‘Final Destination 5′: You Can Cheat Death, But You Can’t Escape the Writing or Acting

The good news: The 3D, by James Cameron cohort Steve Quale, is way better than average

Finally, you can cheat death in a "Final Destination" movie. Just take someone else’s life — adding your victim’s years to your own.

It's not only the only twist in the new "Final Destination 5," it's a philosophical conundrum square in the middle of the least philosophical franchise ever.

As usual for the series, director Steven Quale delivers shocking scenes of horrifying murder and mutilation. But there is this: Quale shot second unit on James Cameron's “Titanic” and “Avatar”; for the latter, he was responsible for much of the groundbreaking 3D technology.

He employs it to superlative effect here. “FD 5” may reek in the acting department, but Quale is sure-handed with narrative montage, ratcheting up the tension as the reaper closes in with outlandish coincidence that makes even a massage parlor a potential death trap.

As for the story, once again it’s a case of set it up and then let the bloodbath begin.

And so it starts with young Sam Lawton (Nicholas D’Agosto) on a tour bus to a company retreat when he has a startling vision of a bridge collapse with each of his friends meeting gruesome Wile E. Coyote–like deaths. 

Snapping out of his nightmarish reverie, Sam herds his friends and whoever will listen off the bus only to see it consumed in a collapse matching his vision.

Unfortunately, D’Agosto loosely anchors the movie in a wan and passive manner. His roots are in TV, and he appears lost on the big screen, although screenwriter Eric Heisserer’s alarmingly inept ear for dialogue doesn’t help matters much.

Miles Fisher plays the company’s ethically challenged alpha male, a role by which he oddly channels Tom Cruise, delivering a hackneyed performance as he struggles with a character arc that barely makes sense. Veteran actor Courtney B. Vance acquits himself well in a limited role as a cop, and David Koechner, as the typically clueless office manager, gets a few hardy laughs.

But, per usual, “Final Destination 5” only becomes watchable when people are perishing, in ways so outlandish that they border on self-parody. There are at least as many laughs as there are scares, such as when one poor victim has his face caved in by a stone Buddha, or when a gymnast fumbles on a difficult dismount, landing like a pretzel.

It’s a hoot, if you can stomach it. The concept for the original “Final Destination” back in 2000 was a sound one — for the cheap thriller that it was. To stretch it to a five-picture franchise is, you’ll pardon the pun, overkill. It has over the years become nothing more than a celebration of graphic gore and pain meant to elicit chills and laughter.