There's a lack of pretense to the Final Destination films that makes them unique among horror franchises. Unconcerned with justifying their kills through philosophy or with overburdening their characters with heavy mythologies and backstories, they offer the kind of fun, fast and surprisingly smart mayhem that hasn't been seen in mainstream horror movies since the original Scream trilogy. But then when Death itself is the killer, bullshit tends to go out the window fast. That's one of the things that makes Final Destination 5 remarkable – even for a Final Destination movie it's lean.
FD5 opens with a rousing credits sequence in which potential instruments of death are hurled at the viewer through panes of glass. (Unlike the previous film in the saga, the lackluster The Final Destination, this installment was shot with the latest in 3D camera technology, and it shows from the get-go with razor-sharp image clarity and a bold depth of field.) We're then given a breezy scene establishing the film's characters. This time around we're following a group of young office workers and their boss (played by Anchorman's David Koechner) as they prepare for a work retreat. Peter (Miles Fisher) is the overachiever; Candice (Ellen Wroe), his gymnast girlfriend (and intern); Olivia (Jacqueline MacIness Wood), the looker who's forced to wear glasses; Nathan (Arlen Escarpeta), the plant supervisor resented by his older, less educated employees; Isaac (P.J. Byrne), the unctuous ass-kisser; Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto), the moonlighting chef torn between his girlfriend and his dream of studying in Europe; and Molly (Frozen & The Walking Dead's Emma Bell), Sam's girlfriend, who's having doubts about their relationship.
Like all FD films, this one jump-starts with a vision of mass carnage, in which Sam sees his coworkers perish one by one in a suspension bridge collapse that outdoes its predecessors in spectacle and visual wit. Director Steven Quale (James Cameron's second unit director on Titanic and Avatar, here making his feature-film debut at the helm) immediately displays a confident, can-you-top-this bravado with this, the film's centerpiece. Bodies bounce to their destruction, suspension cables are transformed into guillotine blades, and a bucket of hot tar is put to gruesomely gooey good use. Before the vision can become reality, Sam leads his colleagues to safety; though, when the bridge collapses, eighty or so people are killed. It isn't long before our heroes start getting picked off by the Grim Reaper; and, yup, they discover – with the help of coroner Bludworth (Tony Todd, returning to the role after sitting out the previous film) – that they're shuffling off their mortal coils in the order in which they died in Sam's vision.
As usual, most of the fun depends on surprise. So I won't spoil things here. But rest assured that the quality (if not the quantity) of the bridge kills is maintained throughout the film. Each of them is cleverly set up and each succeeds in gleefully subverting expectations before death is dispensed (chances are you'll never want acupuncture or laser eye surgery after seeing this movie). There are even a couple of new elements added to the formula. We learn that a victim's death can be prevented if they kill someone else, and so "win" that person's life. And a surprise ending offers a both a satisfying twist and poetic justice. Even the film's central romance doesn't annoy, and gets only as much screen time as necessary. Kudos must also go to the closing credits – which again take advantage of the 3D to give you some bonus gore.
Are there any problems? Sure, some of the acting, and at times the script, falls a little flat. For example, a subplot involving a detective (played by Courtney B. Vance) investigating the deaths ultimately proves kind of pointless. But complaining about such things is like critiquing the paint job on a world-class rollercoaster. FD5 is, surprisingly, the biggest, the bloodiest, the funniest and the best of the Final Destination films.