by Mel Valentin
"Final Destination 3" reunites the writing, producing, and directing team, Glen Morgan and James Wong, behind the first film in what's already being called, perhaps prematurely, a franchise. "Final Destination" created a new sub-genre, the "death by proxy" sub-genre. Death is de-personified, an invisible force that works through the material world using the smallest, innocuous objects to set off a chain of events that lead, almost inevitably, to the spectacularly grisly, often blackly comic, death of a secondary character, complete with misdirection and delayed gratification (most of the pleasure in watching the "Final Destination" series can be chalked up to audience anticipation, as the filmmakers find clever ways to prolong the inevitable, permanent smackdown).Final Destination created the formula or template for the series. First, throw together generically attractive high schoolers, usually a mix of social cliques. One of the characters, however, has a premonition or vision of an accident, moments before boarding a plane (in the first film), a horrific freeway pile-up (the second film). or, in the third film, a rollercoaster ride. In a panic, the central character manages to convince other friends or acquaintances to follow his or her lead. Relieved after escaping near certain death, the survivors try to move on with their lives. Some indeterminate, arbitrary amount of time later, Death comes calling, targeting the survivors in an order that gives the central character the maximum amount of time to figure things out and find a way out. There's one out or escape clause: if you cheat Death a second time, you get a free pass (wait, no one said this had to be plausible, right?).
"Another horror franchise is born. Is that a good thing? You make the call."
With that kind of formula, only three elements have to change, the set-up (i.e., the accident that kick starts the plot), an all-new cast of relative unknowns, and, most importantly, elaborately conceived, elaborately executed death scenes. Not surprisingly, Final Destination 3 has all three elements, beginning with the best set piece in the film, the rollercoaster ride that sends a high-school graduating class to their deaths, with the exception of Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who gets a premonition of disaster just as she gets strapped into the rollercoaster, the "Devil's Flight." Panicking, she jumps off the rollercoaster, along with six others, including Kevin Fischer (Ryan Merriman), who becomes her ally (and offers up key information, thanks to a Google search online).
The rest of the disposable survivors/cast includes two bimbettes/airheads, Ashlynn (Crystal Lowe) and Ashley (Chelan Simmons), Frankie (Sam Easton), a lech with a video camera, an African-American athlete, Lewis (Texas Battle), two goth kids (who work together in a Home Depot-like store), Ian McKinley (Kris Lemche) and Erin (Alexz Johnson), Julie (Amanda Crew), Wendy's younger sister, and Julie's friend, Ling (Maggie Ma). Once the first payoff hits, the rollercoaster accident, Final Destination 3 then splits in two, with the central characters desperately searching for a way to forestall the inevitable or inform the other survivors and the individual set pieces (some occuring in front of the central characters).
Final Destination 3 contains three major set pieces, the opening rollercoaster accident, another one set inside a Home Depot-like store, and the finale, set at the townís Tri-centennial, complete with period costumes, weapons, and fireworks. There are several other minor set pieces, each one connected to the deaths of individual characters, but to say more would spoil half the fun, but hereís a hint, Death frowns on the vain and egocentric. So much can go wrong and it does, usually in full-on gory fashion. Wong and Morgan certainly donít hold back on the gore or violence, but at least itís stylized enough that only the weakest stomachs will turn.
Final Destination 3 has its faults, but, for once, they canít be pinned on the game, dedicated cast. As Wendy, Mary Elizabeth Winstead emotes convincingly when the script calls for it, particularly in the immediate post-accident scenes. Ryan Merriman as the second lead also acquits himself well. Less can and should be said for the remainder of the cast, but then again, they have little to do except wait patiently for their inevitable death scene. Hardcore horror fans, though, will immediately spot Kris Lemche's familiar face. Lemche's horror credentials include a turn as a sympathetic drug dealer in the underrated, underseen Ginger Snaps (if you haven't seen it, you should, post-haste).As with the first two entries, "Final Destination 3" falls dramatically short on the plausibility meter (the less said about the nonsensical premise, the better), but that aside, it also falters late in the film, thanks to an increasing shortage of imagination and energy relative to the set pieces (the ďfinalĒ set piece at the fairground is particularly disappointing). Thereís also the obligatory nihilistic coda thatís become standard for the series. The coda also reminds viewers of the ridiculousness of the premise (insert incredulous laughter mixed with a tinge of disgust here), while adding a gratuitous set piece that would have been better saved as the opening for the next entry in the series.
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originally posted: 02/10/06 02:06:01