Ever the cinematic misnomer, we shall see if Steven Quale's FINAL DESTINATION 5 (in theaters today) will indeed be the ultimate franchise entry. My guess is it will not be, as these films have a built-in fan-base, cost relatively cheap to make, and with the advent of 3D, tend to turn a tidy profit before even hitting the DVD/VOD market. But, to get us pumped for death's dastardly design this time out, we thought...why not go back and memorialize what has made the series so damn watchable over the years...THE DEATHS. Wildly profligate, awfully inventive, at times downright laughable...it's not just the complexity, but the perfect storm of accidental physics...or the build up...that always proves just as fun to watch as the actual fatality. And even though the series has gravitated to more and more CG over the years, you're still unlikely to find a skein of more original deaths anywhere else. Here now is my favorite death-sequences from the FINAL DESTINATION franchise. Enjoy!
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!
#10. SWIMMING POOL (FINAL DESTINATION 4)
While I really didn't care for the overuse of CG in FD4, particularly in the death-sequences, there's one scene that always induces a smirk out of me. Not so much because of the overall premise, or even the execution of such, but because I so desperately wanted to see this douche-fist of a character get his bloody comeuppance. And that's precisely what occurs. When our dude - a meat-headed frat-boy type - chills out poolside, he for some reason gets a wild hair up his ass and decides to plunge into the deep end to retrieve a sinking coin. When the pool's drain is accidentally activated, homey is suctioned to the bottom of the pool, unable to escape. As he literally tries to dislodge his ass from the drain, water ceases to fill in the external tank, and soon, BAM...frat-guy's gory remains, now liquefied, explode through the tank and rain down (in tacky CG mind you) all over the premises. A true beauty!
#9. SHREDDED HEAD (FINAL DESTINATION 3)
I could be mistaken, but I do believe this is the only death on our list NOT inflicted on a primary character. Has to count for something, right? Think about it, with such an ancillary character, no emotional tie is there to buffer how gnarly the demise can become. if it were a principal payer (not that we'd care much for them anyway), perhaps the carnage would be toned down a bit. Not sure this argument holds water, but it's a thought. Anyway, in FD3, there's a scene where a pile up occurs in a drive-thru line. When a runaway semi rear-ends the truck our two leads were parked in, the entire truck engine shoots out toward the driver one spot, ahem, ahead. Of course a convertible, the giant cooling fan from the engine carves, scrapes and shreds the driver's bald dome into a hollowed out grapefruit...blood leaking everywhere. The capper? A tight push-in shot whereby we see the victim's head release from the fan and slink forward...the back of his head completely scooped out. The BACK TO THE FUTURE score is a nice touch!
#8. NAILGUN THROUGH THE HEAD/FACE (FINAL DESTINATION 3)
I know face-piercings are all the rage in some circles, but this shite takes matters to a whole new height. Good gravy! So there's a scene in FINAL DESTINATION 3 when some dumb bitch, in a hysterical tizzy, falls to the ground and inadvertently backs her head up against a workbench. On top? A fully loaded nail-gun that, the instant it even so much as sniffs the girl's shampoo, unloads a deadly dozen rounds of sharp lead in the poor lass's grill. They pierce through the back of her head and out through the front of her face...her eyes, cheeks, wrists and pretty little maw. It's a gnarly bit of business, punctuated by the thick puddle of blood pouring from her nose and open mouth. Even better? The feeble reaction shots of the gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her lachrymose bff. In the immortal words of Principal Vernon, "I expected a little more from a varsity letterman."
#7. WEIGHTS EXPLODING HEAD (FINAL DESTINATION 3)
Stay off the juice kiddies...it'll shrink your balls and explode your goddamn noggin! All japing aside, the weights-popping-head scene in FINAL DESTINATION 3 is, despite the CG blood, one of the quickest, cleanest and most jaw-dropping fatalities of the entire franchise. And the thing is, we see the setup coming a mile away. Doesn't matter, by the time that large chunk of bloody brain matter juts at the frame, we're immediately taken aback. Even more amusing, the sexually charged subtext. Notice the way Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her increasingly emasculated boy-toy are foully facialized with a large load of blood. Mary's audible disgust is pure over-the-top hilarity, while her "man" cowers in pathetic fear as he bears the brunt of the sticky blood-dose. For a series fraught with decollation, this one takes the f*ckin' cake!
#6. DOUBLE IMPALEMENT (FINAL DESTINATION)
I don't know why - perhaps it was the sense of rueful pathos Kristen Cloke displayed early in the film - but I've always felt a tremendous amount sympathy for the way the teacher, Val Lewton (nice name, ay) gets gorily felled in the OG FINAL DESTINATION. Not just do I feel for the character, a real rarity in the series mind you, it's the ghastly two-pronged deathblow that always makes me wince. After unknowingly spilling wine on her computer, when she nears the monitor, it explodes, shooting a shard of glass right through her throat. As she staggers around the room, the wine combusts into a full-fledged fire that sends Val to the floor. Thinking she'll simply clot her bloody wound, as she reaches out for the rag atop the kitchen counter, she fails to realize a block of knives rest underneath. When she pulls the rag down, a sharp butcher blade spears her plum in the sternum. Death was none too clement to poor Ms. Lewton.
#5. BARBED WIRE DISMEMBERMENT (FINAL DESTINATION 2)
Before the series sank into excessive CG hokum, one could argue this next kill is the finest technical marvel of all four films heretofore. You know the scene, when an impromptu explosion sends flying a giant log attached to a swath of barb-wire fence...a bystander some yards away ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. What happens? Dude's body is trisected...dismembered in three parts...his torso launches in one direction, his gory entrails in another, his legs drop to the ground like a sack of f*ckin' potatoes. Like another upcoming scene from FD2, the CGI is complimentary, not primary. It actually enhances the credibility of what we're shown, instead of overdoing it with gaudy cartoon FX. No, this is simple and savage...always sure to induce some kind of stunned utterance...much like victim himself. Honestly, if the series treated all of its deaths this carefully, perhaps it wouldn't be the butt of so many jokes.
#4. TANNING BOOTH ROASTING (FINAL DESTINATION 3)
And you thought UV sunrays were harmful! First off, what I love so much about the tanning salon sequence in FINAL DESTINATION 3 is the unremitting nature of its double homicide. Or is it a double suicide? Anyway, you know the gist...when Ashley and Ashlynn...two vapid cheerleader types, strap in for a little artificial pigmentation, an asinine series of mishaps inside the room cause the lovely young ladies to remain trapped inside their respective tanning tubes. As the temperature rises, the inescapability becomes dreadfully palpable. A claustrophobic, BURIED-style anxiety is conjured...the tanning beds literally become the poor girls' deaths beds...their coffins if you will. It's also displeasing, just aesthetically, to see a taut, nubile frame...golden skin and all...slowly scorch into a crispy, blackened piece of char. But let's be frank, it's not like these girls didn't have it coming. You never, I mean never bump "Roller Coaster Of Love" while tanning. A cardinal f*ckin' sin!
#3. ESCALATOR GRIND-UP (FINAL DESTINATION 4)
In a stint of barbarism you'd likely see in SAW 3D, David R. Ellis seemed to take great delight in chewing that poor girl up in an escalator in THE FINAL DESTINATION. Dude took his time, drew it out, and brought an element of torture to the proceedings, a nice counterbalance to the often quick-as-lightening death-strikes that predominate the series. Here he basically treats the gears of the escalator as a giant meat grinder...eviscerating the poor girl into a syrupy-grue. Her right leg is the first to go, the bone snaps and folds into a shaved piece of marrow, spit out like a dual-slab of fresh ground chuck. As her friend tries to pull her out of the mince, things only...escalate? Lori's entire body is sucked into the gears and instantly flattened like a piece of paper...her chunky remains spewed all about. Comically, her body sort of takes the shape of Judge Doom after he gets steamrolled in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT.
#2. CRUSHED BY PANE OF GLASS (FINAL DESTINATION 2)
I know I lavished plaudits on the technical achievement of the barb-wire dismemberment, but if you want the honest truth, this next death slightly outdoes it for me. In fact, I'll submit the scene where dude gets crushed by a giant pane of glass is not only the best kill in FD2, but one of the most visually believable CG enhancements of the entire series. This shite is CLEAN! If you've forgotten, the sequence occurs after Tim and his mother exit the dentist office. When Tim motions to shoe a flock of pigeons, the birds cause the lift-operator to get all screwy, and soon a gigantic window pane comes crashing down. Instead of averting, Tim leers straight up at the falling glass, and soon...WHAM...little dude is instantly liquefied. And we see every micro-frame of it. What works so damn well here is the two-angle money-shot, we see the top half of Tim's body fold like a dollar bill in one...his legs and feet to a bloody pulp in the other. Words can't really do justice to how awesome this fatality is!
#1. SHOWER STRANGULATION (FINAL DESTINATION)
You never forget your first time, do you! In the initial personalized death sequence in James Wong's FINAL DESTINATION, one of the most likeable characters in the film is immediately dispatched. Awfully affable, quite relatable, vivacious even...when Todd finally meets his maker, there's no doubt an honest sympathy is incurred. We're not only sad to see him go, but the true despair and utter futility of him being strangulated to death in the shower makes us feel as helpless to save him as he is to save himself. Just think about the shots of his toes curling in agony, his feet feebly wiping up down at the base of the bathtub. The way his eyes grow a ruddy gloss, the life slowly draining out of him. The helplessness is underscored by the crosscutting of Todd's father, lazily asleep on the living room Barcalounger. Mix in the tease of a pair of nose-hair clippers just out of Todd's reach...and all of it unite to create the single most disturbing death of the series.