Sunday, 19 November 2006

Final Destination 3 (2006)

This review was originally posted on Ian's Personal Blog on 23rd July 2006.

Final Destination 3The Final Destination movies have received surprisingly good reviews, given that the basic plot remains unchanged from one movie to the next. The formula is pretty well known by now: one of a group of teens gets a premonition of some fatal accident, acts so that his/her group of friends avoid the fatal accident, and then spends the entire movie watching those who cheated death get picked off by a malicious presence one-by-one, in increasingly elaborate showcase scenarios. This is the 'slasher' movie (critic Roger Ebert prefers the label 'teenage death') all over again, albeit with the new 'twist' that in the final reel the 'hero' (or 'heroin') usually gets picked off too.

It's a few years since I saw the first movie in the Final Destination franchise, and my initial impression was ultimately one of disappointment. While there was no doubt that the movie was well-made, once you got past the originality of the basic idea, there wasn't much to see as the film lurched from one set piece death to the next. I guess my main disappointment was around the fact that the first motion picture screenplay from James Wong (who also directs) and Glen Morgan had so little of the wit and intelligence they'd shown in their TV work. I'd expected more from the guys who wrote some of the best X-Files episodes, even if they had shown precedent by screwing things up so badly when they took over the second series of Chris Carter's Millenium and effectively killed off that show.

I gave Final Destination 2 a miss - after all it was just the same story as the first one (although apparently the 'teenage' angle was dropped for that one). However critics have been so generous to Final Destination 3, which outperformed the first and second movies at the box office, that I decided to give it a try this weekend. It's in the DVD stores tomorrow (Monday) in a rather lavish two disk set that belies the online asking price which has for some reason plumetted, just a couple of days before release, from £15 to around £11.50.

I have to say I enjoyed the film, albeit in a sneaky, perverse pleasure kind of way. Nothing's really changed since that first movie, except that the deaths are more intricately plotted, to a ridiculous extent at times, and one senses that the writers have probably played 'Mousetrap' way too often. But it's all done with a sense of fun, such that if you decide to enjoye the ride - and how appropriate that the showcase opening scene is set on a roller-coaster - you can have a lot of fun with it. The story may be getting a bit old by now, but when the directorial flair, the red herring -littered plot, and the pretty but believable cast are this good it's hard not to succumb to its charms.

The main feature has a rather gimmicky, but original, feature whereby you can choose one of two viewing modes - the original theatrical cut, or the 'You take control of the ride' cut where as the various death scenes approach you can choose between a couple of actions to try and cheat death for the on-screen character, by changing an action that they take. Of course it's impossible to cheat death with this franchise, and what you typically get as a result is an edited version of the original death with perhaps a couple of extra scenes thrown in (or taken out), dependent upon your choice. It's a surprisingly fun feature, given the basic limitations of the DVD 'select choice' mechanism.

For me, the second disk containing the extra's was more interesting than the first disk containing the main movie. Featuring close to two hours on the making of the film, in the form of a day-by-day diary, this is one of the best 'making of' documentaries I've seen. It's beautifully edited and gives a real sense of just how much work is entailed, and how fraught the whole movie making process can be. Watch this all the way through and you come away feeling you've really taken part in the making of the movie. All aspects of the film making process are covered, and even the little stories that didn't make the edited cut of this feature because they didn't quite fit in, are included in a separate 'severed cuts' featurette section of the DVD. Excellent stuff!

There's also a very good 25 minute documentary, featuring the afore-mentioned critic Roger Ebert, amongst others, discussing the whole 'dead teenager' genre of movies, with the obligatory clips from Nightmare on Elm Street, the Jason movies and the recent remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (which, the documentary proudly tells us, Ebert gave an unprecedented 0 marks out of 5 rating to). The main feature commentary that's included from Morgan and Wong is rather dull, and completely redundant given that the second disk features not only tell you everything you'd want to know about the movie, but show you it as it happens too. And rounding out the whole package is a rather odd tongue-in-cheek cartoon documentary about death and chance, entitled 'It's All around You'.

Make no mistake, New Line have pulled out all the stops on the extra's for this release, despite the fact that they are bad-mouthed pretty much throughout most of them! One comes away from this DVD set impressed by the movie makers' tenacity, if somewhat grateful that one doesn't have a day job that involves having to work with 'the suits' from that film making company.

The DVD set won't be to everyone's tastes - there's way too much guts and tomato sauce being thrown around the screen for that. But if you are in any way interested in 'teen death' movies, or the horror thrill genre as a whole, and the movie-making process behind these 'make them jump out their seats' movies, then this really is a MUST BUY for you.

Final Destination 3

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