Directed by: James Wong
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Amanda Crew, Texas Battle, Sam Easton
If you've seen either of the two previous Final Destination movies, then you have a pretty good idea what you'll be getting into if you go see this one.
The concept is the same in each case. A group of movie teens (read: a bunch of people you've never heard of somewhere between the ages of 20 and 30) have a date with Mr. Death, but one of them has a psychic presentiment that some evil (in this case, a faulty roller coaster) is about to befall them, and the resultant hysteria prevents a handful of them from keeping that date.
Within seconds, the prophesied disaster occurs, but all is not well with the survivors because, you see, the Reaper has no sense of humor (why do you think they call him "grim?"). Like a spoiled child overturning a lost game of Candyland, he doesn't cotton to defeat. So the old boy sharpens his scythe and goes after the survivors in ways various and sundry. The success or failure of such a movie (at least within its limited artistic parameters) depends entirely on how creative -- and nasty -- the filmmakers can be in evening the score.
Whether this sort of thing is your particular bucket of blood is a matter of personal taste. In this case, it depends on your tolerance for some very ... uh ... juicy deaths and flying viscera. But really, that's what this kind of movie is about. Face it, you're not watching a film like Final Destination 3 for deep meaning, brilliant acting or scintillating dialogue. And if you are, you've wandered into the wrong theater.
The writing and acting is marginal at best. Sometimes, it's downright tiresome. As with the previous two films, there is a great deal of blather about death having to follow the same pattern it would have if the characters had bought the farm in the first round. This is then compounded by a second set of rules -- not found in any addition of Hoyle I've ever seen -- that has it that if you manage to somehow thwart the old boy on his next attempt, he loses a turn and has to proceed to the next in line. (Questions on whether he can come back later appear to be determined solely by the expediency of the plot.)
All in all, though, this comes under the heading of cheeky-fun horror with none of the painful sadism of things like Hostel. Yes, grim death gargles at you from every doorway, but there's no lingering on the physical sensation of pain and torture -- or degradation, for that matter -- and it's handled with unwholesome good humor.
Some critics have complained that the film elicits more laughs than thrills, but I think those pundits miss the point, since gross-out laughs are the bottom line here. And the film is careful not to make the victims into anything other than not-very-likable caricatures. Seeing a couple of unpleasant airhead bimbettes called Ashley (Chelan Simmons) and Ashlynn (Crystal Lowe) incinerated in tanning beds while listening to the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" isn't apt to engage you emotionally to the point that you don't snicker at the cut from the tanning beds to their twin coffins. (Too bad Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo already used death by tanning bed.) Much the same is true of the fate of a sleazy womanizer.
The return of director James Wong to the series (he sat out the second film) means we're back to characters with horror-movie-director names like Christensen, Wise, Halperin, Romero and Dreyer, but you'd never know most of that unless you stay to read the credits. It's perhaps as well. I think it unlikely that Carl Theodor Dreyer would feel all that honored by his reincarnation as a meat-on-the-hoof teen in a silly splatter-fest, no matter how tastelessly enjoyable. Rated R for strong horror violence/gore, language and some nudity.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke