FINAL DESTINATION 5 is…a FINAL DESTINATION movie, so you already know what to expect. Pretty young people survive an elaborate disaster that should have killed them, but one of them had a premonition that allowed them to escape. Death, however, needs to balance the scales, so each of the survivors is eventually claimed anyway via an oddball accident of Rube Goldbergian proportions.
Okay, so the premise is nothing new, and the screenplay by Eric Heisserer, who penned remakes of THE THING and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, doesn’t rise above the formula. However, in the hands of director Steven Quale, a James Cameron protégé who directed AVATAR’s second unit, FINAL DESTINATION 5 offers a surprisingly clever blend of suspense and creative visuals. Kicking the movie off with a remarkable main title sequence of objects smashing through the camera lens (FD5 was filmed and released in 3D), Quale brings his A-game to the first-reel disaster: a superbly staged suspension bridge collapse that causes the death of most of the cast.
Or it would have, had aspiring chef Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) not seen it a few minutes early and pulled several of his companions off the bus headed to a weekend company retreat. As he has in previous FINAL DESTINATIONs, creepy undertaker Tony Todd (CANDYMAN) drops by to whisper cryptic warnings, and suspicious FBI agent Courtney B. Vance (LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT) wanders about trying to prove that Sam somehow caused the accident.
Much credit goes to Quale for making FD5 a superior horror sequel. Saddled with a mostly nondescript cast and a formulaic screenplay, Quale handles the setpieces with aplomb, toying with audience expectations and ratcheting suspense with expert timing. Composer Brian Tyler (THE EXPENDABLES) amplifies the dread with an ominous score that reflects the plot’s dark humor. One misstep is the witty twist ending, however, which should have been played more subtly for better effect.