Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, and Sam Easton
Directed by James Wong
Distributed by New Line Home Entertainment
You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, you can’t smell it; yet, you still know it’s there. Waiting. While Michael, Jason, and Freddy each have a very high and respectable body count under their proverbial belts, no one can match the toll accumulated by the grim spectre himself, Death. While we never see it as a physical character, Death itself has gotten a chance to shine thanks to the Final Destination franchise. In this newest entry the reaper is back and hoping to collect the souls of some fresh-faced teens at an amusement park. With any third entry in a series, a fan has to wonder, will this be the same old merry-go-round or one hell of a ride? Final Destination 3 ends up being a bit of both. Suit up, kids; put your bags, I-Pods, PSP’s, and other loose belongings in the provided locker; and please leave your cotton candy at the entrance. Things are about to get really friggin’ sticky.
Meet Wendy (Winstead). She and her friends are celebrating the biggest thing in a teen’s life — graduation. That’s right! For them it’s no more school, no more books, no more whippits behind the bleachers. Life is now an open highway, and it’s up to them where to travel. The first stop? A roller coaster. Wendy’s not too keen on getting on the ever menacing “Devil’s Flight” but does so anyway. Who wants to be a stick in the mud, right? As she’s being strapped in, something happens. She, in full blown Final Destination type glory, has a vision. The coaster’s going to crash, her friends are going to die, and she’ll never get the chance to become the bitchy control freak woman she’s been grooming herself for.
After a fit of hysterics and a slight fistfight, most of her friends get off the coaster. Of course, those remaining die horribly just as her vision had predicted. So what now? Death has been cheated and is PISSED. One by one the escaped teens start dropping like flies in a few imaginative ways. Can Wendy convince the survivors to once again break the cycle? The game is afoot. And a tooth. And a few entrails splattered liberally about.
Despite some good scenes, Final Destination 3 plays like exactly what it is — the third film in a series. Everything feels as if it’s just going through the motions. Even the kills, while good, seem a bit on the forced side. Maybe I’m just blood-hungry, but I found the violence in this one to be way toned down as well. In the previous films, especially the second (which in my opinion stands as the best of the series), the gore was in your face and nasty. Most of the kills in Final Destination 3 amount to nothing more than a quick crush here or a surprise splat there. Don’t get me wrong; there are a couple of really good ones to be found, but the rest? You’ll see what I mean.
Another thing that bugs me was the decision to go with a strictly teen cast. I liked the whole Death can strike anyone involved vibe of the previous two films much better. The characters had more dimension. Everything’s too formulaic about our protagonists here. You have your girl next door, the two ditsy hot chicks, the pervert, the jock, the token Black guy, and of course the angry Goth couple. It really gets no more cookie-cutter than this. If there is a fourth, can we please have something a bit less stereotypical?
If you watch the extras, you’ll definitely get the impression that the answer to my above question will be a resounding “no”. The filmmakers seem perfectly content with making their cardboard cut-out characters do nothing more than wait to die. In one extra, a featurette entitled, Dead Teenager Movie, you’ll hear all about why it’s important to have a hot young cast. At this point I had to resist the urge to eject the disc and snap it in half. Listen, I know that it’s mainly young people that go see these films, but you know what? So do adults. Furthermore, teens actually go see movies with adults in them too. Today’s youth aren’t stupid; they’re just like everyone else. If a movie is good, they will like it. If it sucks, they won’t. It’s really that simple. Stop dumbing down our entertainment in hopes of servicing one target audience, and make a good film that can appeal to everyone. To make matters worse, within this same featurette you’ll also get to hear producer Craig Perry go on and on about how “This isn’t a horror film; it’s a supernatural thriller”. This type of bullshit just drives me crazy. Enough already!
Other than that, the extras included in this double-disc set are plentiful, and you simply could not ask for more. Two bits of supplemental material really shine. One is an original animated short aptly called It’s All Around You. In it the climate of extreme fear in which we all live is examined in a really cool, thought-provoking way. From terrorism to the Bird Flu, it’s all here. A very cool inclusion. In addition to that, a feature length look at the making of Final Destination 3 carries the viewer and fan through a very detailed journey through the ins and outs of creating this film. If there was ever anything you wanted to know about FD3, it’s here. It’s so detailed in fact that some of the other extras, including the commentary, feel a bit on the repetitive side.
But that’s not why you’re here. There is one special feature in this set that has your curiosity more than piqued. It’s the Choose Their Fate feature option. “What the hell is it?” you ask. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical. What sounds like something really ingenious could have easily become something ridiculous. The good news? It’s a pretty inventive way to watch the film, and New Line did a great job of implementing this idea. Basically what happens is that at several key moments in the film, a coin will appear. You’ll be asked to make a choice: heads or tails. These choices will basically let you dictate whether or not you want a specific character to do something like set how hot the tanning bed should be, or whether someone needs to jump to the left or to the right. No special footage was shot for this feature, so you’re basically choosing to see alternate scenes, some back-story, or endings.
There’s no doubt that this is the coolest way to include this type of bonus material, but unfortunately it comes with a bit of a nagging price. While watching the theatrical version, every time the coin toss sequence would have appeared, there’s a slight pause in the film similar to that of a layer change. While some would argue that this minor annoyance is a small price to pay for the inclusion of the added material, rest assured that it can be pretty distracting after a while. Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything. As nuts as this sounds, I’d actually double dip for another version of FD3 without the extras just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the frequent slight pauses. I know. I’m nuts. Whatever.
Whether you’re a fan of this franchise or just someone looking for a good, yet somewhat dumb ride, Final Destination 3 is your hot ticket for a little bit of ghoulish fun. For collectors there’s no doubt that this DVD should take its rightful place within your library if only for the hours of extras. Me? I’ll probably wait for the movie to appear on cable so I can watch it without being annoyed. Sigh.
Choose Their Fate feature–New interactive feature lets YOU decide the fate of the characters leading to additional scenes and alternate endings
Kill Shot: The Making of FD3 ten-part feature length documentary
Dead Teenager Movie in-depth look at a subgenre of horror films featurette
Original animated short It’s All Around You
Planned Accidents a look at the making of the roller coaster featurette
Extended police station one-shot sequence
4 out of 5