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
The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.
The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.
The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.
Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.
The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.
While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.
Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?
Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva
Directed by Goran Spoljaric
Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.
Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.
It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?
Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.
Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date
Starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, Sonny Valicenti, and Cameron Britton.
Directed by David Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm.
A few weeks back Netflix premiered all ten episodes of David Fincher’s new serial killer series “Mindhunter” on their streaming service. Being that Fincher is one of our favorite directors we added the series to our queues as soon as possible. And this past week – after recapping and reviewing all 9 episodes of “Stranger Things 2” – we were finally able to sit down and enjoy the (much) more adult thriller series.
What did we think? Find out below…
First off we should get a few things like plot and background out of the way. “Mindhunter” is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel of the same name by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker. The book was optioned by none other than David Fincher and Charlize Theron and quickly thereafter snatched up by Netflix. The series is executive produced and (mostly) written by Joe Penhall.
The plot follows a young FBI agent played by Jonathan Groff who, after an incident in the field, is set to be a teacher at Quantico. Kinda boring. Especially for a guy under thirty. Quickly, however, the young agent joins forces with a seasoned pro, played by Holt McCallany (Fight Club) in a star-making performance, and together the two tour the country educating local police on the proper protocols established by the FBI.
That is, until the day that our young agent gets it in his head that he wants to interview Ed Kemper. Yes, That Ed Kemper. From there the series becomes the story of the FBI and its very beginnings of psychological profiling. The series even goes so far as to lay out the tale of how the term “serial killer” was first coined.
In the hands of any other filmmaker, this semi-procedural thriller would have, most likely, not been our cup of tea. But in the hands of master director David Fincher, “Mindhunter” is quite possibly the most riveting police procedural to ever hit the small screen. Hyperbole, we know. But come on, have you seen Fincher’s Zodiac?
Yeah, now picture that motion picture spread out over the course of ten glorious hours and you’ll have somewhat of an idea of how much fun(?) it was to spend the better part of our free time last week in the grips of such as series.
First off special mentioned needs to be thrown at the killer cast of “Mindhunter.” Each actor is phenomenal. From our hero agents played by Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv, the series only gets better with powerhouse after powerhouse performance hitting us from the likes of Jack Erdie as Richard Speck, Adam Zastrow as a lonely (possible) rapist, and Joseph Cross and Jesse C. Boyd as a pair of (possible) ladykillers.
Oh, and Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper. Oh, boy. Cameron Britton as Ed Kemper.
I could spend this entry review telling you guys about how chilling, disturbing and utterly riveting Cameron Britton’s performance as Ed Kemper (aka The Co-Ed Killer) is, but you really need to see it for yourself to get the full picture. The series has more than it’s fair share of spine-chilling moments, to be sure. But none are so chilling as any and ever given scene which features Britton as Kemper. Give this man all the awards. Today.
Given the tight performances by the entire cast – including solid turns by the lowest day player – “Mindhunter” would be a crowning achievement for Netflix. But add in some of the top directors working today (including, in addition to Fincher, Andrew Douglas, Asif Kapadia, and Tobias Lindholm) and beautiful 2:35 cinematography by Erik Messerschmidt and Christopher Probst, and you have a series so jaw-droppingly cinematic, you’ll be amazed this never played in theaters. And was never meant to.
Overall I cannot think of one negative thing to say about this new Netflix original series.
Well, maybe one thing: Hannah Gross as Debbie Mitford is a dull character. This is not a jab at Gross as an actress. But her mostly one-note, under-developed character is forced to spend the majority of her screentime merely portraying “the girlfriend.” Which in a series like this means she merely functions, for a majority of her screentime, a receptacle of exposition once our hero returns home after a long day.
But other than that one aspect, this Netflix original series is top quality from end to end. From the spooky pre-credits insights into the growing storm that is Dennis Rader aka the BTK killer to the season’s finale sequence set in Kemper’s ICU room, “Mindhunter” is a chilling – and frankly scary series that you won’t be able to shake for months.
And most, if not all of the scares, come courtesy of long dialogue scenes – which are anything other than boring.
In the end, Mindhunters is a series that we cannot wait to see continue forward come season two. Fincher has reportedly stated that Charles Manson will play a pivotal role in the second season, and we are actively counting down the days until we can visit that character… From the comfort of our Netflix account.
“Mindhunter” is a must-see. Get ahead of the game. Watch the series tonight.
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