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Set Visit: Final Destination (1/3)

Apr. 20, 2005by: Ammon Gilbert


by Ammon Gilbert

Taking the Ride of my Life

Being a horror junkie, the best part about a flick for me can easily be the body count, and the amount of blood splattered on screen. So when JoBlo.com/ Arrow in the Head was invited to check out the set of the upcoming FINAL DESTINATION 3, there was no way in hell I was about to say no- in fact, I think I did a halleluiah happy dance as I, a young buck when it comes to the world of journalism, was actually on his way to his first set visit ever!

On top of that, I’ve been a huge fan of the FINAL DESTINATION series since day one- not for their cinematic contributions to film, but because of their awesome ways of killing people off! There’s some serious creativity and imagination at work in these films, and they defiantly know what the audience wants- not character development, but a high body count!

What should we expect?

So how does a franchise top an exploding plane and logger-truck induced car accident opening sequence? Why, a roller coaster accident of course! It’s a fear everyone experiences at one time or another, and it’s an utterly brilliant concept to try and accomplish on screen. So what’s the dealio with FINAL DESTINATION 3?

Six years after the events of Final Destination, Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a high school senior, has a premonition of a fatal amusement park accident involving herself and all her friends. When the premonition proves true, those who survive the accident are forced to deal with the repercussions of escaping their fate.

But fate is not so easily thwarted, and as Wendy and Kevin (Ryan Merriman) desperately try to interpret the clues that might save lives, one-by-one their friends meet fantastically gruesome ends.

I know- not very specific at all, but that’s why there’s a set visit- to shed a bit more light on the project, and so you have a little more insight as to what to expect in 2006 when FD3 smashes into theaters. So without further adieu- onto the set visit!

Arriving at the Studio

Flown to the very brisk, beautiful and sporadically wet Vancouver, B.C., I and a slue of other journalists were taken to the Lions Gate Studios where FD3’s production office and sound stages were located. On our drive there from our hotel we were able to catch a glimpse of an amusement park full of towering roller coasters and other terrifying rides. While not quite open for the season, the park serves as the onsite location for FD3’s opening roller coaster sequence. The day was just beginning, and I knew it was a going to be a treat as production had just started a few weeks earlier, and they were scheduled to be shooting part of the coaster scene that day while we were there.

Once at the production office, we were taken into a room where we were to interview producer Craig Perry (FD, FD2, AMERICAN PIE), writer Glen Morgan (FD) and director James Wong (FD, WILLARD), as well as the two main leads of the film, Ryan Merriman (H8, RINGS) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I’m not going to get into bulk of the interviews just yet, but stay tuned as they will be arriving shortly.

In the corner of the room was a toy model of a roller coaster, something you’d see in a 6 year old’s play room- with the coaster’s car occupied with tiny toy-people that resembled Weebles (you do remember Weebles, don’t you?). At that moment, I knew that these guys were going into this project gung-ho on having fun, and weren’t taking the coaster accident too seriously. I mean, it’s a movie whose sole purpose is to kill people off in creative death sequences, how serious can they be?

Storyboards... of Death!

After the interviews, we were able to check out the storyboards which lined the walls of a nearby hallway. Which scene did it happen to be? But the coaster scene, of course! Not just a fragment here or there, but the entire coaster sequence in storyboard format. Just from checking out the storyboards, I can tell you that there’s the out of place gratuitous boob shot (like FD2), people flying out of the coaster left and right, a few dismemberments, and well… use your imagination and your worse nightmare to fill in the rest. If done right, this sequence will blow the previous films opening sequences out of the water- it’s just what we’ve been waiting for!

Next to that storyboard, we were also able to check out part of a death sequence being storyboarded involving spilled suntan lotion and a tanning bed, but weren’t allowed to see the whole thing. Apart from the opening deaths, all other death scenes/sequences were being kept very hush-hush (we also briefly learned of a scene involving a Home Improvement-type store- can we say 'powertools'?). They have to keep some surprises, don’t they?

PreVis of the Accident

We then talked with Visual Effects supervisor Ariel Shaw (FD, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS) who discussed some of the challenges of filming the roller coaster sequence, like finding the right coaster to use- as the coaster in the script does not actually exist. Since they couldn’t actually crash a real roller coaster, they had to figure out how they were going to film the accident. Intertwining real footage of the lackluster 65 foot high coaster, with the coaster in the script that described a big long climb up, followed by a 200 foot drop into a terrifying corkscrew was not going to be easy. Although they’re going to try and film as much of the sequence practically, some parts have to be shot using CGI as there was no way they'd actually be able to film it. To figure out what it’s going to look like on film, what they do is animate the sequence in what they call a PreVis (or ‘pre-visualization’) of how the sequence is going to be shot based upon the storyboards.

That’s when the real treat began. Shaw was nice enough to actually show us the entire PreVis of the roller coaster death sequence, full with action packed music (think ALIENS score), sound effects of the coaster itself and screams from those dying on screen. Let me just say, that while what we saw looked like a crappy computer animated cartoon that you find on ABC Saturday mornings (yeah, I still watch cartoons, what of it?), the scene was fast, it was furious, it was intense as hell- and it’ll make you think twice about riding a roller coaster ever again. Least to say, it was f*ckin’ awesome! I had a blast watching the horror of the coaster malfunctioning, and even laughed out loud due to a couple of sweet, gorey deaths. Without giving too much away, just think what would happen if your shoulder harness became undone while going through corkscrews and loop-de-loops. Nuff said.

On board the 'Devil's Flight'

From there we were escorted to the set of ‘Devil’s Flight’ (the name of the coaster), which was massive and resembled coasters along the lines of ‘The Mummy Returns: The Ride’ and ‘The Indiana Jones Ride’. Since the ride’s called ‘Devil’s Flight’, the interior was like a dungeon in hell of sorts, with a horde of skeletons getting sucked from the depths below through the ceiling like the spirits in POLTERGEIST. There was a skeleton holding a scythe to show how tall you had to be to ride, other signs saying ‘No Loose Objects! No Cameras!’ as well as a sign pointing to the exit reading ‘Get the hell out…HERE!’. There were piles of skulls over six feet high serving as pillars, and high ceilings resembling the interior of a cathedral- a cathedral in hell! There was a lot attention to detail on the set, so much so that it actually felt like an entrance to a real amusement park ride.

The coaster on the set was a real coaster, which was pretty cool, with real cars, and a real track. The track went up through the set and all the way up to the roof of the soundstage- a good 60 feet high! It was fully functional, with a remote control harness release, and was able to move all the up the track just like an actual roller coaster would. At the end of the coaster track near the roof was a green screen, where the track will appear to go up another 150 feet or so. Very cool set and very fitting for a ride called ‘Devil’s Flight’.

Don't mess with Texas!

On this day they were filming the scene where the characters board the ride, specifically Texas Battle’s character Lewis, otherwise known as the ‘wise-crackin’ black dude’ of the picture. We listened to some bad dialogue as he got into the car, and as his shoulder harness is pushed down by the ride attendant. Funniest moment was after shooting his line ‘Motherf*cker, my nuts!’ (as the harness squishes down into his package- we’ve all been there before…), Battle was to then shoot the scene without the swearing for the TV version (which I wasn’t aware they did). The funny part was, it took him like 3 times to say the line without dropping the F-bomb.

Other actors filming their ‘boarding the coaster’ scene were punk rockers Kris Lemche, who plays Ian, and Alexz Johnson, who plays Erin- the two ‘we’re smarter and better than everyone else here’ type characters who may or may not die on the coaster after Wendy’s premonition (like I said, they were very hush-hush on who and how the folks in the flick die).

While watching this scene, producer Craig Perry came over and chatted with us, confirming that they were going to try and shoot as much as the coaster scene with real coasters before they move on to using a green screen- making it as real as possible. Judging from the PreVis that we were shown, there’s really no way in hell they could actually film the whole thing without CGI, so it’s good to know that they’ll attempt to use it as sparingly as possible.

On Location with the Devil

After the coaster set, we were taken on location of the amusement park, where they were filming exterior shots the night before. Funny thing was, it was freezing at night and the actors had to act like it was a hot summer evening- now that’s acting! We were shown the ‘Corkscrew’, the actual ride the ‘Devil’s Flight’ was based on, and we were able to check out the giant sculpture of the devil- the beast that welcomed patrons to the ride itself. It was a massive sculpture made out of Styrofoam (ah, movie magic…), painted red and black, with the devil’s face lookin’ mighty badass… and mighty pissed off! It was great. As they were done filming the exterior shots, the sculpture had been taken down and was in pieces, and even so… it was actually kind of scary looking.

So now what?

All in all, the set visit was an awesome way to spend an afternoon, and judging from the PreVis, and the coaster set itself- we’re all in for a real treat. So now what? Interviews of course! But not now… oh no…you’ll have to wait a bit for those… but trust me, they’re worth the wait. And what’s the rush, anyhow? As it is, filming goes until June 23rd, and the final product won’t be released until 2006… we’ve got plenty of time! So cool your jets, and stay tuned… for the ride of your life!

FINAL DESTINATION 3 will be released
in 2006

Source: JoBlo.com

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