Final Destination 3

2 stars


2nd March 2006

The horror genre is already one that can be sliced up in a variety of different ways; there's the slasher flick, the splatter and grindhouse exploitation sub-genres, the more cultured 'psychological' thrillers, the recent worrying trend of 12A sanitised horror movies... the list goes on and on as the genre continues to diversify. Well, it's about to get even larger.

deathporn (deth~pawnh) n. 1. A new sub-genre of horror movie, made popular by the Final Destination series. Flies in the face of conventional horror movie rules, by eschewing elements like characterisation and plot points in favour of a succession of continually gory deaths. Unlike traditional horror movies, viewers are not inclined to identify with the protagonists in any way, shape or form; instead, a painful and bloody death is expected and celebrated on arrival. See also: snuff movies.

Once you get over the hurdle that you really aren't supposed to care about anyone on screen, the Final Destination films are tremendously easy to get on with. The first in the series discarded the idea of a killer in human form; instead, it was the Grim Reaper himself knocking off the promiscuous teens by increasingly unlikely 'accidents', after an eerie premonition of a plane crash let them cheat death. The second Final Destination upped the ante somewhat, developing the idea of deathporn and recognising that punters expected blood, guts, laughs and little else. Enter the inevitable third instalment then, with a new array of fresh-faced nobodies waiting patiently to be killed by all things sharp and heavy.

We start as normal - we're introduced to a bunch of largely dislikeable US school kids at a local funfair, about to board a rollercoaster. Cue the premonition, and several corpses later we're back to reality, as our heroine manages to convince a select handful of others that the ride will be the death of them. Wouldn't you know it, the rollercoaster crashes - shock horror - and we're left with a troupe of teens standing directly in Death's scything line. What is a surprise, however, is just how unimpressive the opening set-piece is - the original's plane crash was truly unsettling and the sequel's freeway crash stands up as the series' highlight, but Final Destination 3 just doesn't open with a big enough bang. Sure, you see the odd decapitation here and there, but it all happens so fast, it's hard to keep track of who's who and who's got how many limbs. What's the point of having people fall from 200ft from your ride if you don't see them land? Why de-rail an entire compartment of the coaster and have it crash off-screen? Don't you understand the rules of deathporn? We want blood, dammit! I left my imagination at home!

Despite the massively underwhelming opening, Final Destination 3 does succeed in creating a few elaborate fatalities during its pleasingly brief running time. Without spoiling the finer moments of bloodlust, there's death and destruction in a few more varied places this time round, including the high school gym, a fast-food drivethru and a particularly wince-inducing incident at a tanning salon. However, in finding new and exciting places for people to snuff it, some sequences do tend to feel a little unnecessary - if you knew death was on the cards, would you go to a Fireworks Display? - so much so, you start to get the feeling that the writers are running out of ideas. Case in point: this time around, a series of digital photographs taken before the premonition seem to give hints as to how each person will die, which not only takes half the fun out of guessing, but makes no sense in the overall mythology of the series. What you're left with is the filmic equivalent of a game of Mousetrap - you know everyone is doomed and how they'll die, it's just a case of waiting for it to happen.

It's not even 24 hours since the end credits rolled and I can't remember a single name of any of the characters; there's a jock, a nerd, the popular girls, the Goths and the football star, but that's about as much as I can recall. According to IMDB (who felt the cast was so weak they had to list everyone twice), one of the dudes is named Texas Battle which I guess is pretty cool, but acting means nothing according to the rules of deathporn, so I won't lodge any complaints over this matter, or indeed discuss it further.

It shouldn't be difficult to make a successful instalment of the Final Destination series - hire a few TV newbies on the cheap, think of the most painful ways possible to die and mix the two together - but by messing with a proven formula (and lacking the balls to go for a killer opening sequence), the series has been finally been given its last rites. It's entertaining enough for a night out and entirely undemanding in every facet, but it's just not as fun as you feel it deserves to be. I never thought I'd get tired of seeing American high school kids having their heads smashed in, but I guess you can have too much of a good thing.

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