised if we didn't see another installment over the next five year period. Opened soft, but will still make 40M domestic. Cut the budget in half, shouldn't be an issue.

    Two is the nastiest flick of the franchise, it seemed to like killing off its characters a little too much. If I recall correctly, doesn't a mentally handicapped child get killed right before the end credits? Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't think a mentally handicapped kid gets killed in two. A kid gets killed during the middle of the film, but his death is the least gory one in the movie.

    At the end of the movie, a whole family gets exploded at a barbecue gone wrong, but I don't recall anyone being mentally handicapped. Last time I saw it was shortly after three came out.

    ReplyDelete