Final Destination 3 (2006)

Final Destination 3
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Amanda Crew, Maggie Ma, and Dustin Milligan

Directed by James Wong

Released by New Line Cinema

Poor Death. He’s just trying to do his job, same as everyone else, but meddling teenagers keep screwing up his plans. Final Destination 3 once again finds him working overtime along with original creators Glen Morgan and James Wong, who make a welcome return to the series.

They may not be household names, but Morgan and Wong are two of the best talents in the genre. Not only were they the real minds behind “The X-Files” and “Millennium” (Chris Carter be damned!), their recent spin on Willard proved the single best remake since Cronenberg’s The Fly. There’s no denying that their skills could be put to better use than on the third installment of a dead teen franchise, but their presence at least keeps it going strong. Not to mention, they’re clearly having a ball.

The film opens in a freaky amusement park, where a clairvoyant teenager (do they come off an assembly line?) receives a premonition about a fatal roller-coaster accident. The prerequisite freak-out occurs, and several of her friends leave the ride moments before it derails, killing all aboard. This doesn’t sit well with Death, who clearly has a quota to meet and begins bumping off the survivors one-by-one.

Yup, they have a formula and they’re sticking to it. But does it really matter? We go to these movies for one reason: to watch cool, overly-elaborate death scenes, and in that respect, this is the best Destination yet. The beauty of these films is that anything can happen and often does. The kitchen sink isn’t just thrown in, it usually winds up crushing someone.

Truth be told, the first ten minutes of FD3 are the weakest. Though competently staged, the opening coaster sequence lacks the “oomf!” of both the plane and highway disasters of the previous installments. With the camera work and editing, we never get the full impact of a ride gone haywire, and there are several shots where the kids are clearly dangling in front of a blue screen.

Thankfully, Morgan and Wong get the ball rolling with the individual kills (I won’t spoil them here), which are the goriest of the series. Taking full advantage of the MPAA’s lax attitude toward “non-human inflicted” violence, the set-pieces are delightfully cruel and the characters are dispatched with bloody bravado; victims are sliced, diced, chopped, and mashed until they’re practically unrecognizable.

Taking a riff from The Omen, our would-be victims discover warning signs through photographs, which also makes for a fun game of “guess that death.” As for the characters themselves, they’re typical slasher fodder: young, dumb, and not long for this world. However, Morgan & Wong remain intellectuals at heart, and they manage to squeeze at least a few philosophical moments into the screenplay.

There’s not much else you can say about Final Destination 3. It is what it is: a fun time-killer that’s best viewed in an auditorium full of screaming fans. It may be horror’s equivalent of fast-food, but sometimes a greasy burger tastes better than prime rib.

3 ½ out of 5

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Steve Barton

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