The Final Destination series has been freaking out audiences since the first installment in 2000. While it’s been a decade since the last film, the franchise has left a true mark in the horror genre thanks to its clever premise and memorable, over-the-top, gory kills. However, there’s one installment of the franchise that came very close to ruining the series entirely, The Final Destination. Don’t get wrong, the series was never a critical darling. In fact, the only entry with a high rotten tomatoes score is Final Destination 5 – which is standing at a solid 62%. The key component that had fans coming back to the franchise was the inventive kills and how a certain group of survivors was going to cheat death this time around. The reason that The Final Destination sticks out like a sore thumb is that it’s just a lazy, predictable, and extremely bland exercise that fails on all fronts when it comes to the creative kills.
Usually, the series gives you a cast of characters that you care about. Final Destination 3 arguably did this the best. Who could forget Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ryan Merriman’s likable turns as the leads? Or Frankie Cheeks (the pervert), Ashlyn and Ashley Halperin (the popular rich girls), or Lewis Romero (the musclebound meathead). The franchise never deeply explored their characters; however, they gave enough description to understand who they are. The Final Destination didn’t particularly do that. We jump right into the action quickly. There’s some bland interaction between the core characters and then the death premonition starts. There’s nothing that particularly standouts of about the new characters except about how dry their personalities are. As mentioned before, the previous installments weren’t some masterclass on how to introduce characters, but we at least got some personality out of the main cast. Then the big death scene happens.
Granted, it’s easily the best death sequence in the film; however, it pales in comparison to the previous FD opening premonitions. It just doesn’t have the madness of the unforgettable highway or bridge sequences in Final Destination’s One and Five, or the insanity of the roller coaster in Final Destination 5. Of course, who could forget the incredible airplane crash in the first film? Despite the over-the-top deaths in each premonition, there was a bit of realness in these sequences of murderous carnage, though Final Destination 3’s is definitely the most unrealistic of the bunch. Even then, the build-up to their eventual doom got audiences excited for the rounds of a bloody execution. Here, the build-up is okay, though the deaths feel like an unfinished explosion of cartoonish VFX works that was specifically tailored for the 3-D experience.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t get any better. The Final Destination came out around a time when 3-D was highly popular (You can thank Avatar for that) so many of the deaths were aimed towards using the special effects. Sadly, the only memorable death was Lori’s escalator sequence, and that was only a premonition as well. The 3-D aspect vastly hindered the film as the movie had to heavily rely on VFX effects and it’s clear that the budget didn’t allow them to get a state-of-the-art editor. Every one of them is extremely bland and too over-the-top. I’m still trying to wrap my brain how an entire body can get sucked down an entire drain pool. The mechanic’s death is something I don’t even want to think about. However, it isn’t just the poor CGI and lame deaths that hinder the film, it’s the overall predictability of the story.
Final Destination 5 did an excellent job of actually changing up the roles and subverting expectations. However, part four kept the same formula intact. You didn’t need a premonition to figure out who was dying next. In the previous installments, the key was never trying to figure who was the next victim, but how would they die, and the films did pretty well in racking up the tension before the final moments. One of the best is Lewis Romero’s death in Final Destination 3. We expect him to be crushed by the weights because of the build but are stunned when he lives after the knives cut off the cables. Then, when his head is crushed like a watermelon, it’s a genuine shock because it subverted our expectations. Here, everyone dies in the way it’s teased. The mechanic’s one is a fakeout, but the actual death is too unbelievable and lazy. The Final Destination ends up being an exercise in bland storytelling and deaths. Thankfully, the franchise course-corrected and went out on a high note two years later.