Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How often is the fifth entry in a series the best?

Illustration for article titled How often is the fifth entry in a series the best?

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: If the existence of The Purge: Anarchy has you feeling down on horror sequels, this week we have five great ones to raise your spirits.


Final Destination 5 (2011)

Final Destination 5 is shake-your-head special for reasons that aren’t entirely fair to disclose. Suffice to say, though, Steven Quale’s first narrative feature is more than just another annual installment of a horror franchise that’s running on fumes. Actually, it could be argued that the Final Destination saga doesn’t even belong to the horror genre, as the films invite their audiences to indulge in the carnage rather than hide their eyes from it.

These movies are predicated more on suspense than fear; their thrills aren’t derived from wondering when something will happen, but how. The series essentially twists our mortal coil into a gruesomely fatal Rube Goldberg contraption, Death endowed with the persistence of Fitzcarraldo and the overactive imagination of Michel Gondry. The story is always the same: Some slack-jawed kid has a premonition that he and his friends are about to die some horrible deaths, warns everyone of the impending disaster, and then watches as Death hunts them down one by one. But the plots are little more than scaffolding for hilariously elaborate kill scenes. The structure is similar to that of a porn movie (foreplay, money shot, refractory period, repeat), but there’s no end to how Death can unite the bric-a-brac of the modern world into a giddy symphony of murder.

Like the four films that preceded it, Final Destination 5 is about as scary as an episode of Looney Tunes, but it might be the first installment to embrace its inherent silliness in a way that doesn’t undermine its explicit gore. The characters have never been more disposable, and in a Final Destination film, that’s a good thing, because disposing of them is the point. The kick-off kill-fest here is the most gleefully protracted of the series: a bridge collapse that preys on a common fear with such unhinged abandon that its resultant deaths are almost comforting. (Laughter is the best medicine, after all).

Quale—whose only prior feature is a shared directing credit on James Cameron’s deep-sea doc Aliens Of The Deep—was new to these waters, but he understood that Final Destination movies operate with a perverse sense of wonder. One great scene in a gymnasium does backflips to stoke viewers’ imaginations, instructing them to see every environmental detail for its deadly potential. Most impressive of all is how Quale closes the series out as if he’s been there all along, pioneering cheeky new dimensions of fan service. But what really makes Final Destination 5 the cherry on top of this most fatalistic of franchises is how satisfyingly it insists that death is forever.

Availability: Final Destination 5 is available on Blu-ray 3D and DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix and to rent or purchase from the major digital services.