"Is it safe to sit here?"
The girl always asks that in Final Destination movies. The answer, on screen, is "Yes yes yes." But we in the audience know it's "No no no." As in "Get out of there. NOW."
In the movie titled The Final Destination, showing in many theaters in 3D, "there" is a stock car race track where the seats are rotting, the cement has cracks and the pit crews are the most accident-prone on the planet. A quartet of college kids go, one "sees" a crowd-killing accident before it happens and convinces his friends to leave. This is followed by a crowd-killing accident. Followed by more chain reaction disasters that take out the survivors who "should have been killed" one by one.
They called it "death's grand design" in an earlier Destination. In the latest unoriginal, exhausted sequel, they give it the pedestrian label "the death list."
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The latter Final Destination movies can't fail to make me nostalgic for the James Wong original, a movie wrapped up in high school kids, who all think they're immortal anyway, wrestling with mortality, trying to decode "death's grand design" foreshadowed by the music of John Denver. I was thinking of that one this morning on the way to the office as three "I'm gonna live FOREVER" teens darted across six lanes of speeding traffic to beat their bus to the stop. Making that generation question its lack of fear of death was fascinating fodder for a horror film.
Nine years later, these movies have been reduced to bland killing machines, though The Final Destination, the latest, features aggressive use of 3D, with everything from race cars, tires and engines to nails from a nail gun, entrails and blood blasting off the screen into our laps. Blandly acted by players who seem resigned to the paycheck rather than terrified by the prospect of death or paralyzed by fear or even morbidly fascinated by their impending doom, this one is certainly worth a pass.
Of the blase cast, only Mykelti Williamson, as a security guard who accepts his fate with the help of his faith, and Nick Zano, playing a rude, crude and funny frat-boy jerk, stand out. A few feeble stabs at social commentary — race-fan racism (an attempted cross-burning) and the magic of 3D at the movies (in one scene, they torch a movie theater showing a film in 3D) don't make up for the cheats — violent accidents that may or may not be premonitions — or the exciting-as-a-poached egg leading man (Bobby Campo).
It's not frightening in the least, with only a few amusing moments, a pedal-and-forehead-to-the-metal race track crash opener, and then you just keep time by counting off who survives the initial slaughter, who awaits death when "their turn" comes. Eighty minutes and it's all over. Until the NEXT "Final Destination."
A tip? Don't go to stock car races. Don't leave your sun roof open in the car wash. And don't go in any cinema showing The Final Destination in Theater 13.