Directed by Steven Quale
I will be absolutely straight with you, dear readers- like many of you, my two main reasons for ever stepping foot in a theater to watch a Final Destination movie are the epic opening disaster sequence and the gloriously intricate death traps awaiting the survivors of said epic opening disaster sequence once Death realizes they have eluded his grasp. After the initial Final Destination thrilled me back in 2000, I will admit generally going into its sequels with far less enthusiasm and a waning interest in the actual characters who happened to be trying to defy Death. I just showed up for the spectacle and the carnage and really never gave anything else much consideration.
However, Final Destination 5 has done something remarkable with the fifth installment of the highly popular series as writer Eric Heisserer and director Steven Quale decided to raise the bar for other horror sequels out there. Not only do they deliver the destruction and death we all long for in the Final Destination films, but they also manage to create an incredibly unique script that fabricates some new twists into the franchise’s mythology and gives audiences a reason to care about the characters again.
In fact, Final Destination 5 is one of those rare sequels that is either on par with or almost exceeds the original film of the series. With an incredibly talented cast bringing this fifth movie to life and a jaw-dropping ending you won’t even see coming, Final Destination 5 may now officially be my favorite film of the entire franchise.
In FD5 we are introduced to Sam (D’Agosto) and several of his paper factory co-workers on the day they set off for a corporate retreat. As they embark on their trip, Sam has a horrific premonition in which he sees himself, his co-workers and countless others die tragically during a freak bridge collapse. Once the premonition ends, and real life begins to feel a little too familiar for Sam, he quickly starts to get as many people off the bus as he can before disaster strikes.
After escaping the catastrophic bridge collapse, Sam and the other survivors- including Sam’s best pal Peter (Fisher), Sam’s girlfriend Molly (Roberts) and fellow co-workers Candice (Wroe), Olivia (MacInnes Wood), Nathan (Escarpeta), Isaac (Byrne) and Dennis (Koechner)- breathe a collective sigh of relief since they have narrowly escaped Death. However, the relief is short-lived as the group members soon realize that you can never cheat Death. If someone’s time is up, he’ll be there to collect.
This time around, though, Heisserer has upped the stakes a bit: The survivors are given a powerful suggestion by a mysterious man, Bludworth (Todd, reprising his role from earlier Final Destinations), who seems to show up conveniently whenever a death has occurred, that Death cannot be cheated but it can be tricked. So, if it’s your time when Death comes for you and you’re willing to kill someone else, Death will be happy to take that person’s life instead of yours, allowing you to remain amongst the living for the amount of that person’s lifespan.
Talk about kicking things up a notch! In previous Final Destination flicks most characters only had to worry about inanimate objects, faulty wiring and ill-placed water spills; but now there’s a lot more to deal with when it turns out you can offer up Death a human sacrifice in your place. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the creative twists Heisserer added to the Final Destination formula, and to say anything more would not only give away huge spoilers but ruin the experience of what makes Final Destination 5 a thrilling and entertaining roller coaster ride of a flick.
In terms of the deaths in FD5, from the advertising you already can deduce there will be some victims served up by way of acupuncture and Lasik eye surgery so while I will refrain from revealing any other details about the circumstances of the deaths themselves, what I can say is that hands down, this film may have the best deaths of the entire franchise. You’ll squeal in horror, you’ll squirm in your chair, and I guarantee you’ll never consider putting a laser anywhere near your eye again for any reason.
The cast of Final Destination 5 is genuinely solid and not only does a great job at keeping viewers engaged with their roles throughout the film but will have you rooting for them to find a way to cheat Death in the film’s final act. D’Agosto makes for a compelling lead, holding his own against the likes of funnyman Koechner and acting veteran Vance, and the rest of the ensemble manages to deliver strong performances as well. Heisserer’s script is careful not to make his supporting characters too one-dimensional either so there is a lot to be enjoyed in Escarpeta’s portrayal of struggling plant manager Nathan that finally allows the up-and-coming actor a chance to show his chops, and it also lets Byrne, whose character Isaac delivers a good deal of the laughs in the film with his overbearing ladies’ man approach, shine as a gifted comedic performer.
When it comes to 3D technology and filmmaking, Quale has proven with Final Destination 5 that his time collaborating alongside James Cameron were years well spent because the look and feel of the 3D in the film is phenomenal. While there are still plenty of “jump at you” moments in Final Destination 5, it’s the field of depth that Quale added to the film when he shot it in 3D that makes it one of the best 3D horror films to have been released in recent years. The opening title sequence alone is so incredibly badass that I could have sat in the theater and watched it on a loop for two hours straight. I’m sure the 2D version looks great as well, but to me Final Destination 5 is the kind of movie you need to see in 3D in order to get the full experience.
Fans of the Final Destination series, you’ll be pleased to know that this latest entry is a gleefully gory addition to your beloved franchise, and for those of you who may have not ever experienced a Final Destination film before, there is still a lot for you to enjoy as well. Final Destination 5 is not only gruesomely entertaining, but it has managed to breathe new life into the franchise, making a huge fan out of me all over again.
4 1/2 out of 5
Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
Starring Jaimi Page, Alyshia Ochse, Toby Nichols
Directed by Sam Patton
I’m usually all in when it comes to a psycho in the woods flick, but there was just something about Sam Patton’s Desolation that seemed a bit distant for me…distance…desolation – I’m sure there’s a connection in there somewhere. Either that or I’m suffering from a minor case of sleep-deprivation. Either way, make sure you’ve got your backpack stuffed, cause we’re hitting the timber-lands for this one.
The film focuses on mother and son tandem Abby and Sam, and the tragic notion that Abby’s love and father to her son, has passed away. The absence has been a crippling one, and Abby’s idea of closure is to take her adolescent offspring to the woods where her husband used to love to run and scatter his ashes as a memorial tribute. Abby invites her best friend Jenn along as emotional support, and together all three are planning on making this trip a fitting and dedicatory experience…until the mystery man shows up. Looking like a member of the Ted Kaczynski clan (The Unabomber himself), this creepy fellow seems content to simply watch the threesome, and when he ultimately decides to close the distance, it’ll be a jaunt in the forest that this close-knit group will never forget.
So there you have it – doesn’t beg a long, descriptive, bled-out dissertation – Patton tosses all of his cards on the table in plain view for the audience to scan at their leisure. While the tension is palpable at times, it’s the equivalent of watching someone stumble towards the edge of a cliff, and NEVER tumble over…for a long time – you literally watch them do the drunken two-step near the lip for what seems like an eternity. What I’m getting at is that the movie has the bells and whistles to give white-knucklers something to get amped about, yet it never all seems to come into complete focus, or allow itself to spread out in such a way that you can feel satisfied after the credits roll. If I may harp on the performance-aspect for a few, it basically broke down this way for me: both Abby and Jenn’s characters were well-displayed, making you feel as if you really were watching long-time besties at play. Sam’s character was a bit tough to swallow, as he was the sadder-than-sad kid due to his father’s absence, but JEEZ this kid was a friggin malcontented little jerk – all I can say is “role well-played, young man.”
As we get to our leading transient, kook, outsider – whatever you want to call him: he simply shaved down into a hum-drum personality – no sizzle here, folks. Truly a disappointment for someone who was hoping for an enigmatic nutbag to terrorize our not-so-merry band of backpackers – oh well, Santa isn’t always listening, I guess. Simplicity has its place and time when displaying the picture-perfect lunatic, and before everyone gets a wild hair across their ass because of what I’m saying, all this is was the wish to have THIS PARTICULAR psycho be a bit more colorful – I can still appreciate face-biters like Hannibal Lecter and those of the restrained lunacy set. Overall, Desolation is one of those films that had all the pieces meticulously set in place, like a house of cards…until that drunk friend stumbled into the table, sending everything crumbling down. A one-timer if you can’t find anything else readily available to watch.
Looking for a little direction way out in the woods? Look elsewhere, because this guide doesn’t have a whole lot to offer.
Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political
Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside
Directed by Eitan Gafny
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.
Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.
Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.
The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.
The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Aki Avni as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.
So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.
Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.
The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.
Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.
While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.
Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama
Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein
Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker
Reviewed out of Utopia 2017
One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.
The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.
Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.
The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.
While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.
All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.
Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.
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Annihilation – New Trailer and First Stills!
Desolation Review: Campers + Lunatic = Simplicity, But Not Always a Better Product
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