FINAL DESTINATION 3
Directed by James Wong
Produced by Craig Perry, Warren Zide, James Wong, Glen Morgan
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong
Director of Photograpy Rober McLachlan
Music by Shirley Walker
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Sam Easton
2006/93 mins/Color/DTS-ES 6.1
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the New Line Home Entertainment DVD
Over the years, horror movies have become notorious for many things, such as gratuitous violence, misogynistic themes, poor character development, and shoddy production values. (I’m not implying that any of this is true. I’m simply stating that this is how many people view horror films.) But when many people think of horror movies, they immediately jokes about horror franchise series -- “Friday the 13th, Part This” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part That”. These “humorous” asides are typically meant to imply that horror movies are cookie-cutter productions that simply spawn more and more clones. (And it’s difficult to argue that the series don’t sag in quality as they limp along). But, it is possible for a horror series to be good. FINAL DESTINATION was a surprising satisfying supernatural romp which showed a great deal of creativity. The first sequel, FINAL DESTINATION 2, tinkered with the formula a little, but still delivered a bloody good time. And now, series creators James Wong and Glen Morgan return for FINAL DESTINATION 3. Has the series run out of gas, or can the quality continue?
(FINAL DESTINATION 3 is essentially a sequel in name only and has only the most tenuous link to the first two films.) FINAL DESTINATION 3 opens at an amusement park, as the seniors of McKinley High School are celebrating their graduation. Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is there with her boyfriend, Jason Wise (Jesse Moss). They are joined by Carrie (Gina Holden) and her boyfriend, Kevin Fischer (Ryan Merriman). While the other members of the group are having a good time, Wendy keeps having odd feelings. When the friends board the park's huge roller coaster, along with classmates, Ashley (Chelan Simmons), Ashlyn (Crystal Lowe), Frakie (Sam Easton), and Lewis (Texas Battle). But just as the ride is about to commence, Wendy has a vivid and violent premonition of the roller coaster crashing. She then freaks out, a fight breaks out, and most of the riders are forced to leave the ride. And sure enough, the disaster happens and the coaster crashes.
Following the crash, Wend withdraws from everyone and begins to isolate herself. Kevin approaches her and tells her the story that he'd heard about the survivors of Flight 180 and how they all died afterwards. Wendy is skeptical until she begins to examine the photos that she took at the amusement park. She notices that the faces of the individuals in one set of photos are oddly distorted. When those people die horribly, Wendy begins to believe Kevin's story. She and Kevin then hypothesize that they cheated death by getting off of the roller coaster and that the survivors of the crash are being killed one-by-one, based on their seating arrangement on the ride. Furthermore, they decide that they can use the photos as clues as to how the victims will die. But how long can one cheat death?
FINAL DESTINATION 3 marks the return of James Wong (director/co-writer) and Glen Morgan (producer/co-writer), the co-creators (along with writer Jeffrey Reddick) of the original FINAL DESTINATION (following their experiences on the flop WILLARD). This gave me very high hopes for the film as the original movie is such a well-made and detail-oriented movie. I remember being incredibly impressed with how everything in FINAL DESTINATION really came together creating a movie that was creepy, funny, and surprising.
Such is not the case with FINAL DESTINATION 3. The movie isn't bad, but it doesn't fulfill its promises of delivering a wholly satisfying movie. Of course, the most important aspects of the movie are the death scenes, and the movie does satisfy in the realm. The deaths, as in the previous two movies, are a mixture of shock and bizarre Rube Goldberg mechanisms in which seemingly coincidental events lead to a brutal death. Wong does a great job of adding red herrings to each of the death scenes and while the audience has an idea of how the victim will die, the actual strike is surprising. These scenes are also gory and the movie isn't afraid to let the red stuff fly. Also, despite some questionable CGI, the roller coaster crash is very well done and quite suspenseful.
The problem with FINAL DESTINATION 3 is that the movie exists as little more than an excuse for the death scenes. Now, some of you are saying, "Of course!", but if you look at the first two movies in the franchise, there was an attempt at character development and a true story. (Especially in the first film where we learned a great deal about the Alex and Clear characters.) Here, we learn very little about the characters save for the fact that they fit into some stereotype. The movie feels very short (even at 93 minutes) and I got the impression that I was just watching one death scene after another with no plot advancement. Conversely, I began to get bored in the second half of the film when it became quite clear that no big twists or story developments were going to arrive. We simply meet the characters at the beginning of the movie and then watch them die. The story also has some plot holes, most notably the fact that the movie opens at graduation and then school seems to continue. (!?) The use of the photographs adds a new wrinkle to the FINAL DESTINATION mythos, but this idea is lifted directly from THE OMEN.
FINAL DESTINATION 3 is a tough call. In many ways the movie is much better than most of the crap that I watch, as it's got some very intense scenes and is well made. That doesn't excuse the fact that I expected much more from Morgan and Wong. FINAL DESTINATION is one of the my favorite films from the last decade and I'd hoped for something at least comparable here. The result is a movie which feels incredibly rushed and other than the death scenes, offers little more. So, yes, I know that most people will watch FINAL DESTINATION 3 to see who dies and how it happens, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't hope for a deep storyline. The movie is certainly worth a rental, but once you see how everyone dies, you probably won't want to watch the movie again.
FINAL DESTINATION 3 rolls onto DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate versions, one widescreen and other fullscreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here looks very good, as the picture is sharp and clear. There is no overt grain, nor are their any defects from the source material. The colors, most notably the reds and blues, look very good. The image did seems a bit dark at times, but otherwise it was quite stable. Video noise and artfifacing created no major problems. The DVD features both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a DTS-ES 6.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects. Both tracks deliver good stereo effects and a nice amount of subwoofer. However, I found both tracks to be somewhat disappointing when it came to surround sound. The roller coaster scene sounded OK, but I wasn't blown away by it. I felt that the sound design missed many opportunities. Compared to some other recent DVDs, the sound was only mediocre.
The two-disc DVD release of FINAL DESTINATION 3 contains several extras. Disc One contains the much-touted "Choose their Fate!" feature. When this feature is activated, the movie stops just before each death scene and offers the viewer a choice of letting the characters live or die. If the option which is different from the finished film is chosen, the viewer is treated to new footage and the story is changed somewhat. This is certainly an interesting feature, as it underlines the importance of DVD to studios, but it's also sort of silly. The mechanism is flawed because it isn't a simple "Should they live or die?" choice, but a choice of parameters from the movie. I often found myself choosing the wrong one and viewing the death as it had appeared in the film. Obviously, this feature should be used only after one has finished watching the movie. The only other extra on Disc One is an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Wong, Morgan, and director of photography Robert McLachlan. This is a good commentary, as they talk about the film's production, touching on locations, actors, shooting conditions, etc. But, it's disappointing when the film's two writers are present and they don't give much detail on where the story came from or how it was developed.
The remainder of the extras appear on Disc Two. We start with the very bizarre animated short "It's All Around You" (7 minutes) which describes occurrences (real?) where people cheated death and then goes on to give statistics about surviving certain events. This piece is creepy and just plain wrong. "Dead Teenager Movie" is a 25-minute documentary focusing on the phenomenon of horror films which feature predominantly teenaged victims. This segment features many comments from Roger Ebert as it attempts to take a serious look at these films. But the conclusions drawn will be nothing new to anyone who's ever cracked a book on horror film theory. (And the overuse of clips from New Line horror films is sort of annoying.) "Kill Shot: The Making of FD3" (88 minutes) is a feature-length and in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie. It's broken up into chapters, each of which examines a different scene or aspect of the film, including the test-screenings. The problem here is that the featurette jumps around and never has any true rhythm. Also, it never delves into the story, or how Wong and Morgan were lured back to the franchise. This is followed by "Severed Pieces" which are six short featurettes (totaling 13 minutes) which highlight different aspects of the film's production including sound, makeup FX, visual FX, stunts, and miniatures. "Planned Accidents" (21 minutes) is another making-of featurette (?) but this one focuses more on the cast & characters, designing the roller coaster, and the use of green screen in the film. The DVD contains no deleted scenes, but there is one EXTENDED SCENE. The extras are finished off by the TRAILER for the film, as well as three TV SPOTS.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©