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August 29, 2011

Lost in the 2000s - Final Destination 3

(2006, Dir. by James Wong.)

Some might say that it's hard to really say that a film which was birthed into a franchise that is up to five entries has really been "lost" in the five years since its release.  Maybe it is.  Then again, maybe it isn't, because the Final Destination series might be the most surprising five film franchise in the horror realm.  None of the films garnered overly positive reviews (though the latest entry is just barely "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes), and U.S. audiences haven't gone too crazy for them (the fourth entry tops the series, but made a mere $66 million domestically).  So why the heck have they made 5 of these things?  Because they're cheap to make and because that fourth entry - The Final Destination - inexplicably made nearly $120 million overseas.  (I've been telling you guys for years - a THE matters!)

To me (read as: a dude who hasn't seen the newest movie in the series), the third FD has always been the high point in the series.  That's not to say I'm a big fan - I've never considered the series too deeply - but Final Destination 3 seems to be more at peace with its schlocky nature than the films that came before it were.  The film's set up lends itself to this, as there's a little more cheese to be found in a freak roller coaster accident than a plane explosion or a freeway disaster.
Final Destination director James Wong returned to the series for this film, and the resulting film shows less of an emphasis on understanding Death as an entity.   The film still lets our lead spend a bit of time trying to figure out the reason behind what's happening (including a couple of ill-conceived references to the Lincoln assassination and the events of 9/11), but Wong is content to let death's actions speak louder than words.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead - who would go on to gain fame in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and will headline this fall's The Thing prequel - is a welcome heroine in this role (she might be the best actress to ever step foot in this series), but I think it's safe to say that most of us aren't watching this series for the acting.

I mean...haven't you always wanted to see what happens when a roller coaster goes haywire?  The decapitating smashes and the flying cars and the hanging from those padded bars that you never trusted in the first place?  I know I have, and THAT is why I'm watching Final Destination 3 again.  I know Wong's vision of the demon coaster accident is heavily enhanced by CGI, but it still pumps up the morbid horror fan in me.  The rest of the film's kills - highlighted by a ridiculous hardware store segment and a tanning bed barbecue - match the inventiveness - if not the gore - of the first two films. 
With a little less gore in the film, and the playful tone that comes from the film's carnival opening, Final Destination 3 plays a little more like a drive-in spectacle than the other films in the series.  There's a very tongue in cheek nature to the proceedings, which I've always felt made the film easier to swallow than the other entries in the series.  It's a stretch, but the viewer could make a connection between this film and the work of schlock masters like William Castle.  There's something playful about FD3 - which is illustrated by the Choose Your Own Adventure inspired version on the DVD - and I can't help but smile about it.

In a decade that seemed devoid of truly campy mainstream horror, Final Destination 3 is a welcome diversion.  It's stupid as can be, features worthless characters played by worthless actors, and doesn't really make sense - but it's charming in a twisted way.  There's a place for cheap horror sequel comfort food, and that's the place where I'm gonna keep Final Destination 3.


Alexandra said...

I totally agree with you about the out-of-place 9/11 reference. It was just tacky and unnecessary especially since they never follow up with that point.

deadlydolls said...

I adore all the films, and SERIOUSLY loved part 5 (you really must see it my friend). 3 isn't my favorite since it feels a little lazier than the first two (and 5, which really gets ambitious). I think the throwaway 'I read online about these kids that avoided a plane crash and then died anyway' thing feels a little silly. 4 just gave up on the explanation, and 5 did something ingenious with it.

Still, 3 probably has the best kills, which I certainly can't argue with.