Set Visit: Final Destination 5
The air is thick with the smell of sulfur. Perched high above us is a giant chunk of bridge roadway mounted onto an enormous mechanical device that pitches the road forward and back. Welcome to the set of Final Destination 5!
As you may have guessed (since this is a horror film), there are people atop this slice of hell as well as cars and a large smoking container vehicle that seems prepared to blow its contents on the first sorry sucker caught in its path. Beyond all this is the infinite space of green screen, ready to pull this shot of pain and suffering into the "real world", in 3D no less.
Yes, we were told the last one was THE FINAL DESTINATION, but you can't keep a good premise down. For the newest installment, we've got a sort of "The Office" meets Death scenario going on. Director Steven Quale set up the scene we are standing beneath. "We're doing one scene in the movie, which has one of our spectacular deaths - David Koechner's death actually - and what we're setting up right now is a hydraulic ram system to have a car that smashes into this tar kettle. Basically, when you're resurfacing a road, you have to put tar on it, incredibly hot tar that helps surface the cracks and so forth. The construction workers are working on that, the bridge collapses, and in that section the car rams into this, it happens to flip it over; and Dennis, the character that David Koechner is playing, is hanging on the very edge there, and he just happens to be right in the spot where this tar kettle hits, turns over, and he's going to get completely encased in steaming hot tar so it's a nasty way to die, but we've been doing the tar and feathering joke." And comedy is what makes all that wrong seem so, so right! Point of fact, this film is packed with dark comedy, whether it be from the actors doing their thing or the unintentional, over-the-top hilarity of a bloody situation.
The Final Destination films always kick off with a major disaster claiming the lives of anyone not fast or lucky enough to dodge the oncoming chaos. In this episode of Humans vs. Death, The Lionsgate Bridge (or alternate universe facsimile of that bridge) becomes a death trap complete with snapping cables, sliding cars, and of course the inevitable plunge into the icy waters beneath. Producer Craig Perry commented on the terror this massive structure presents, even without the movie pitfalls added, "If you guys get a chance, go stand on it; you can feel it move when the cars travel by. It is the most bowel-loosening thing you can imagine because you actually have that sense of movement and vertigo because they don't have the sky high curbed over suicide railings. You're just very immediately 300 feet off the ground so I know that when you're doing an angle and you're traveling 65 miles an hour, you're like 'I shouldn't be this high up! I'm like in a plane here!!' We extrapolated from that innate sense of 'I don't think I should be doing this.'"
Craig went on to explain that even though these films start with a huge catastrophe, it is often the little details that send the audience running. "In the last movie one of the great audience twist reactions was a complete almost non-sequiter where she's (Krista Allen) at the beauty salon and she's getting the scraping under the toenail. You could just watch the audience twist themselves, and that's the cheapest visual effect you could ever do, and it plays off of everyone's innate squeamishness about things going terribly awry even when you're grooming yourself. So I think that we struck a pretty decent balance."
Nick D'Agosto chipped in some bits of plot info. "So everyone's getting picked off this bridge. And my character gets to witness all of these amazing perfect things happening around him. And Emma (Bell), too, but at the end there are two of us, Miles (Fisher) and myself, who have to jump onto a handrail as we are jumping from one end of the bridge collapsing into what is like thought to be the safe side." As we know all too well, in the opening scene of a Final Destination film, there IS no safe side!
A horror movie is only as good as its scares, and the Final Destination franchise has always presented you with the notion that death could befall one of our main characters at any moment. It's a game of mouse trap with a very sticky ending. Being well aware of this gimmick after four films, the audience needs to be roped in by the initiation of the sequence and then blown out of their seats by the completion of the cycle, hopefully laughing their asses off at the level of gore implemented for the final result. Capturing the right look for these moments is key, and sometimes CGI just doesn't cut it. When you've got Steven Quale directing, a man known for working on the orgy of green screen shots known as Avatar, the horror fan becomes concerned that they'll be splattered with copious amounts of horrible CG blood. Steven remarked, "I'm a fan of believable FX. It doesn't matter how it's done, but if you can do a prosthetic make-up effect and make it look real, that's way better than trying to do a computer graphic thing that sticks in someone's eyeball and looks totally fake. I'm a firm believer in getting as much practical stuff as possible with the exception that we can't practically destroy a bridge! I even flew and did an aerial day on the Lionsgate Bridge to get the plate elements from a real bridge so we're not having this CGI stuff. There's no place for it in movies that I make as far as I'm concerned."