There are two things in life you can be certain of: the inevitability of Death and the never-ending slew of opinionated ‘Top 5’ articles. What better way to combine them by rating every opening premonition from the Final Destination franchise, a series in which teenagers try to outsmart the Grim Reaper.
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#5: The Final Destination (2009) – Complete NASCARnage
Dir: Steven Quale | IMDb
Unsurprisingly, the weakest of the Final Destination franchise also features the worst of the setups. It sees our hapless victims attending a high-speed motor racing event, with one jittery juvenile worried about their seats being too close to the action. In a genuine line of dialogue, her friend reassures her: “Relax, there’s a fence”, motioning to the feeble and rusting chain link ‘protection’ as the vehicular deathtraps whizz by at 200 Miles Per Hour.
Things go south rapidly when a car prematurely exits the pit stop with a piece of equipment still attached. It rattles its way onto the track and into the path of Car #6, sending it somersaulting across the tarmac. In the process, the tyres bounce gleefully into the stunned crowd, flattening some poor schmuck. Chaos ensues with terrified punters clambering to the exits resulting in a bottleneck. The carnage continues on the race circuit, with more machines piling up, fireballs raging left right and centre and various engine parts slicin’ and dicin’ anyone in its trajectory. The stadium itself looks to be built out of biscuits and at the first sign of pressure begins to crumble.
So what makes it the worst? Much like the gore-heavy Saw series, by this point of the series, we’re only here for the inventive deaths. The Final Destination‘s set up doesn’t provide them. It was released at the height of the 3D fad revival and almost every fatality in the sequence tries to use it in some way. Those bouncing tyres are made to look like they’re coming right at your face. Fans are impaled on spikes tailored to appear like they’re jutting from the screen to the auditorium. Guts and organs are flung forward when spliced open. The problem is, the CGI was woeful even for 2009. Over a decade later, it’s aged worse than I have.
Being set at a motor racing Speedway didn’t help either. I’ve travelled by plane, I’ve been on many a roller-coaster and I’ve taken a car ride. But UK Motorsport isn’t as big of a deal as it is in the US so had never found myself in that situation. Not that it matters. Even if I had, The Final Destination would still be the bottom of this list.
#4: Final Destination (2000) – Scare Force One
Dir: James Wong | IMDb
The one that started it all. 2000’s Final Destination took fear of flying to new heights when teenager Alex Browning (Devon Sawa; Idle Hands) envisions him and his friends dying in a plane crash. After boarding and making it into the air, Alex is put slightly at ease. But passengers should have held their rapturous 10 second applause for a successfully smooth ascent. No sooner have they ceased a congratulatory job-well-done for a pilot who can’t hear them, severe turbulence results in the oxygen masks being deployed and, more importantly, sparking of the overhead lights. Fire breaks out, a small explosion occurs and before you know it the whole side of the plane is missing.
Those ‘Fasten Seatbelts’ signs do more harm than good when passengers are unceremoniously sucked out of the flying pan and into the fiery engines. One luckless individual gets walloped with the edge of a suitcase. A split second shot splatters buckets of blood up the wall for reasons unknown. It’d be funny if the stark reality of it wasn’t so darn terrifying. The sequence concludes with the flames licking Alex’s skin off, like an excitable hound from hell welcoming him to his new home.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the OG’s set up. Plenty of people are scared of flying for this very reason. It’s just that it’s over so quickly. Granted, the series was still in its infancy finding its bearings and Death would be more scheming when stalking Alex & Co on their own. It earns a few extra points for its sheer sadistic inclusion of a severely disabled man and a newborn baby on the doomed flight. But with three other entries who used this as a building block to bigger and better setups, Final Destination flies middle of the row in Economy Class when it comes to its place on the list.
#3: Final Destination 5 – Death (Abridged)
Dir: Steven Quale | IMDb
After the disappointment of The Final Destination, which as it turns out did not end up being its title, it was a pleasant surprise to discover the fifth entry put the series right back on the broken track where Final Destination 3 left off. This time, the Grim Reaper’s latest batch are gathered on a bus taking a trip for a team building retreat. Our premonitioner Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) feels something’s awry when the coach drives onto suspension bridge. That feeling instantly turns to ‘I told you so’ when the suspenders begin swinging wildly, forcing many of the group to dodge them as if they’re participants in the World’s deadliest game show.
The cement cracks uncontrollably, opening up chasms which indiscriminately swallow vehicles and humans, sending them plummeting to the water below (if they’re lucky). One particularly icky casualty suffers the wrath of an upturned vat of searing hot tar. Others meet their maker through methods such as impalement, crushing, falling and losing at the World’s deadliest game show (SuspEND, perhaps?) It’s all incredibly destructive and has you forgetting the flat tyre that was a returning Quale’s last offering, The Final Destination.
Final Destination 5‘s bridge scene feels very much like a greatest hits of prior entries. That’s not a knock at all – it’s frantic, non-stop imaginative annihilation which is exactly what I’d signed up for. FD5, like its predecessor, was released in 3D and although a vast improvement from before and used more sparingly, it’s still plainly obvious when the effect is supposed to be in use. There’s plenty to like about FD5 as a whole and its final moments feature, for my money, one of the best curveballs in horror history.