Dir: James Wong. US. 2005.92mins.
With its original writers and director back at thecontrols, the Final Destinationfranchise cruises efficiently but not very excitingly through its third outing,a cartoonishly gory horror romp with an all-new castof little known young actors. The franchise has proved surprisingly profitablefor New Line: the first film grossed more than $100m worldwide in 2000 and thesecond reached just over $90m in 2003.
This third episode has againshowed signs of pulling in a sizeable audience of teens and young adults. Inthe US, New Line has opened the film wide and made a quick killing in therelatively quiet early months of the year; while it has dropped of sharply inits second week, it nevertheless enjoyed the highest opening for any of theseries.
New Line's independentdistributors in international territories can probably expect results close tothose for the first two films, though a lot will depend on timing and clevermarketing.
Original writer-producersGlen Morgan and James Wong weren't involved in the franchise's secondinstalment, but they return for the third, with Wong again directing. Theyaren't shy about repeating the franchise formula: once again, the action openswith a disaster - in the first film it was a plane crash, this time a rollercoaster jumps its rails - that knocks off a number of characters. And thistime, it's high schooler Wendy (Winstead,from Sky High and The Ring Two) who has a premonitionabout the disaster and saves a group of her fellow students from the mayhem.
In the months after thedisaster, though, the escapees start to meet their ends in elaborate andamusingly gruesome accidents. Teaming up with her former best friend'sboyfriend Kevin (Merriman, also from TheRing Two), Wendy realises that all the survivors have been picked out bythe Grim Reaper and that the photos she took on the night of the disastercontain clues to how the survivors will die.
Using the pictures as theirguide, she and Kevin become determined to cheat Death out of his remainingscheduled victims.
The rollercoaster openingisn't as impressively destructive as the motorway pile-up that opened Final Destination 2, but staging thedisaster in an amusement park gives the film an interestingly perverse twist.And the high school setting allows Morgan and Wong to get some comedy out ofstereotypical characters.
The film's central elements,though, are not quite as much fun this time round. The deaths are not asintricately staged: two characters are fried at the tanning salon and one is despatchedby a nail gun, but several are just unimaginatively smushed.And the intervening drama, which has Kevin helping Wendy get over her controlissues, is sappy and unconvincing.
Winstead and Merriman are quite appealing as the ill-matchedcentral couple - she's an intelligent misfit, he's an apparently uncomplicatedjock - but there are no particularly promising performances elsewhere in thecast.
If the franchise is going tomake it to a fourth instalment, it will probably need either a stronger cast ora refreshed central concept.
New Line Cinema
Hard Eight Pictures
Visual effects supervisor
Ariel Velasco Shaw
Mary Elizabeth Winstead