Final Destination 3 (2006) / Horror-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for strong gore, violence, language, and some nudity
Running Time: 93 min.

Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Alexz Johnson, Kris Lemche, Sam Easton, Jesse Moss, Gina Holden, Texas Battle, Chelan Simmons, Crystal Lowe, Amanda Crew, Tony Todd (voice)
Director: James Wong
Screenplay: Glen Morgan, James Wong
Review published July 3, 2006

It's deja vu all over again.  Final Destination 3 sees the same age teens stuck in the same situation as the first two films, trying to figure out, mostly in vain, how to cheat death, after they've all escaped from a calamity meant for them.  I'm not sure how it is that this phenomenon only seems to happen to 17 and 18 year olds, and of this group, how it only happens to toned, tanned, and cover model attractive ones.  I should be thankful, as this leaves me completely out of the deadly loop altogether.

FD3 also sees the return of James Wong (The One, "The X-Files"), along with writer/producer of the first Final Destination, Glen Morgan (WIllard).  It's not really a sequel, as it features an entirely new cast, although it does refer back to the fateful plane crash of the first film numerous times.  With the exception of one quickly shown photograph, it does mostly ignore the Wong-less, Morgan-less sequel, Final Destination 2, which I'm thankful for, as that was a darker and more labored version with new elements that made having to deal with the gimmick all the more tedious.  Final Destination 3 brings the series back to basics, and while it is pretty bad as far as benchmark qualities in scripting and conceptualization go, it does deliver the gore, shock, and suspense that lovers of these kinds of movies will be seeking.

The events of FD3 take place six years after the plane crash of depicted in Final Destination.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sky High) plays Wendy Christensen, student photographer for McKinley High School, out at an amusement park with the rest of the senior class, trying to get a few more shots to use in the yearbook.  Before getting on an ominous-looking roller coaster, Wendy has a vivid vision of a coaster calamity that will kill everyone on it, including herself.  She freaks out, causing some of the other passengers to also get off of it, and sure enough, the ride does proceed as planned, killing everyone that remains on, including Wendy's boyfriend, Jason (Jesse Moss, Ginger Snaps).

Wendy mopes around feeling responsible for not getting everyone off of the ride, but has little time for additional contemplation as those that survived the experience seem to be dying in strange ways.  Her friend-in-need, Kevin (Ryan Merriman, Spin), reads a report from the internet about the events of the Flight 180 (from the first film), and they realize that they also might be victims of the same twist of fate, whereby the survivors of a calamity are eventually killed in the order that they would have died in the accident.  Wendy also discovers that the manner in which they die has something to do with how they are depicted in the photographs she took.  To try to stop the cycle from coninuing its deadly course, they look to save as many of the remaining survivors as they can, and, hopefully, escape death yet again themselves.

There's not much more to say that you couldn't already figure out if you're already familiar with the series.  You know there will be many deaths, all of them quite grisly.  You know that the virtuous ones will survive until the end, while the conceited or immoral will die in the most horrible of ways.  You know that the survivors will do what they can to cheat death, and you know once they think they have it licked, they really haven't.  The rest is slick production, superficial teen drama, and quick-cut editing, packaged to go down easy and never delving deep enough that you'll think about the contrived and implausible nature of it all.

Final Destination 3 is like the roller coaster featured prominently at the beginning of the film -- a thrill ride we all know the destination and boundaries of, and whatever fun we extract from it comes through the experience of it.  Like any amusement park ride, it's fun to do with a group of friends, but only marginally interesting when doing alone.  It's really the kind of thing one would only want to do for the shared experience with others, snickering at it, or wincing throughout, and then talking about which actor was the hottest or which death the most gruesome once it is over. 

If you've watched and enjoyed the first Final Destination so many times that it's becoming stale, I suppose you might find this newer, slicker, and more expensive production to be an adequate substitute when you feel the need for some cheap thrill horror.  If you aren't impressed with movies that are nothing but constant sensory titillation, you'll probably have a premonition that this ride will meet certain disaster in its own way, and you're better off choosing never to get on.

 Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo