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Blu-ray Review: The Final Destination (2009)

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It seems that every thirty years or so, 3D comes back to wow yet another generation of moviegoers. Sure enough, every time it does return, there are a slew of brainless motion pictures made to capitalize on the “newfound” sensation (which, more times than naught, has begun with a B-Movie overstepping its marketing bounds via fancy gimmickry). In the ‘50s, we had such classics as Robot Monster and Cat-Women Of The Moon. During the 3D boom of the ‘80s, filmmakers pumped some life into several horror franchises such as the Friday The 13th and Amityville series.

Of course, there’s always a side effect. And I’m not talking about the headache or how everything is tinted red and green (or blue) for a good hour or so following a 3D film, either. No, I refer you to the fact that even the most semi-intelligent audience patron may experience a somewhat jaded sensation after a 3D film: the stark realization that an entire budget was poured into nothing but special effects — and the story had that “freshly scraped up off the floor of a butcher’s shop” taste to it (much like any 2D Michael Bay film). Some filmmakers even got wise to this notion, and made their 3D films as tongue-in-cheek as possible (how else do you explain Jaws 3D?).

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s move one step closer to The Final Destination (2009) by talking about Death. Now, if we are to take the cinematic incarnation of Death as Ingmar Bergman depicted in The Seventh Seal as valid (it is the preferred persona of Death for many, after all ), then we see him as a game player (also see: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey). He offers those chosen a chance to live — and it helps if you play chess, by the way.

In the Final Destination series, however, Death is seen as much more of a whiny “must-win” high school jock type of a character. He frequently neglects to tell his participants a) that they are playing, and b) the rules of the game. He squashes them all mercilessly — and, should one (or more) of his contestants inadvertently win the game, Death becomes a passive-aggressive little bitch and changes the rules just so that he can win.

Not very sportsmanlike at all, really.

At first, one must wonder if Death really has it in for anyone. Take the folks in the latest Final Destination entry for example (which has dispensed with a tried-but-true, well established numerical system and opted to use the modern-day we-know-nothing-about-the-English-language-because-we-text-message-each-other-via-weird-non-words-interlaced-with-digits formula, adding a previously superfluous article into the mix — hence this one is entitled The Final Destination). From tobacco-chewin’ mechanics to sultry soccer moms, and from recovering alcoholics to preppy college-aged kids in love: Death has won another shopping spree and is out to squeeze as many souls into his cart as possible.

But, after only a few minutes, you realize why everyone in the Final Destination universe is on Death’s To-Do list: they’re fucking stupid.

Enter a world where people possess no peripheral vision, short term memory, or common sense. A moving vehicle — which normally makes sound — somehow manages to sneak up on one poor dolt and smash him from the side (okay, so maybe he had glaucoma or something). Our Zach Braff/James Franco hybrid hero in the film (the aptly named Bobby Campo) experiences one vision of impending messy doom after another, informing friends and strangers alike repeatedly — and yet they all seem to walk right into the anxious hands of Death regardless. Worse, the movie opens with people willingly going to a NASCAR-like race.

Like I said: fucking stupid. And honestly, who drives to a car wash in order to remove some fresh bird shit off of their windshield? You just gave 63 cents to the homeless guy in front of the coffee shop, lady: tell him there’s at least a quarter and some pocket lint more if he cleans it off ASAP!

Unsurprisingly, the fourth (and perhaps Final?) Destination doesn’t waste any precious screen time with things like character introductions, empathy, or that pathos thing, either. Instead, it threads itself up into the projector, says “These are your main characters — love ‘em or leave ‘em,” and produces one sensational demise after another. It also chooses not to annoy us by making itself seem realistic in any way, shape or form. In this alternative reality, there exist an alarming number of fully-functional human beings whom were not blessed with any sort of skeletal structures — and their flesh and multi-colored blood masses can easily be turned into jam upon the slightest impact with the most benign of surfaces (or machinery).

Geographical settings are vaguely implied, but are about as nonspecific as can be: we witness a stockcar racing complete with all of the stereotypical Southern white trash denizens such an event amasses at the beginning of the film, but soon the action moves to a very conventional Los Angeles environment (even though we’re still in the same movie — we definitely suspect that the movie may take place in a city of some sort, but we’re pretty much left in the dark beyond that). Oddly enough, for a Hollywood-made film, all of the businesses and locations appear to be entirely fictitious. Fortunately though, Pepsi has crossed over into this reality to receive a little bit of product placement.

Much like its predecessors, it is a disturbingly-simplistic splatter film (which is always preferred to the wiles of direct-to-video torture porn the industry is also in love with), and anyone looking for more than just blood and entrails in a film like this should know better. That said, though, The Final Destination is definitely a breeze to sit through, and is the perfect candidate for Bad Movie Night with your friends following a few stiff drinks.

On Blu-ray, The Final Destination receives a more-than-adequate 1080p/VC-1 transfer, presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colors are bright and distinguishable, especially during the film’s many bloody moments, and black levels are solid all the way through. The disc boasts both a flat 2D version of the film as well as a anaglyphic 3D presentation, to which two pairs of glasses are included in the packaging. The 2D version is a lot easier on the eyes than the 3D one, as a majority of the effects simply don’t seem to work all that well. This, of course, is nothing new: we haven’t seen a good home video presentation of 3D since…well, ever.

Both versions of the film include a kick-ass DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, which is guaranteed to bring Death-a-knockin’ to your door if you turn it up too loud. Since a great deal of the film is nothing but action and dialogue (well, meaningful dialogue) is kept to a bare minimum, the DTS mix is able to stay afloat throughout. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is also available, as are English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles.

When loaded into your Blu-ray player, The Final Destination goes through the obligatory selection of trailers and promos — shortly before giving you the option to watch the movie in 2D or 3D. And once you take the initiative to access the disc’s one and only menu, you’ll see why: it’s the most generic looking thing list I‘ve seen in a long time. Among the options available on the main (only) menu are the special features — which, in this case, consists of a behind-the-scenes featurette (entitled “Body Count: The Deaths Of The Final Destination,” this mini-doc stars the cast and crew, who discuss the film’s various death scenes), a look at some of the CGI FX used in the film’s opening and ending, several deleted scenes and alternate endings (none of which inspire you to stand up and shout, “Thank you, sweet Jesus!”), and a sneak peek at that upcoming reboot of A Nightmare On Elm Street (wait, shouldn’t that be called The Nightmare On Elm Street, or A Nightmare On The Elm Street or something?).

In conclusion, one really has to stop and wonder if the filmmakers behind The Final Destination were aiming for camp or not. The director, former child actor and stuntman David R. Ellis, also helmed the highly enjoyable (for all the amusingly brash kind of reasons) Snakes On A Plane in 2006, so he’s definitely familiar with the procedure. Now add two other important factors into the equation. The film was made in 3D (see sentence four, paragraph two). It’s also a product of New Line Cinema — an outfit that hasn’t truly been taken seriously since the Friday and Austin Powers sequels.

Alas, the 82-minute film is so ultimately nihilistic towards its own existence (not to mention its audience) that its claim to camp fame becomes effectively lost in the tons of human jelly it washes onto the screen.

Best served with a two drink minimum notice (at best).

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • J. Newcastle

    “much like any 2D Michael Bay film”

    Nice.

  • Blu Beard

    Aargghh, it tickles me funny bone how you call out scalawags for not knowing the Queen’s English then mistakenly call “the” an adjective.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Doh. An oversight on my part. Thanks for pointing out my appropriately fitting goof, Blu Beard.