Point/Counterpoint: THE FINAL DESTINATION (in 3-D!)

POINT:
by Archie Bevins

We saw the FIRST EVER screening of Final Destination 4: The Final Destination last nite. Woods, Zoobs, The Mexican (w/ 40 ounce in hand) and The Texan were also all in attendance.

Why do we care about Final Destination?
1) To quote Woods/TheMexican/Dennis Lim, FD is the ultimate post/meta horror series. For an essentially accurate discussion of this, see this homosexual asian man's (coincidence?!?!?!) article from this weeks nytimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/movies/23lim.html

Essentially, the idea is that Final Destinaysh is the most meta and po-mo of all da slasherz: that is, rather than death being embodied in the form of the grim reaper (7th Seal) or a slasher, it is merely an immutable, invisible force that is out to get you...

And truly, Final Destination 4 was meta and phenomenal as they come. The 3D was beautiful, huge, and immaculately executed (unlike the overrated-by-all-our-friends MY BLOODY VALENTINE).

It is not even a film per se, but rather a series of lengthy set pieces - gags essentially - that build suspense and tease audience expectation. The opening sequence at the racetrack, with its fake-outs, red herrings, absurd humor, could out-Hitchcock that overweight/over-rated auteur himself.

The clear high point was the META 3-D sequence:

In this sequence, two pretty girls go to a 3-D horror film. The hero has a premonition that they will die in there and runs into the theater to save them. We see his POV of the movie screen, which is all blurry (as he his not wearing 3D glasses). There is a gigantic (blurry) explosion on the screen-within-the-screen, which shortly morphs into a REAL 3-D explosion as the screen itself explodes out into the audience's eyes AND into ours....

Genius.

Love, Hova McBevins

COUNTERPOINT:
by Woods

The other night I saw FD4, at the first showing, at midnight, in Times Square, in 3D, kind of drunk. As Marshall McClongose has said, "the medium is the message." I got seats super early when what should happen but this:

Now if any of y'all try to touch that man's abs before me, there's gonna be HELL to pay! I been watching the trailer over and over again for the past 3 months, especially the part where the blanket falls down that sexy man's abs... I been watching in SLOW MO, BITCHES! I SUCK DICK BETTER THAN ALL Y'ALL BITCHES
-The gay man who wandered into the theatre while we were sitting around having pleasant conversation and duly watching The Twenty
I have no idea what that polite and discrete man was ranting about (I'm assuming he is referring to this this moment in the trailer), but it makes me realize a) this movie franchise encourages this kind of behavior, and b) actually, technically, me and my friends were more intent on seeing this movie than that guy because we were already seated when he came in.

I love the Final Destinations. And this is coming from someone with literally no threshold for terror (Full disclosure: I am still scared of the Quantum Leap Halloween episode and am a grown-up), but I do not love FD4. Here is, summarily, why each previous edition was amazing:


FINAL DESTINATION 1
  • Originality (the movie has no villain!)
  • Set design (they elaborately created the airport so that it would not have right angles and create an intangible sense of off-kilter dread)
  • The protagonist is not an idiotic dumb-dumb and also the whole film has a very dark mordant sense of humor (this sequence where Alex Browning starts foaming at the mouth about how he could predict the accident and Carter (wearing unaddressed, pee-stained pants) blurts "you're the fucking devil" still gets me every time.
  • Love redeems nothing



FINAL DESTINATION 2
  • Despite not being directed by James Fucking Wong, the 2nd installment is fantastic for its opening sequence which still ranks among the best in this series
  • The visual "hints" at the beginning of each death sequence that would offer clues to how each no-name character would be dispatched (lottery winner with the word "eye" on his refrigerator, boy in dentist's office peering through the fish tank)
  • The overall thematic shift from gruesome to entertaining -- in the 2nd FD the tone changed dramatically, from the horror/dread-based focus of the first FD, where the tension was sustained even into the death scene, FD2 death scenes have a palpable moment where the tension is released and you, the audience member have no choice but to yell "HOLY FUCK"
  • The beginning of disrespecting the characters and casting them intentionally as a bunch of who-cares interchangeable throwaways
  • This part



FD3
Unquestionably the king's jewel in this collection, FD3 is the apotheosis of everything good about the series without an ounce of fat to slow it down. James Fucking Wong returns to helm this monster with a vengeful "this is my goddamn franchise" fist and confidently chest-thumps his way through the film without giving way to reductive formula or predictability. Consider:
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead (my future wife) typecasted essentially as a pretty girl who screams/cries throughout the film
  • The subversion of the "I see the future" motif with the use of the camera, which itself becomes unreliable
  • Tony Todd reprising his role as the Man Who Knows Death -- but only as the voice of the Devils Flight ride
  • Kris Lemche as Christian Slater doing a Jack Nicholson
  • The usage of Love Rollercoaster, Love Train, and Turn Around Look At Me


BUT where FD1 and 3 (and to a lesser extent 2) succeed, 4 falls on its stupid face. Or rather, it impales its face on the ground in 3-D and calls it a day. The splatter hose of gore that gets jizzed onto the audience's face arrives without tension, without merit, and without... artistry? I'm not defending the FD series as high art that offers trenchant observations about etc, but there is definitely craftsmanship and and well-made entertainment beneath its trashy/bloody veneer.

FD4 has a few inspired moments to be sure (the fence, the finale, and the line "Yes! I OWN you, machine!" spring to mind), but ultimately these fail to add up to anything more substantial. The FD films have always been absurd but consistent, junk food but ambitious, unfortunately the over-use/horniness to embrace 3D as a substitute for creativity is FD4's biggest flaw.

In conclusion, Archie Bevins please join Facebook.

 
 
 
 

Post a Comment 2 comments:

Cristina said...

I'm going to have to agree with the Asian on this one. Clearly, Archie is coming from the position of ignorance here, having only seen FD3 and not its two predecessors. And yes, clearly FD3 was the zenith of this particular franchise, with James Fucking Wong being at the height of his powers, from the creepy and unsettling opening sequence to the final, harrowing subway ride to hell. But even compared to FD1 and FD2 (FD1 benefiting from the strongest protagonist in the series, the singular Alex Browning, and FD2 capitalizing on some truly outstanding death sequences) FD4 falls flat. The characters are stripped down to the most basically possible tropes--and fine, really, who cares--but David Ellis's greatest crime is to rely too heavily on the 3D nonsense, rather than execute some truly excellent Rube Goldberg shit. I also could have really done without the thrash metal soundtrack and nonsensical ending. The other FD movies follow an internal--albeit flawed--logic that is utterly lacking in the fourth installment. A damn shame.

September 1, 2009 at 11:55 AM

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