The film series with the inventive grisly deaths returns for a third outing, this time involving a group of high school students who cheat death by not riding a rollercoaster that subsequently crashes and kills their classmates. Soon death comes knocking at each survivor’s door — in the order they were sitting on the ride.
There is little change to the formula that worked so well in the original Final Destination (James Wong, 2000). Then, a boy had a premonition about a plane crash, got his friends off the plane before take off and spent the rest of the film trying to second guess when death might suddenly strike. Its calling card was the almost MacGyver_-style way each ‘victim’ dies. Everyday hazards like a loose shelf, wobbly table and wet floor would combine with sharp implements such as an axe or butcher’s knife to create a complex sequence of events that led to the killing of a character. The beauty was there would be a clue to the death just before it happened to intrigue the audience. For _Final Destination 2 (David R. Ellis, 2003), a highway pile-up was narrowly avoided in what proved to be the best scene of the film. The sight of a lorry spilling its load of logs which then smash through windscreens was enough to make anybody wince if they overtook one while driving home from the cinema. Again the ‘victims’ worked out death was calling for them, that time assisted by a survivor from the first film.
Final Destination 3 suffers from the same problems as most horror sequels: it is too much of a rehash of the original, done half as well.
So we come to the third film in the series featuring the survivors of a rollercoaster accident. It is Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who foresees the disaster, but not before she has taken a photo of each of her classmates. In each picture there is a clue as to how she and the rest of her friends will die. This provides the basis for trying to stop an assortment of teenagers played by fresh-faced actors from meeting an untimely end. It is quite fun guessing what will happen from the picture, in what is a good addition from producer/writers Glen Morgan and James Wong, who also directs. They both worked on the first film in the series and introducing a plot involving riddles to be solved before the characters die is an attempt to liven up the formula.
Final Destination 3 suffers from the same problems as most horror sequels: it is too much of a rehash of the original, done half as well. The initial rollercoaster disaster relies too much on computer graphics, effectively ruining the realist disaster openings of the first two. Then it was a case of squirming because it looked so real. Here it is a case of laughing because it looks so fake. Wendy is the usual heroine who loses her boyfriend at the start of the film and will stop at nothing to save the others. Together with her best friend’s former boyfriend (natch), Kevin Fischer (Ryan Merriman), she spends the entire runtime repeating the plot of the film to the rest of her bland classmates. There is the beefed-up black guy always in the gym, the sleaze-bag funny man, a pair of dumb blondes who go topless for the lads and a life-hating metal fan. You will be hard pressed not to know what they are going to say before this lot open their mouths.
What is lacking in tension, Wong more than makes up for with lingering shots of the gruesome results.
The fortune-telling photograph story could have been the saving grace for Final Destination 3; however halfway through it becomes apparent that the photos could be read in so many different ways that it is pointless guessing what they mean. It is just a way of filling in the gaps between deaths, but they are almost worth waiting for as each of the cliched bunch are squashed, sliced or impaled with surprisingly graphic results. What is lacking in tension, Wong more than makes up for with lingering shots of the gruesome results.
So where does Final Destination 3 sit in this trilogy of films? I would say there is no signs here of attempting to broaden out the series to new fans or take it in a new direction — do not expect to be wowed by dramatic dialogue or complex human issues. It is quite a bland experience waiting for the deaths to happen and when they do the joy of the kill is over very quickly. Final Destination 3 is rather like any rollercoaster ride: you wait in line for ages just to get a thrill, and then it is over too quickly to have a chance to appreciate that moment of excitement. Steer clear if you have a lack of patience with predictable scripts and dull characterisation. Gore fans should find the death sequences worth the wait.