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Final Destination 3 (2006)

06/13/2011 1 comment

One of the most intense fears humanity has, one that is almost unique to our species, is the fear of losing control. This fear can run under the surface of many disorders, like OCD and its milder cousin, the “control freak” instinct. Of course, no matter what people do to control their environment, to make things as safe as possible, all that gets tossed out the window when Death points a bony finger in your direction…

Final Destination 3 is a horror film directed by James Wong, the third movie in the Final Destination series. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Sam Easton, Jenne Moss, with Tony Todd providing the voice of the Devil (no, really).

Six years have passed since the Flight 180 tragedy (see also Final Destination). A group of high school students visit an amusement park as a last huzzah before graduation, and they decide to ride a roller coaster called the Devil’s Flight (with a giant fiberglass devil out front hawking the ride). Control freak and school photographer Wendy has a premonition that the ride will crash and kill everyone aboard, and freaks out enough to get herself and a bunch of her fellow riders removed, while her boyfriend rides on in another train. Hilarity ensues as she foresaw, and as she mourns the loss of her boyfriend, life goes on. She plans to pick up her diploma and get the hell out of McKinley and its tragic memories, never to look back. Of course, this being a Final Destination movie, the laws of physics and narrative horror have other plans in mind, as the people scheduled to die in the roller coaster crash start getting picked off in the order they would have sat on the roller coaster train, Wendy finds herself in a race against time to unlock the clues in her amusement park photos and save people from the laws of physics…

The overall concept of the third movie remains sound within the FD-verse, opening with the roller coaster as a metaphor for loss of control and the “safe” scares of horror movies in general. This time, though, the cast of victims are unconnected to Flight 180 aside from knowing about the events surrounding it (whereas the bunch in FD2 had been saved in roundabout ways by the initial survival of the cast of the first movie), and therefore their place in Death’s plan is incidental at best; they were supposed to die, and they didn’t. Regardless, Death seems to be getting a little peeved at people surviving the disasters he cooks up, so the deaths are becoming more brutal: death by burning in a tanning booth, an engine fan to the back of the head, death by nailgun, and so forth. After the engine fan death, Wendy even notes that the accident seems pretty vicious. It seems that this time around it is less about balancing Death’s books and more about punishing the escapees. Cleverly, though, if you pay attention during the opening, an alert viewer will notice that every single death is foreshadowed at the amusement park, and not just through Wendy’s prophetic photos.

Of course, escalating the level of violence in a horror movie can still work, if you have a good cast of talented actors portraying sympathetic characters. Here, you have three fairly sympathetic characters (Wendy, her sister Julie, and her boyfriend’s best friend Kevin) alongside a couple of snobby Paris Hilton clones named Ashley and Ashlynn (urgh…), an oversexed douchebag with a video camera named Frankie, an arrogant football star named Lewis that cares more about the game than the harbingers of doom, and the Wonder Goth Twins Ian and Erin, who call each other Zip and Pip. However, amid the expected failures in failsafe devices and basic common sense, Ian is briefly redeemed by following basic safety procedures on the forklift at the hardware store where he works with Erin, narrowly avoiding turning that sequence into a rehash of Forklift Driver Klaus and instead turning it into a freak-accident shout-out to The Nailgun Massacre. Then he snaps out after Erin’s death and we start waiting for him to die horribly. However, while FD3 tries hard to put the fear of freak accidents into its viewers, and at least one of the death sequences does offer a nod to urban legend (the tanning bed sequence), it appears that the Final Destination franchise is starting to lose steam in this installment, relying more on gore and shock value for its scares than building suspense.

While Final Destination 3 is starting to show signs that the franchise is going a bit stale, fans of the first two installments and slasher movies in general should largely enjoy this contribution to a world where mechanical safeguards can be rendered moot by a force of nature. Afterwards, why not go to a park this summer and ride the roller coasters? After all, they’re perfectly safe…

Final Destination 2 (2003)


One year has passed since the disaster of Flight 180 and the series of bizarre freak accidents that picked off the survivors one by one. Now, only one of the Flight 180 survivors remains, and things are about to start all over again…

Final Destination 2 is a horror film directed by David R. Ellis and the first sequel to Final Destination. It stars A. J. Cook, Michael Landes, T. C. Carsen, Jonathan Cherry, and Keegan Connor Tracy, with Ali Larter and Tony Todd reprising their roles as Clear Rivers and Mr. Bludworth, respectively.

On the one-year anniversary of Flight 180, Kimberly Corman is about to embark on a road trip with several friends when she has a premonition about a horrific multicar pileup on the highway ahead, in which she and her friends are all killed. She blocks the entrance ramp with her S.U.V. to prevent the other potential victims from entering the highway, attracting the attention of a police officer in the line, and as he questions her the nightmarish pileup happens right on schedule. While those whose lives she saved are initially relieved as the collectively dodged bullet, it soon becomes clear that Death is going to be balancing the books again, with a twist: the ones saved from the impending pileup are all connected in a very specific way, and Death is working backwards to tie up all the loose ends…

Like its predecessor, FD2 opens with what would become the series’ trademark – a horrific deadly chain reaction with a high death toll. This time around, it’s a pileup on the highway, a sequence that has been lauded for its sheer engineered chaos by everyone from New York Magazine to Quentin Tarantino. The other death sequences in this movie are also creatively engineered, as Grimmy toys with his victims, sometimes offering a promise of escape before kicking them in the nuts once and for all. The use of CGI, in addition to models and castings of the actors, strategically stuffed with bloodpacks and innards, enhanced the deadly domino effects, where lesser effects might have left them looking fake. This is still early in the franchise, to there is still a fair variety of “commonplace” freak accidents scattered between the deadly dominoes and step-and-die deaths, leaving even those who had seen the first movie guessing how a particular sequence might end, without violating the laws of physics too much. The only times when conventional physics were really “enhanced” for the sake of the story were the logs falling off the truck to start the pileup, and the flying barbed-wire fence.

The acting was still mostly good in this one. While the only familiar faces were Clear (who had committed herself to a long stay in a padded room after seeing Alex killed offscreen) and Mr. Bludworth (creepy as usual), the newcomers did well, with Kimberly conflicted and tortured by her visions of potential disasters even as she tries to convince the others that everything happening was not just a series of twisted coincidences, and there is enough variety in the other leads to offer variety without lapsing into horror movie victim cliches. Rory the ambiguous cokehead was the only really “standard” slasher victim, and even he was interesting enough. The characters reacted plausibly to seeing companions and loved ones massacred; Nora is believeably traumatized after seeing her son flattened by a sheet of glass, and the numb despair that starts to set in once the others start to believe that Death is out to get them is plausible.

I enjoyed Final Destination 2 almost as much as I did the original. While the easy way out would have been to just retread the plot of the first, FD2 manages to keep the concept relatively fresh without losing the spirit of the first. Fans of Final Destination and slasher movies in general will enjoy this sequel.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)


One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

When Wes Craven was growing up, a classmate of his with whom he shared a paper route frequently bullied him. His name was Fred Krueger.

Three, four, better lock your door…

Several newspaper articles printed in the L.A. Times told of a group of Cambodian refugees from the Hmong tribe who had died in their sleep.

Five, six, grab your crucifix…

In each case, the men would suffer terrifying nightmares, and then refuse to sleep for as long as possible. When they would finall succumb due to exhaustion, they would wake up screaming, and then fall dead.

Seven, eight, gonna stay up late…

It is still widely debated whether dying in a dream will kill you in real life.

Nine, ten, never sleep again…

A Nightmare on Elm Street is an American slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven and produced by Robert Shaye. It stars John Saxon, Heather Langenkamp, Ronee Blakley, Amanda Wyss, Nick Corri, Johnny Depp, and Robert Englund. It was distributed by New Line Cinema.

Tina Gray (Wyss) has a nightmare of being stalked through a shadowy boiler room by a mutilated man with razor-sharp blades for fingers. As he catches up to her, she wakes screaming, only to find four slashes in her nightgown, identical to those in her dream. The next day, she learns that her friend Nancy (Langenkamp) is dreaming about the same menacing figure, but Nancy is convinced that it’s nothing more than that – a dream. Tina is uneasy sleeping alone in the house after her nightmare, so she invites Nancy and her boyfriend Glen (Depp, in his first major role) to sleep over and keep her company. Tina’s boyfriend Rod (Corri) crashes the party, and they shag like horny teenagers in an 80’s horror movie. However, that night Tina’s nightmare finally catches her, and Rod is awakened to find her being attacked by something unseen in the real world. He is helpless to intervene as he watches her slashed again and again by invisible knives, dragged up the wall and across the ceiling by her spectral attacker. When she finally drops, dead, onto the bed, Rod flees, certain he will be blamed for her murder. And, you know, he is.

Nancy starts having recurring nightmares of the razor-gloved figure, and she decides to talk to Rod about what he saw in the bedroom on the night Tina was killed. While he didn’t see her attacker directly, he did notice that it was like she was being slashed with four knives at once, and he recalls that he has also been having nightmares of the razor-fingered man. After Nancy has another dream of the nightmare figure attacking Rod in his cell, Rod is found dead, hanged with his own bedsheets. The police think he committed suicide, but Nancy isn’t so sure. However, her mother is concerned that Nancy isn’t getting any sleep, and takes her to a sleep clinic. During a nightmare there, Nancy returns to reality with a souvenir: a battered fedora with the name Fred Krueger written in it. She learns that Krueger was a child murderer who avoided conviction on a technicality but was killed when a vigilante group of parents burned down his hideout with him in it. But now it appears he has returned to stalk the teenagers of Springfield through their dreams – but how can Nancy fight a nightmare?

A Nightmare on Elm Street is widely regarded as a classic slasher, with the sinister Freddy becoming one of the iconic figures of the genre. In his initial appearance here, he is genuinely sinister and threatening, rather than the master of black-humored one-liners he became later in the series. The dream world is his realm, to do with as he pleases, and if you don’t know how to fight him there (and even if you do), you’re pretty much screwed. The nightmares here are surreal and frightening, with typical being-chased-by-an-unknown-menace imagery interspered with weird shit like a sheep coming out of nowhere for the early cat scares. The special effects were well-done, considering the era and the budget, with the only obvious fake coming in the form of an obvious mannequin getting pulled through the window at the very end.

The acting was pretty good, considering what I’ve come to expect in slasher films, and to my surprise the 80s doesn’t burn quite as bad as it does in films from the second half of the decade. The performances are solid, and they don’t act quite like the brainless victims one might find in lesser imitators. And the adults, while useless, are at least logically so – they would prefer that this chapter of their lives stay behind them, and to be honest, if your teenager told you that somebody in a nightmare was trying to kill them, would you believe them? On the other hand, if they started talking about someone they had no logical reason to even know about, I might sit up and listen, but it appears that Nancy’s parents were divorced and her mom had turned to alcoholism to cope with the horrors of the past. Depp as Glen doesn’t play a huge role in the plot aside from emotional support for Nancy, but his death is pretty damn spectacular.

Nightmare is a nice look back into Wes Craven’s early work and the first incarnations of Freddy Krueger, before the executives warped him into a simple marketing tool for New Line Cinema. It pours on the paranoia fuel of a completely inescapable killer (after all, everyone has to sleep sometime) and pokes at our primal fears to tweak up in ways only a nightmare can. Slasher fans will enjoy this one.

Final Destination (2000)


Is it possible to cheat death? Could you avoid a grisly fate if you just had enough warning, a premonition that things were about to go horribly wrong? What if you did? What if you were able to prevent a handful of deaths on the eve of a horrifying disaster? Now, Death’s books must be balanced, and he doesn’t like things to be left untidy. It’s nothing personal. Just business.

Final Destination is an American horror film writted, produced, and directed by James Wong, based on an idea written by Jeffrey Reddick and originally pitched as an episode of The X-Files. It was distributed by New Line Cinema (the House that Freddy Built). It stars Devon “Idle Hands” Sawa, Ali “Heroes” Larter, Kerr “Lucid Days in Hell” Smith, Kristen “Stay Tuned” Cloke, Daniel “The Fugitive” Roebuck, Roger Guenuer “No, that’s not The Rock” Smith, Chad “Disturbing Behavior” Donella, Seann William “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Scott, Amanda “Saving Silverman” Detmer, and Tony “Voice of the Antichrist” Todd.

Alex Browning (Sawa) is about to go on a high school field trip to France with his French class. Shortly after boarding, Alex has a vision of the plane exploding shortly after takeoff (in a terrifying sequence depicted more or less from Alex’s point of view – that is, from inside the fuselage… yeep). He wakes from this nightmare and, finding that events are unfolding just as he saw them in the dream, he appropriately freaks out, screaming that the plane was going to explode. His freakout and the resultant brawl in the aisle gets himself and a handful of others removed from the plane, including French teacher Ms. Lewton (Cloke), jerkass Carter Horton (Smith) and his girlfriend Terry (Detmer), and his friend Tod (Donella). Billy (Scott) is caught out due to being in the airport bathroom, and Clear (Larter) leaves of her own accord, sensing something wrong. Airport security, naturally, takes this thing very seriously, especially after the plane actually explodes as predicted. The survivors are devestated, and two FBI agents (Roebuck and Smith) question them, especially focusing on Alex’s vision.

A month passes before Alex starts to see the darker consequences of his apparently miraculous. As his entire class has heard about the incident, he is treated as a pariah already, so when Tod apparently hangs himself in the bathroom (actually a freak accident) Alex is blamed, bit Clear isn’t so sure. After a brief encounter with the mortician in charge of preparing Tod’s body for burial, Mr. Bludworth (Todd, as himself), Alex and Clear learn that Death has a design – and that Alex has messed up this plan. As a result, Death is trying to set things right by making sure that those that were scheduled to die, do die, by accidental methods as intended. Fortunately, Death still has a pattern, and if Alex figures that if he can figure out this pattern, he might be able to cheat death a second time – but how long can he outrun Death?

Final Destination was a pleasant surprise when I first saw it in theaters. After nearly a decade of unscary gorefests, I was delighted to finally find a horror movie that genuinely put the fear of death in me. Much of the paranoia fuel come in not knowing where or when the deaths would come – and because it’s Death himself stalking the leads, there is literally no escape – if he wants you, he will get you, and it will virtually come out of nowhere. The randomness of the accidents was most believeable (though Ms. Lewton’s death seemed like teabagging after a certain point), and I found myself walking into a room afterwards and subconsciously counting the ways it could kill me. On an interesting note, when I first saw FD in theaters, I was in this state of situational paranoia when I went to drive home, and discovered that it had started pouring down rain during the movie. And I had to drive home in that. Yaaaaay.

Another pleasant surprise was the quality of the acting. While many horror movies I’ve seen feature Bad Bad Acting, the leads were plausible as survivors of one disaster trying to outrun others. Sawa seemed a bit flat at times, but this is easily excusable as residual shell shock. They appeared to be believeable, rounded people, so that even Carter’s increasing douchebaggery when confronted by a threat he couldn’t fight seemd to fit. I felt genuinely bad for Alex as his class and fellow survivors turned on him, but fear does strange things to human nature. Tony Todd, the only actor I recognized during my first viewing, makes a very creepy Mr. Exposition without his scene seeming shoehorned (and he would reprise his role as Bludworth in FD2).

Final Destination was the first movie I’d seen in a long time to genuinely scare rather than simply shock. Therefore, it ranks amongst my favorite horror movies, and I would definitely recommend it for people who want a scary movie that doesn’t rely on gallons of blood to make its point.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)


There are certain noises that will always inspire a certain level of fear in a sane human being. Explosions. Thunder. Someone screaming. And since 1974, the sound of a chainsaw being powered up. Thanks, Tobe Hooper. Thanks for making an entire generation afraid of power tools.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an American independent horror film by Tobe Hooper, starring Marilyn “I Had Laryngitis For a Week After This Movie” Burns, Edwin “He Looks Trustworthy” Neal, Paul A. “Can’t we just leave him on the side of the road or something?” Partain, Allen “I won’t survive the movie” Danziger, William “Why am I wearing this red shirt?” Vail, Teri “granola girl” McMinn, Jim “I loves me some barbecue” Siedow, William “You dumbass” Vail, and Gunnar “Holy shit get in the car!” Hansen, with a stunt voiceover by John “Night Court” Larroquette.

Presented as a true story (it’s not), the movie follows Sally Hardesty (Burns) and her brother Franklin (Partain) as they travel with three friends, Jerry (Danziger), Kirk (Vail), and Pam (McMinn) to the cemetary where the Hardestys’ grandfather is purported to be buried, after hearing reports of alleged grave robbery and vandalism. Afterward, they decide to visit an old Hardesty property; on the way there, they pick up a hitchhiker, but he turns out to be deranged and slashes himself and Franklin with a razor before they force him out of the car. They stop at a gas station, only to be told that the tanks are empty, but the refueling truck should be by that afternoon. They continue to the homestead, planning to stop at the gas station on the way out. When they arrive, Franklin tells Kirk and Pam about a watering hole nearby, and they decide to check it out and go for a swim. Instead, they find a house, home to a gruesome family that all share a common taste in meat.

Having picked this movie up to round out my experience in classic slasher movies, I walked into this movie knowing that it had influenced a whole subgenre of horror, and was considered a horror classic. After all, who hasn’t heard of Leatherface and his deranged clan, and how many cannibal redneck movies had been inspired by this one? The tiny budget (around $60,000) and the sensibilities of the mid-seventies naturally limited how much could be shown, but I’d seen campy horror from the seventies and eighties before, so I thought I was in for more of the same.

Afterward I was left with a single thought:

What the hell did I just watch?

This movie is uncomfortable to watch. The protagonists are bland and unremarkable (except for Franklin, who is whiny and obnoxious) and appear to exist only to get butchered. While most of the slasher conventions had yet to be created in 1974, some of their actions seemed beyond stupid (like picking up a hitchhiker who appears to have mental problems and blood smeared on his face, or not being alarmed by the discovery of a human tooth on someone’s porch, or taking a guy in a wheelchair out sightseeing in the middle of nowhere). Leatherface & Co. seemed to be more interesting than the heroes, and only then because they actually seemed to have personalities. The violence, though abundant in the second half was largely bloodless (and one would expect some of the red stuff when a guy is getting stabbed in the abdomen repeatedly with a chainsaw.

Now, I will grant that for a first effort Hooper overall did a decent job. He had a tiny budget to work with and did the best he could. The camera angles are tight, the directing is good, and the antagonists are terrifying and more or less realistic enough that you could imagine something like this happening somewhere on the fringes of civilization (and sort of did, as Hooper’s inspiration was the real-life serial killer Ed Gein). As far as slasher movies go, I would call this one an acceptable entry on most lists.