Fatal, Predestined, Precognisable

The Final Destination horror film series has turned FDFs (Final Destination Fans) like me, into paranoid freaks; obsessively staring at wobbly ceiling fans and peering into every nook and cranny, for lurking danger. Some people might judge me for getting cheap thrills from watching a movie where a girl gets impaled on the mast of a sailboat. But what can one do when a strange obsession with death, lurking around the corner, grips one with the terrifying awareness that the universe is teeming with things just waiting to kill you. One could be killed by a knife dangling precariously off the edge of a table, or an air-conditioner leaking onto a severed power chord. These films are laced with humour and are self-aware, but never to the point, where they become complete satire.

‘Final Destination 5’, is the most recent offering from this series, that plays on the collective human psyche’s emotional response to the concepts of “Fatalism’, ‘Predestination’ and ‘Prerecognition’ in relation to Death.

The series in a nutshell, is about a bunch of attractive young people (and a few old and not-so-attractive ones) who somehow escapes dying. Death, the villain, furious at being cheated, gets the survivors, one by one, in a series of fatal, gory and elaborate scenarios, while the central characters try to foresee, avoid and control their final destination.

The fact that the series is hugely popular, not just in the US, but around the world, is no surprise, considering that the films play on the universally relevant themes of ‘Destiny’ and ‘Fate’ that are prevalent in numerous cultures across the globe and in almost all walks of life. A soldier for instance has a fatalistic image of the “bullet that has his name on it”, or “the moment when his number comes up” and lovers feel they were “meant to be” together, or that their fate was “written in the stars”. The conflicting and often co-existing concepts of “Free Will” vs “Pre-destination” are present in most world religions. The average Hindu, for instance considers Fate to be a decision of God made for him exclusively. It is in fact popularly believed that Brahma, the creator, writes it on the forehead of every being before they are sent into the world. It is this basic sense of being vulnerable to one’s ‘Fate’ that this film series plays on, reminding each one of us of the frailty of human life, and the state of our powerlessness and helplessness in the larger scheme of things.

Unlike other horror series like Friday the 13th and Halloween where the villain is a mask-wearing fiend who hunts kids down and kills them, the Final Destination series’ villain is Death or Fate itself. Death is seen occasionally as a fleeting shadow, which controls the universe in deadly ways. The entire physical world is loaded with inevitable death for those who somehow evade the grim Reaper the first time he comes calling.

The beginning of these series found their inspiration in real life events. 1996 was a bad year in America for plane travel. Two months after the ValuJet crash, two hundred and thirty people were killed when the TWA Flight 800 fell out of the sky. The FBI stepped in to investigate the possibility of terrorism as nothing else made sense. But as it turned out, it was an accident. That boggling yet simple concept served as inspiration for this horror franchise, and the first film of the Final Destination series was born, which centered on a plane crash and incorporated actual news footage of Flight 800. A little over a decade and half a billion dollars later, we now have ‘Final Destination 5’.

In FD 5, the omnipresent Death is unleashed after one man’s premonition saves a group of coworkers from a terrifying suspension bridge collapse. Nicholas D’Agosto as Sam, the film’s designated seer, is the one who foresees the bus, he and his colleagues have boarded, falling off a suspension bridge. He persuades eight of them to leave the bus before the bridge collapses. This group consists of a pretty blonde who just dumped him (Emma Bell), an office bad girl (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), a handsome intern poacher (Miles Fischer), a nice black guy (Arlen Escarpeta), and a nerd (P.J. Byrne). But in typical FD format, this group of people was never supposed to survive, and, in a race against the clock, they frantically try to discover a way to escape Death’s sinister plan.

The 3D element in “FD 5” has loads of sharp objects flying directly out of the screen enhancing the film’s morbid sense of humour by heightening the gore to such ludicrous levels. The camera treats inanimate objects like malfunctioning air conditioners as killers whose mindlessness only makes them more unstoppable.

But as a loyal FDF, my only criticism would be that the film doesn’t exploit the this-leads-to-that element, as there’s not a lot of fun left in the scene once the initial trigger happens. But it has to be said that the amazing technological achievement of the bridge collapsing, is easily one of the best sequences of the five films, creating a horrific sense of dread and fear as the bridge crumbles away before our very eyes. Word of caution… if you’ve had Lasik surgery or are about to go for it, I’d avoid this film if I were you. But if the FD fever has already gripped you, then simply keep your eyes tightly shut during the much advertised ‘trapped-in-a-Lasik-chair’ sequence.

I say kudos to this series that can inject horror into any every-day object from a dripping candle to a vibrating mobile phone to a dangerously loose screw, while we audience members can only sit helplessly watching at the edge of our seats, awaiting the impending doom, with relish and terror.

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