Rube Goldberg Endings

Even though all of the Little Fivers are currently on hiatus, I am the moderator of the Top Five Horror list. Before it went on vacation, I had a lot of fun with this list, and hope to have fun again once we resume.

One of the topics I came up with last year, was Signs It’s Time to Retire the Final Destination Series.

For those who don’t know or aren’t familiar with the original movie Final Destination, I thought it was a fascinating twist on the “teenage slasher” genre of horror movies. It starts with a high school class getting on an airplane for a class trip to Paris. Once they board the plane, one of the kids on the plane has a premonition that the plane would blow up mid-air and he starts to panic. That kid, and several others get off the plane before it takes off.

The plane then takes off and blows up exactly as the premonition demonstrated. After that, death itself comes after all of the people who had gotten off. What makes this fun, is that each death occurs as a function of a series of rube goldberg style machinations that, at least in theory, could actually happen as a consequence of random chance and are at least partially the fault of the individual victims.

The sense of palpable fear as the premonition takes place make it a remarkable feat for filmmaking. And the movie was apparently popular enough to warrant a total of four sequels, each of which begins with someone having a premonition of disaster and takes action to save him- or herself and some people who would have died in the disaster. When Final Destination 5 came out last year, I figured it was time to do that horror list I mentioned above. Truth be told, though, I hadn’t seen the movie until last night, when I watched it after having DVR’ed it a couple of weeks ago.

I have to give the movie a degree of credit. With each of the previous movies, you could tell who was going to be next to die, even though it wasn’t necessarily clear exactly what the cause of death was going to be.

The individual death scenes in this movie are the cinematic equivalent of a garden path sentence. You know who’s going to die and they plant certain “gimmes” within the scene that could somehow contribute to the death, and then kill the character off in a way you still don’t expect.

Prime example: one of the guys goes into a massage parlor and gets a bunch of needles placed in him as a form of acupressure. The table he’s on collapses and some of the needles get pushed too far into his body and, in the process, he gets covered in massage oil. Then some candles fall over and you’re expecting him to be burned to death by the candle flames coming in contact with his oiled skin. Nope. He gets far enough away from the flames by backing into a wall, dislodging a buddha statue on a shelf, which falls down on his head, killing him instantly.

I guess a movie series like this kind of has to do things like that in order to maintain a degree of freshness, even if the opening sequences concern scenarios that are less and less likely to occur. (In order as the five movies presented themselves: plane crash, massive pile-up on a highway, freak roller coaster accident, massive crash at an auto race, and, finally (?) collapse of a suspension bridge.

And I’ve got to admit, the way the movie actually ended was something I truly didn’t see coming. I thought it was a brilliant ending; the fifth movie may actually be the best movie since the original.

It had some truly disgusting scenes in it (especially for someone like me who’s a bit squeamish about things to do with people’s eyes…) But it really was a much better sequel than most “fifth installments” might otherwise be. Especially for what’s essentially a slasher movie.

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