Like Final Destination 2, The Final Destination, the fourth in the horror franchise and the first in 3D, makes a good case for why the series can and should be viewed as a series of shallow but satisfying black comedies. Both sequels chase James Wong’s vision of the series, represented in Final Destination and Final Destination 3, with a heavy dose of nihilism. Wong’s films were semi-serious, wonked-out cautionary tales that warned teens that they’re not as invincible as they think. Death literally comes for them at any moment and then individually picks on the ones prescient enough to try to thwart, as one character calls it, “death’s design.” Ellis’s sequels, however, decide to open up the series’s meaning and rules to the point where anybody, regardless of age, can die hilariously inappropriate deaths, though most of Ellis’s victims are still horndogs and blow-up dolls. Too bad The Final Destination isn’t as consistently entertaining as Ellis’s earlier effort.
The film has a laughably simple and hence easily reproducible setup: One teen, in this case Nick O’Bannon (Bobby Campo), has a premonition about how he, his friends, and fellow bystanders will die amid flying debris, many and varied explosions, and splattering body parts. Fleeing the scene of the soon-to-be crime, the teen and his fellow survivors then rest on their laurels, realizing that they’ve effectively cheated death. Then the killings start up again, leaving Conscientious Teen & the Gang to stop Death’s insidious plot to kill them in amusing ways.
Like all of the other Final Destination movies, The Final Destination is naked in its lack of ambition. It is only as enjoyable as it is funny, wrenching macabre yuks out of watching teeny-boppers and asshole adults alike bite the dust just as they protest that they are either going to, as O’Bannon sighs happily, “live my life to the fullest” or protest impotently that they are right where they belong. Most of the film’s dialogue is thus mostly just a cruel joke on the film’s unmemorable actors, who are essentially there to be annoying and then bite the big one.
It’s a mean little film with little brains on its side, but intermittently, when the elaborate Rube Golderberg-style deaths are entertaining, as in the film’s climax on an escalator, its mindless enough to be fun. There’s nothing new here, as the film’s opening credits announce with its reenactment of some of the more memorable deaths of the last three films, but for a surreal 3D slasher that would probably be better as an amusement park ride, that’s okay. There’s always Final Destination 5.