Plotwise, nothing is different. A group of teens survives a catastrophe (in this case, a NASCAR crash that sends an auto flying into the stands) when one of them has a premonition, causing them to flee seconds before disaster strikes. Because they "cheated" death, the unseen grim reaper comes after them later on, taking their lives via intricate Rube Goldberg-style "accidents." They all end up dying in the same order in which they would have died had they not initially escaped.
The idea that you can't escape death was played for shivers in the original. By this fourth installment, that premise has become something of a joke. Death goes to greater and greater extremes to claim his victims. If you've never seen someone killed by a swimming pool before - and I sure haven't - you'll see it here. In the big finale, several of the teens are in danger of being killed by, of all things, a 3-D movie.
Which brings me to my next point. The Final Destination played theatrically in 3-D; the January 5th DVD release comes in both 2-D and 3-D formats on the same disc. I watched the 3-D version. If you're going to watch the movie at all, this is the way to go. Yes, it's absolutely gimmicky, but the 3-D kills at least have a sense of cheesy fun that the rest of the picture completely lacks. All sorts of objects fly out at you, from massive racecar tires to body parts. The 3-D works surprisingly well at home, although you have to wear glasses with the old red-and-green style lenses that wash out all the color in the movie itself.
The cheesy 3-D level is really the only one where The Final Destination even moderately works. Everything else is pretty bad, particularly the acting. I have not mentioned the names of the cast members because they are probably embarrassed enough as it is. They could have used mannequins in this film and the acting would have been more dynamic than it is. The screenplay - and I use that term loosely - is far more imaginative in the creation of death scenes than it is in dialogue or wit. Director David Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) doesn't have much interest in developing things anyway, as he turns in a flick that just barely runs 80 minutes, even with end credits.
Regardless of quality issues, a picture like this is made for teenagers who mostly just care about seeing a bunch of quick, gruesome deaths. That audience will find The Final Destination (in 3-D!) to be a diverting, if unmemorable, viewing experience. Personally, I wish the series would take itself seriously again, or at least let death come and put an end to it.
( out of four)
The Final Destination is available on DVD January 5. Both 2-D and 3-D formats are on the same disc, and several pairs of 3-D glasses are included in the box. Sound and audio quality are good, with the 3-D working better than I expected.
The only bonus feature is a short series of deleted scenes. The first few are only seconds in length and add a bit more gore to the racetrack disaster. More substantial is a longer, alternate version of the "death by swimming pool" scene that was wisely scaled back for the final cut; the deleted version is a bit too over-the-top, whereas the final version is sufficiently nasty.
A digital copy comes with the disc, as does a cool holographic cover on the cardboard DVD casing.
The Final Destination is rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language and a scene of sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 22 minutes.
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