In this fourth and final installment of our Final Destination 5 interview series, Dread Central gets an opportunity to chat with the madmen behind all the mayhem: longtime Final Destination producer Craig Perry and franchise newcomers director Steven Quale and writer Eric Heisserer.
With two thirds of the group being newbies to the world of Final Destination, we asked Heisserer and Quale what attracted them to Part Five of the highly-popular horror series.
“I came into Part Five fresh, you know, as this was my first at bat for Final Destination, and I definitely came in as a fan of the first movie,” explained Heisserer. “I talked with Craig and Steve about what I felt was important to have included in order to respect the core of what makes the Final Destination movies so entertaining.”
“Then I told them I wanted to add something new to the formula and create a moral dilemma for the characters to face, giving the story my own twist. And it was from that moral dilemma that I realized that they’d never done a Final Destination movie where someone in the original sequence actually survived (don’t worry, this is a spoiler-free interview!) and never gets killed. I felt that added a fun dynamic that pays off toward the end where you have characters not only trying to cheat Death but trying to kill each other, too.”
Quale said, “When I first took the job of director on this project, I said that I wanted to do Final Destination 5 but I want to do three things to change it. One is I want to concentrate on the visuals to make it a little bit more dynamic and interesting because some of the earlier Final Destination movies were a little flat and were missing that sort of grand, epic quality to them. With the bridge collapse, I figured I could bring my expertise with visual effects and all the second unit work I’ve done to elevate the franchise to a higher level of spectacle.”
“The second thing I decided to do was to really concentrate on the characters and the casting and get believable people to play these parts so that you can get sucked into the film. Because as you know, there are some crazy things that are going on when it comes to the world of Final Destination, but if it’s grounded in certain reality with the characters, then you’ll buy into that. The third thing I wanted to do was to concentrate on the whole 3D aspect of this movie. I figured there’d been a lot of really bad 3D movies released over the last few yeara that are converted, and I just feel like filmmakers as a whole, myself included, haven’t done a really good job of using the medium to the fullest extent yet. With my experience on Avatar and other 3D projects, I figured I can bring something to the table that is unique and then take it and have fun with it,” added Quale.
Longtime producer Perry chimed in with his thoughts on elevating the Final Destination franchise with this fifth installment.
Perry said, “To piggyback on Steven’s note about the characters, it was my job- or my goal really- to bring in a good mix of characters. You know, ones that have more of a dramatic bent, ones that had a more comical side to them, and some characters that had to be completely grounded so that you had a well-rounded cast. There’s fun in this movie, but there’s still people who take it seriously, which is why we have a wide array of performers from Nick (D’Agosto), who’s our lead, to David Koechner, who people know from Anchorman, to serious actors like Tony (Todd) and Courtney B. Vance. We had to make sure we had all our bases covered with the best actors possible.”
However, both Heisserer and Quale soon found out that while it may be relatively easy to assemble a talented cast of actors to square off against Death, concocting their death scenes wasn’t nearly as easy as they imagined at the beginning.
Heisserer said, “I’ll admit I went into Final Destination naïvely thinking that it would be easy to put together the death sequences. I really thought ‘how hard can it be?’ but you know what, I found out exactly how hard it really was. The bridge scene was complicated but a lot easier to get that under control than the individual deaths- I used what I knew from the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapse as the inspiration for the opening sequence so that wrote itself. But the deaths are all so intricately done so Craig indoctrinated me on the several rules that I didn’t realize consciously existed until I went back and I studied and researched all the classic kills. From there we had to do a lot of trial and error. I mean, I burned a lot of script pages trying to find that right balance of what’s complicated enough to work in a scene but not too complicated to the point where the whole set-up gets convoluted. You wouldn’t think killing people would be this hard, but you’d be surprised.”
“The acupuncture scene is an example of a lot of trial and error to find the perfect payoff for audiences. Earlier iterations of that sequence had a device that they have in some of these spas where you come out of the pool and you can put your bathing suit in and it ultra-dries your bathing suit in a spin-dryer in just a few minutes. But then we realized we’d have to explain the machine since it’s not something you see every day so we knew that if we have to explain it, then it’s not going to work for the audience. We even shot another death for that scene, too, but it’s not the same as the one in the final movie. But I think that’s the only alternate scenario we actually filmed,” added Heisserer.
“I worked a lot on amping up the bridge collapse death scenes because at the beginning a lot of them honestly weren’t all that visually appealing,” explained Quale. “You can only impale people so many times over and over again before the fans get tired. I come from the practical, Jim Cameron school of making things so I looked at things from a logical stance and identified all the different types of threats that may be on a bridge under construction. Then I took it up a notch and gave those threats of death their own little twists so that at least they weren’t too convoluted or looked absurd.”
As a veteran of the Final Destination movies, producer Perry discussed the art of not ‘blowing your wad’ on the opening disaster sequence as well as whether or not Final Destination 5 will be the final film of the 11-year-old series. “From my standpoint, one of the biggest challenges of the Final Destination movies is that you always open the movies with a huge spectacle so how do we not blow our proverbial wad on just that part of the movie and keep the momentum going throughout the entire film? So that’s why you’ll notice in the death sequences everything there is so small, so intricate so someone could be done in by something as innocuous as a tiny screw. We go big and we go small, but we go all the way.”
“In terms of more Final Destination films, I know we’d always like to do more, and I think our chances are really good- but it is 100 percent dependent on how this movie performs. Our fate is the fans’ hands,” added Perry.
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