Picture a cadre of ridiculously handsome paper-company employees bus-bound for a weekend team-building retreat. They’re driving along a suspension bridge—which is under construction—during a windstorm, when all of the sudden “Dust in the Wind” (Death’s favorite) starts playing on the bus radio, the winds pick up, the bridge buckles, and characters are shish-kebabed (in 3-D!) with bridge cords, metal posts, sailboat masts, and every other conceivable piece of sharp shit you’d find near a bridge full of construction material.
So begins Final Destination 5. The Final Destination franchise has been around for over a decade, so odds are you already know the drill: Improbable, gruesome accidents befall pretty young people (and a few old stragglers) who’ve seemingly cheated Death.
As such, character motivation and dialogue is irrelevant—from the opening credits, everyone on-screen is reduced to walking, screaming meat bags (some with boooobs!) waiting for Death to claim them.
Which means the success of the film rests on how well those deaths are executed. Here, director Steven Quale—who worked under James Cameron on the 3-D spectacle that was Avatar—becomes the king of smoking guns. From a gym scene to a massage parlor, each freak accident is exquisitely constructed to keep you guessing just what, in the end, will kill the next meat bag. A tack? A knife? Too easy? You know Death is coming, but you never suspected Buddha would be involved.
Like every movie in the franchise, Final Destination 5 plays on your most irrational fears—heights, industrial factories, eyeball surgery, gymnasts—to build tension. But it’s not scary. There’s no grotesque protagonist to fear, and the deaths themselves are campy, not sad. The end result is like taking a back scratcher to a persistent, morbid itch. As a man behind me put it, “I’ve always wanted to see somebody’s eyeball pop like that.”