The Final Destination films are easy to dismiss as post-Scream teens in peril slasher films but whereas most of the films that ripped off Wes Craven's self referential ghost faced killer movie played it safe, James Wong and company have consistantly shown that they're not afraid to accent their movies with healthy doses of gore, gore, and more gore courtesy of some of the most creative kill scenes in the history of the sub-genre that is the slasher film.
This third film in the series, subtitled Thrill Ride, begins with an impressive sequence wherein a whole lot of people are slaughtered when a roller coaster accident causes things to go horribly wrong. Cut to Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a pretty teenage girl who may or may not be able to see into the future a bit. When she starts to realize that the pictures she took the other night of her friends at the amusement park are actually clues as to how they're all going to die, she and her friend Kevin (Ryan Merriman) try to save their pals before it's too late.
Of course, as Wendy and Kevin travel around town trying to warn their fellow teenagers, they too put their lives in danger and as luck would have it, they're always a little bit too late to save anyone – either that or they're met with a 'you so crazy' look. Regardless, the end result is the same in that the teens are getting knocked off one by one in typically gruesome fashion.
Final Destination 3 is not a deep film. It's not particularly well acted, it's not all that original, and it isn't even really doing anything all that different within the limited confines of the slasher sub-genre. What the movie is, however, is fun! It's gory for the sake of being gory, the nudity is there to add nothing other than a naked lady factor and the plot, as disjointed and unrealistic as it is, exists primarily to string us along from one murder set piece to the next. The first two films did it, and this third one doesn't even try to deviate from that successful formula – this movie gives the fans what they want and what they want is gore and tits. Lose your brain at the door on the way in and enjoy the ride. Thinking too much will hurt your head but if you're able to just accept the movie for what it is you're bound to have a good time.
The kill scenes in the film are so completely preposterous that the whole thing has a very over the top and almost cartoonish vibe running throughout. There's a nice sense of dark humor to the proceedings and the way that the photographs hint at the upcoming deaths that we know are going to hit us upside the head like a 2x4 keep you guessing pretty much from the start. This results in a fairly suspenseful picture in that we know these kids are going to get it, in fact we want them to, and the question lies not in 'will they die' so much as 'how will the die?' As far as the answer to that goes, well, the deaths are the best part of the film and they won't be spoiled in this review but let it suffice to say that they do not disappoint. While there might have been a shade more blood in the second film than this one, the sheer creativity of these scenes in this film warrants a look, and in many spots they almost resemble a game of Mousetrap in the way that they're planned out, or even a game of dominos..The DVD
Aside from some expected instances of grain in a few of the darker scenes and one or two instances were some mild mpeg compression artifacts were visible, New Line's 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Final Destination 3 looks great. Flesh tones appear lifelike and natural, color reproduction is very strong, and black levels remain constant and deep. Fine detail in both the foreground and the background of the image looks nice and sharp and there were only faint instances of aliasing and edge enhancement present on the picture that were just barely noticeable from time to time.Sound:
New Line has provided audio options in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS 6.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles available in English and Spanish as well and with an English closed captioning option. If you've got the hardware to make it happen, the DTS track does have the slight edge over the 5.1 for the simple reason that the bass is stronger and the rear portion is filled in more. Either way, however, you'll find little to complain about here with either choice as both tracks provide plenty of nice bass response where appropriate, clear dialogue, and nice directional effects throughout. The film score is tight and bouncy and neither the music nor the effects ever over power the performers. There were one or two scenes in the film where the surrounds could have been used a little more effectively but other than that, this disc sounds excellent.Extras:
With a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix and a rather large DTS 6.1 mix on disc one there wasn't a whole lot of room left for extras but there are two interesting supplements to be found on the first disc in this two disc set:
The main extra feature on this release and the biggest pull in terms of supplements is that option to watch the movie using the Choose Their Fate which, when enabled, allows you to by way of your remote control, choose what the characters do next. If you choose correctly, they'll live, and if not, well, you know what happens to teenagers in the Final Destination films by now and let's just say that it isn't pretty. Interestingly enough, if you choose correctly for a few of the scenes, you'll find yourself ending the movie before it would end in its theatrical version but you'll also be treated to a few alternate scenes in which the characters resolve things. This might sound like a rather ridiculous idea but it's actually pretty fun. It's not likely to be something that you're going to go back to time and time again but it is an interesting alternate way to enjoy and to a certain extent participate in the carnage that the movie delivers in spades. The drawback to this feature is that when you watch the movie in its regular version, you might notice a hiccup or two similar to a layer change during playback where, in the Choose Their Fate version, there would be a prompt. The intensity of these little hiccups varied on the two different players that I tried this one, with one reacting to them more harshly than the other.
Also included on the first disc is a full length director's commentary track with James Wong who is joined by screenwriter Glen Morgan and the director of photography, Robert McLachlan. Aside from a few spots of dreaded dead air, this is a pretty lively track that contains a good amount of information. Wong dominates the discussion, which makes sense as he had more to do with the final product but all three get their points across. These guys seem to have had a fun time working on the project and they come across as genuinely intelligent types with a true love for what they're doing and a nice, playful sense of humor. No one is taking the movie too seriously here and they know what kind of movie they've made but they still manage to discuss the film in an interesting and smart manner.
Disc two contains the rest of the supplements that starts off with a truly unusual seven minute cartoon called It's All Around You that explains some of the ways that people deal with having to accept the inevitable fact that death comes for us all. This is a pretty strange supplement but that being said it fits the tone of the movie well when you consider how much of the film is made up of the characters wigging out about the fact that they cannot escape their predetermined fate as predicted by the photographs.
A great twenty four minutes documentary entitled Dead Teenager Movie takes a look at the teen slasher phenomena by way of some amusing criticisms and observations, many of which are courtesy of the one and only Roger Ebert who used the titular phrase when describing the first film in his Chicago Sun review years back. Of course, this being a Final Destination movie a lot of the focus is geared towards the three films in the series and to writer/direction James Wong but that doesn't really diminish the fact that this is a surprisingly enjoyable examination of the slasher genre and the roles that teenagers inevitably always find themselves playing in it.
The mother of all supplements on the second disc comes in the form of the massive Kill Shot: Making Final Destination 3 documentary that clocks in at just a couple of minutes under an hour and a half, roughly the same length as the feature itself! By way of interviews with all of the principal players involved both in front of and behind the camera and a wealth of behind the scenes footage, this segment gives us a very detailed look at the way that the movie was made from start to finish from the script to post production tweaking. We learn how some of the effects work was done, how the movie was cast, where some of the ideas for a few of the more interesting scenes came from and what Wong wanted to do this third time out with the Franchise. New Line gives you the option of watching this mammoth piece in different sections (ten in total) or as one big super-documentary. Casual fans might find themselves skimming through it or fast forwarding in spots as it gets to be overkill almost in spots but for the dedicated Final Destination fans, this is heaven.
The last feature is called Severed Piece and like the Kill Shot documentary that came before it you can watch it in individual chunks or all at once, though this time out it adds up to about thirteen minutes of footage when it's all said and done. This section narrows down to a few specific aspects of the production, mainly effects work, pyrotechnics, miniatures and gore effects. Those who dig the 'how did they do that' aspect of filmmaking should enjoy this as it proves to be pretty interesting.
Rounding out the extra features on this release is an extended version of the scene at the police station, a couple of trailers and TV spots for the film, trailers for a few other New Line genre releases, animated menus, chapter stops, and for those who happen to be DVD-Rom equipped there's computer accessible goodies hidden away on the disc as well. It's all packaged in a two disc keepcase with a slipcase that fits on over top of it all.Final Thoughts:
So Final Destination 3 isn't reinventing the wheel, who cares! It gives us exactly what we'd expect from the third film in the series – some amazingly creative kill scenes, gore galore, gratuitous nudity and some twisted black humor. The story is a little kooky in spots but the movie delivers in the violence department and let's face it: that's what has made these films so popular in the first place. New Line's two-disc set looks and sounds great and has some excellent extras as well. Recommended.