Dust off your “will not die” puns now as the “Final Destination” franchise, despite being supposed to have been hit by that bus/decapitated by that ceiling fan/impaled on that large shard of plate glass, lives again. The fifth entry in the series has been announced by New Line for an August 2011 3D release. Currently in the mix potential-director-wise are three first-timers: Steve Quale, Bradley Parker and Charles Gibson, who each have a background in visual effects.
It’s true that New Line marketed number 4, “The Final Destination” as the last one, hence the bold move of putting the definite article right there in the title. And when the film opened to the worst reviews the franchise had yet received, it seemed that, yes, the movie would make a small profit for them and then limp off stage left, where it would get entangled in the the curtain rope and quietly asphyxiate. But then the damn thing went and made $200 million dollars worldwide and New Line were basically honour-bound by the industry creed (follow the money) to go again. What’s funny here is the honest bafflement displayed by New Line execs about the fourth film’s success, with one of them admitting, “It’s the worst film of the franchise. And that’s not my opinion; that’s everyone’s opinion.”
Vulture explores and then dismisses 3D as the reason for the bigger-than-expected returns: it doesn’t account for the massive overseas profits where 3D screens are far less common (No. 4 has made $115 million non-domestically so far, and in certain territories, like Italy, it’s only just opening). Instead, they cite producer Craig Perry’s assessment that it was all about distribution. For the fourth film, New Line handed international duties to a subsidiary of Warner Bros., and so it benefited from WB’s enormous overseas clout. As an ‘overseas’ type myself, this writer can vouch for the fact that “The Final Destination” did have a much higher profile than any of the others, maybe since the first one (which was also popular, but still took $55 million less than the fourth internationally).
Still, there’s obviously more to the story than just better international distribution as domestic returns looked good enough for New Line to commission a script for no. 5 relatively early on, from Eric Heisserer (a name to watch out for and then roll your eyes at: he’s the writer of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake, its sequel, and the forthcoming remake of “The Thing”).
Really it seems in all their entertaining befuddlement these execs have forgotten the simple beating, bloody heart of the Final Destination franchise: people really, really like to watch teenagers dying in gruesome and inventive ways, and this franchise delivers that with almost no additional bells and or whistles (like characterisation or plot) to distract from it. Plus the get-it-while-you-can, “it’s the last one” thing kind of worked, even if we were as wrong about that as a couple of teenagers laughing about their brush with death in a café while down the road some logs fall off a truck…
At the risk of having my Playlist privileges revoked, this writer will go so far as to hazard that there’s a sort of purity to the Final Destination concept which in its absolute self-awareness and lack of pretense sets itself slightly above, say, the slew of horror remakes we’ve recently suffered. In a way it harkens back to days of olde, when spectacle was enough of a reason to go to the cinema (we’re talking “Train Coming In To A Station” -type stuff), and before it was decided that the main purpose of film was to tell stories. Honestly, they could probably dispense with what little plot there already is and simply cut scene after scene together of total strangers dying in funny/tortuous/unexpected ways, like a blood-spattered blooper reel, and come August 26th 2011, people would still go see “Final Destination 5.”
And a couple of weeks later when the movie I actually want to see is full up and the only other choice is some Katherine Heigl romcom, I’m not proud of myself, but I probably will as well.