Dead Funny

If you are the type of person who enjoys seeing an attractive naked woman meet a hideous demise, there’s a scene in Final Destination 3 that will wear out the pause and rewind buttons on your DVD remote in a few months.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Final Destination movies always kick off with a premonition of doom, followed by a group of people — usually young and beautiful — managing to escape the carnage before it happens. But then they find out that fate is attempting to set right the universe by arranging terrible “accidents” for each of the escapees. It’s like Donnie Darko without plot or character development. Instead, the emphasis is on gruesome, chain-of-consequences deaths extrapolated from the playbooks of Rube Goldberg and Wile E. Coyote.

The first Final Destination, which marked a transition to the big screen for X-Files producers Glen Morgan and James Wong, took an absurd premise entirely too seriously. The sequel, handed off to director David R. Ellis, put the focus on the death scenes without bothering too much with the ridiculous logistics of the concept. (There’s some rule about ways that death can skip the order intended, but who cares?) Now Morgan and Wong are back, and they’ve learned from Ellis how to have fun with their own idea. From their work on The One and Willard (a horror remake that’s better than the original), they’ve also learned how to shoot a movie.

Our victims this time are a group of high school seniors about to graduate, celebrating at an amusement park where the central attraction is a roller coaster called “Devil’s Flight.”

The coaster itself, a cinematic contraption created by filming different megacoasters in Canada and California and splicing in footage from sets built on soundstages, is where the big accident happens. Fortunately (for the time being, anyway), yearbook photographer Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) sees the whole thing before it happens, makes a scene and takes some remarkably prescient digital photos. The ride crashes, people die and then the invisible force of fate — which, we’re told, feels like the opposite of being with your boyfriend — comes for the survivors.

There’s been an annoying trend in high school movies and TV shows, spearheaded by Joss Whedon, of having teens converse in impossibly cool, snappy dialogue that feels nothing like the way real teenagers — or any other human beings — actually talk. Morgan and Wong go amusingly against the grain here, having their high-schoolers deliver lines that are utterly moronic. “I so feel this is so my fault,” opines womanizer-in-training Frankie Cheeks (Sam Easton) at the funeral of Ashley and Ashlyn, whereupon he proceeds to try to kiss a distraught Wendy. Token black guy Lewis (the awesomely named Texas Battle) has a different take on the service: “Yo, man, these things really suck, man.” It’s clearer than ever before that these films are comedies. Granted, they’re the sick kind of comedy that involves laughing at stupid people being ripped in half, but we know there are plenty of you out there.

Categories: Movies