Survivors of a suspension-bridge collapse learn there's no way you can cheat Death.
Everything you need to know about "Final Destination 5" comes in the first three or so minutes of the film. I'm not talking about the now de rigueur scene of a group of loosely connected characters dying horribly in a natural disaster. I mean the opening credits which consists of several different potentially lethal every day objects like ladders and pipes flying at your face is in 3D. That is the "Final Destination" series in a nutshell.
The most carbon-copy of all modern low budget horror films, the "Final Destination" series has become so hide bound to its defining structure of 'survivors of accident being killed off horribly in other accidents' that recounting the set up of the newest version seems pointless. But talking about the pointless in a "Final Destination" film really is the definition of a pissing in the wind, so …
The big accident this time around is a bridge collapse which kills many, many people but the only ones we're concerned with are the office employees of a paper mill heading off for a work retreat. The prognosticator this time around is wannabe chef Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto) who sees himself trying desperately to get ex-girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) to safety while his best friend Peter (Miles Fisher) and other co-workers die tragic, ridiculous deaths.
Ridiculous deaths are what makes "Final Destination" movies go, and anyone going for that will get what they're looking for. That sort of thinking tends to be its own worse enemy as the constant need to top oneself eventually outpaces any sort of ability to sustain disbelief. "Final Destination" has a worse time of that than most of its ilk because so much of it is built around showcasing the set up and making the audience cringe until the payoff comes.
Which wouldn't be so bad if the pay off wasn't badly done computer animated gore which director Steven Quale has decided to throw directly in our faces in replication of all that was wrong with the 3D films the first time around. Throw that into a movie bordering on absurd nihilism and what enjoyment there is to be had from it goes out the window pretty quick.
Especially once the one new idea the film has is introduced, an idea which could humanize and rejuvenate the franchise (despite how clumsily it is introduced). While the previous films have tended to lag in their second halves because there is essentially no way to resolve the conflict except for all the main characters to die, screenwriter Eric Heisserer ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") has chosen to confront that problem head on by offering the characters a way out. Instead of merely surviving death traps, if they kill an innocent person that person will take their place and they are safe. In theory.
Just think about that for a second. All of the characters in the film, shown as far as we know to be normal people who have done nothing wrong but survive a catastrophic accident are doomed to die horrifically no matter what they do. Unless they murder someone. We have found the opposite of karma and it is "Final Destination."
However dark that idea may seem to the audience, however, it's stating to make a lot of sense to Peter who had the misfortune of having his girlfriend (Ellen Wroe) be the first to die in Sam's premonition and thus the first to die in the real world as well. That loss and the realization of his fate begins slowly driving Peter over the edge, creating an opening for an actual emotional climax involving human beings grappling with each other in every sense for the first time in the series history.
Which naturally Quale completely bungles in as inept an example of storytelling has exists even in horror films. Rather than focus on Peter and his downward spiral "Final Destination 5" spends most its time on Sam's vacillation about whether to move to Paris or not because he doesn't want to leave his recently ex-girlfriend. Which is more important to him than the FBI Agent (Courtney B. Vance) trying to pin the deaths on him or his growing realization that something very wrong is going on around him.
There is a good idea at work in "Final Destination 5" but no one involved seems to have any idea what to do with it. Intermittently squirm inducing and boring, the film only wants to do is gross out its audience for 30 minutes or so and doesn't care how stupid it has to get to do it. This is far beyond nihilism the word almost has no value anymore.