Final Destination 3 as existential study in the absurdity of fate? An intriguing look into our country’s current state of red alert terror—and the reality we can do nothing to control it? A witty satire about high school archetypes in the tradition of Heathers? Should such thoughtful inquiry be applied to this profitable teen horror franchise?
Well, yes. It really is that clever. And fun.
With Final Destination’s original director James Wong back at the helm (Final Destination 2 was directed by David R. Ellis) the picture returns to its more biting humor, improving and deepening the Rube Goldberg-ian death trap scenarios. This is a harsh, funny, violent movie that’s not only unafraid to kill off a good portion of its cast but even drag a picture of the Trade Towers into the process. That takes some balls. And though some may gasp at the thought, the image isn’t used for false sentiment (that would be in bad taste) instead, it shows how the image really makes us feel—terrified.
Not that the film itself is so horrifying that you’ll be looking under your bed when you get home (more like making sure you don’t have a gas leak or your car’s emergency break works) but its subversion and wit sticks to you far more than you’d expect. And if you’re at all afraid of roller coasters, you’ll be seriously uncomfortable during the film’s sensational opening set piece.
On that rollercoaster is the self proclaimed “control freak” Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who, in a horrific flash forward foresees the ride crashing and killing everyone on board. Her vision is so strong and bloody (wonderfully bloody) that, understandably, she panics and jumps off the ride bringing her friend’s boyfriend Kevin (Ryan Merriman) and a gaggle of other teens in irritated tow. Annoyed at her supposed dramatics, her anxiety is, of course, correct. The rollercoaster crashes and everyone dies— including her boyfriend and best friend.
Since the Final Destination films revel in death’s plan, cheating the grim reaper isn’t going to save you. A series of creative and pointed fatalities await the survivors as Wendy and Kevin attempt to stop the chain. But of course it’s not so easy. And it’s really, not possible. When you go, you go. It dosen't matter if you're a slut, a creep or more importantly, a virgin.
Though the picture labors from a few stiff dialogue moments, it redeems its few flaws via fantastically inspired, black humor death sequences. What makes the film so unremittingly dark is that it more than suggests these kids die from their own making. Hollow machismo, in the case of the jock, will result in a freak weight lifting accident. And narcissism? The two dumb-bell hot chicks get theirs in an especially gruesome tanning bed mishap (set to The Ohio Player's "Love Rollercoaster") resulting in the film’s greatest visual punch line—cut from two dead girls entombed in tanning beds to the twin coffins at their funeral.
But the film’s not so mean as to misunderstand how helpless these kids begin to feel—after all, the requisite Goth kid cries out with an against-God “Why? What did these girls ever do to anyone?” during their service. Never mind he turns crazy homicidal when his girlfriend is later killed with a nail gun.
Not one to make sense of it all, only that death will happen, Final Destination 3 is barbed, brutal and, within a genre filled with cheap scares and stupid sentiment—refreshingly pessimistic.