February 16, 2006

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FILM: Final Destination 3 (R)
by Amy Diaz

Former X-Files writers Glen Morgan and James Wong sneak a bit of fun and cleverness into the cheap horror of Final Destination 3.

The Final Destination movies aren’t so much sequels as the same movie, made over and over with slightly different characters and settings. The one returning character seems to be Death, played by flickering lights and a sudden breeze. Death has menaced the cast of all three movies in the same way, sneaking up on them after they thought they’d escaped him and killing them in gruesome and, I guiltily admit, moderately entertaining ways.

The first Destination had teens cheating Death (and then him getting them back) when they just miss being killed in an airplane crash. The second Destination had our young victims dodging Death on the highway, only to catch up with him elsewhere. The third time around, Death’s a carnie — hanging out by the roller coaster waiting for the right mix of high school stereotypes to board. In each case, Death is thwarted initially by some youngster who has a vision of the gory end that awaits him or her and fellow travelers. Then Death goes back and kills the survivors in the original order in which they would have died, though with a lot more fanfare.

The vision-having buzz-kill this time around is Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She’s a control freak and slightly wigged by roller coasters anyway. But when she sits down on the Devil’s Whirligig (or some equally goofy amusement name), she gets a view of the grisly deaths of all the coaster’s riders, including her own. Naturally, she flips out and, along with six other riders, is kicked off the ride, which continues on its way until it derails and kills everyone left aboard.

Her boyfriend and best friend are killed and Wendy isn’t terribly close, so she initially believes, to the rest of the “survivors” with the exception of Kevin (Ryan Merriman), her best friend’s boyfriend — sort of a friend-in-law. It’s Kevin who goes on the Internet and finds the plots of the other two movies and explains to Wendy the everybody’s-going-to-die-anyway gimmick. Having thusly revived the Scully-and-Mulder dynamic which Wong and Morgan did so will with during their days on The X-Files, Kevin and Wendy join forces to attempt to warn the other survivors and hopefully prevent some of them from ending up in the suddenly crowded graveyard.

I didn’t expect much from Final Destination 3 other than that it would take about an hour and a half. It gave me the brevity I hoped for but also a much better time than I’d anticipated. Without actually being ironic in a Homer-Simpsons’s-Hell-is-an-eternity-of-donuts way, there is something gruesomely funny about each of the deaths. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the dialogue was good, it was certainly amusing. For a movie that has essentially been made for the third time now with the same title, there was an unexpected smartness and freshness that made Final Destination 3 more of a treat than a chore to sit through. Morgan and Wong know they’re making a Twinkie of a movie, but, admirably, that hasn’t stopped them from adding a frosting flourish and a marzipan rose on the top. B-

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