Ah, the Final Destination series. Why have a masked killer stalking teenagers when fate can do that just as well (and no actor has to be hired)? For anyone who doesn’t know the franchise (and by now you probably should), each movie begins with a major catastrophe– plane crash, interstate pile-up, derailed roller coaster, Nascar-lite destruction– then reveals the just presented events have not in fact occurred. They’ve been foreseen by some poor unfortunate future corpse about to undertake whatever death trap awaits them. The individual overact- I mean yells- for everyone to “GET OUT,” manages to run for cover, a few people follow after said prophet, and the unlucky sods who don’t heed the advice of the blithering insane are forced to endure their horrible deaths as scheduled. Case closed, and the rest die peacefully of old age, roll credits, right? Well, no, of course not. What kind of movie would that be? You see, these survivors (I hesitate to call them lucky, given what’s about to befall them) were supposed to be greasy remnants of carbon-based life with the rest of their fallen brethren. And death (or should I say Death) cannot let that pass. Like Charles Bronson in a Death Wish movie, he must take them out and, just to keep things organized, in the order they were meant to die in the first place.
I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I have seen all of these ridiculous, awful movies. The first movie was oddly clever and thoughtful. The surviving teenagers actually took the time to question their roles in the cosmos, the role fate plays in their lives, and their ultimate destiny– pretty heady stuff for a dead teenager movie. After that, however, the movies became pretty standard slasher fare, with the typical set-up-kill format repeated until the nubile young cast is reduced to barely recognizable mush. With the exception of the first film, I’ll never call them “good” as they are anything but. However, there’s a certain car crash quality to them (usually literally, since one is all but guaranteed to occur during the course of events). They are awful, but I can’t to look away. Plus, the third film did stop me from going to a tanning salon, so I should thank it for the melanomas I am now less likely to get in the future.
The problem with these movies is the way it portrays the unseen force that is Death. Anyone who has seen Bergman’s Seventh Seal has a certain image associated with Death. Solemn, pale, cloaked, and certainly more than capable of taking you out when your time comes. The Final Destination franchise prefers to see Death as he’s portrayed in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey– more than capable of being foiled by incompetents at any time, any place. There’s a major catastrophe about to go down and multiple unluckies are on the “Now Arriving in the Afterlife” list. You’d think Death would want to keep an eye on things, make sure everything goes according to plan. Instead, Death apparently really wanted a snack from the fridge or had a hot date or didn’t want to miss the latest episode of his favorite soap. Whatever the reason, he’s not at his post, and things go wrong when you slack off on the job. Now, one catastrophe with some unplanned survivors? Maybe I could understand, even sympathize. After all, who amongst us hasn’t forgotten a homework assignment or overslept on a work day. It happens. But there have been five of these premonitions. By now, Death’s gotta be thinking, “Have one major catastrophe without a 100% fatality rate, shame on you. Have five major catastrophes without a 100% fatality rate, shame on me.” I get the feeling an employee evaluation meeting is being scheduled for the near future, and I don’t like Death’s odds (unless he gets a premonition about it and skedaddles. But then he’ll have to take himself out anyway…never mind. Headache).
To add insult to injury (or just injury to injury), Death has to clean up the mess he left, and tie up those pesky loose ends. Now, being Death, he could just give all the survivors instant aneurysms or heart attacks. He could wash his hands and get to filling out those “Wrongful Survival” forms that must be second nature by this point. He would probably need to give himself a good talking-to about paying more attention to his job, and go on about his merry ahem- maudlin way, but that would be that. But no, Death has to devise elaborate, complex traps that would make Rube Goldberg weep in frustration, throw his hands in the air, and mutter, “It’s just too much.”
Example: A guy gets a private call he needs to take outside (even though his salon is totally deserted), guy uses a suntan lotion squeeze bottle to prop open a door, the suntan lotion starts oozing out, the door shuts, and guy is locked out. Meanwhile, a drink sweats into the tanning regulator, tanning regulator malfunctions, two girls burn to death and have their tanning beds break and shatter onto their crispy corpses, and guy cannot get back into said tanning salon to rescue them because of the now locked door. Easy as pie, right? Wait, why are you drawing diagrams? Why do you look so frustrated? Also, Death apparently has a “Cleaning up Loose Ends/ Omens” play list on his ipod. In the first film, people would inevitably find recently deceased John Denver’s song “Rocky Mountain High” playing on the radio or record player. Definitely a sign of future misfortune. In the third installment, The Vogues’ classic “Turn Around and Look at Me” would pop up at random moments, indicating intestines would soon be strewn about the ground. Killing’s just not as much fun if you can’t rock out to your favorite tunes. Well, given Death’s set list, maybe “rock out” is a bit strong, but I digress.
So, maybe the series has finally died, with no one able to warn it of its tragic demise. Perhaps we can let it rest in peace. After all, we don’t need the complicated setups that would inevitably follow preventing its demise.