Sometimes after two tragic events occur simultaneously, we find ourselves anxiously, though not hopefully, awaiting a third accident to corroborate the old saying, "bad things happen in threes." Suddenly we're paying more attention to the news, weighing the seriousness of each disaster in order to qualify it as the completing incident. Likely, that last piece of the triumvirate is less significant than the previous two, and it would barely register if not for our seeking it out, but it is put into the group not so much to conclude any real linkage but to fill a void that exists only in our mind's determination to associate.
Final Destination 3, a horror sequel concerned with the overzealous search for clues and connections, correlates with this idea on many levels. As a forced, unnecessary addition to the series, it lacks a satisfying relationship to its predecessors while simply rehashing the original's plot with an exaggeration of its ideas. It exists merely to fulfill a demand for trilogy.
The Final Destination movies each begin with a premonition. In the first, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) foresees Flight 180, on which he's aboard, explode in mid-air. Part 2 has Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) witness her own death, among those of many others' in an awful highway pile-up. In the third, it is a roller coaster that features in the prophecy, as Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) watches herself fall to the ground from atop the ride. In accordance with the series, seven people avoid the initial peril thanks to the premonition, but one by one they quickly meet new fates, as if Death has some grand design that needs to be adhered to.
When the first Final Destination arrived in theaters, scary movies were at a conventional dead end. Ghost stories and slasher films constituted most of the genre's mainstream output while parodies of parodies of the horror brand were getting their own sequels. There has always been a very disposable attitude given towards horror; films can follow a basic outline of clichés as long as they deliver enough frights before the lights go up, and the experience can be left behind with the empty bags of popcorn.
Sure, some scary movies are chilling enough to later provoke nightmares, but for the most part they work as an escape from the fear of death, as a concentration on the demise of other people, people who probably deserve to die. They consist of seemingly impossible situations that tap into the paranormal, the most extreme examples of mental illness, or both, and the victims are typically portrayed with little common sense or intelligence, allowing for the audience to feel superior to the kinds of people fated to die in these circumstances. There is usually nothing for the audience to relate to.
Final Destination, though, reminds us of our mortality. Avoiding the use of a defined killer, the movie eliminates characters with accidents, causes that are undeniably possible in our everyday life. Because of its plausibility, albeit improbable, the fright hits us closer than normal. I can recall for days after my first exposure to the film being more conscious of every simple threat in my vicinity. I handled knives more carefully, paid better attention to traffic when crossing the street, and even held tightly onto the towel rack of the shower door to avoid slipping in the bathtub. It is the rare horror movie that makes you think, but Final Destination contains ideas, not just scares. If you think about it, the plot would even work just as well as a thoughtful drama. A slight change in tone — more of the crying (of which there is already much) and less of the gore — and we'd have a real tearjerker.
Though it continues the mortal awareness central to the original, Final Destination 2 takes itself much less seriously, instead going for the gold on the gore. The deaths of each of the pile-up's survivors are like sick gags, each gruesome fate more shockingly graphic and creative than the last. It is less notable for its ideas but is more remarkable for its familiarity with Rube Goldberg. Even the tying-in of the story to the original's is a brilliant acknowledgement of cause-effect.
Final Destination 3 is missing everything great about FD1 & FD2. There is no connection between the new characters and the old except that they exist in the same universe, and the news coverage of the previous films' events are available to research on that universe's internet. Therefore the story has a relative independence that makes it as disposable as any other horror film. The fact that it near-completely follows the same structure as the original, seeming like a bad remake substituting the coaster for the jumbo jet, only supports how useless the movie is.
Director James Wong, who also helmed the first film but took a break from the second, lazily depends on the audience's acceptance of familiarity and its current thirst for gross-out humor and horror, exploiting the carefully executed butchery from Part 2 by making the killings more explicit and disturbing, not more clever.
Another problem with the killings is that there's too much anticipation for them. Capitalizing on a rare phenomenon of coincidence involving photographs that offered hints to famous deaths, the script has Wendy in careful examination of pictures she took of the survivors the night of the coaster incident. The audience is allowed to see the images and is therefore permitted to predict what will be the end of each character. This is foreshadowing at its worst. It isn't even a shadow. It is more like fore-shoving it in your face. The death sequences even play out the most obvious scenario, but only as a fake-out teaser just before actually sealing the deal quickly and unimaginatively.
The use of the photos takes a lot of the edge off the movie, turning it into some kind of black comedy version of Nancy Drew, and it misses the point of the real-life phenomenon, where a picture is given its coincidental meaning after the fact. The idea of the pictures isn't even that effective because many real examples, such as an infamous photo of The Who drummer Keith Moon, were denied inclusion because the proper rights to them could not be acquired.
It is hard to tell what ruins Final Destination 3 (disqualifying the weak dialogue, uninspired performances and meaningless tacked-on ending) more; the photos, with their weakening of the film's bite, or the roller-coaster sequence. After the intensity of FD2's auto accident, a coaster is too simple, too pathetic. Besides, the rides work on the principal of being thrilling, and while one doesn't expect to die on one, one does expect something dangerous. Seeing a disaster involving a coaster should actually make riding one all the more exciting.
Supposedly the whole stunt was well planned, using the mixing of a real coaster, an in-studio partial coaster, and a computer generated coaster, with many mounted cameras from all angles hoping to capture all necessary coverage. Somehow in the editing of all that coverage, however, the sequence actually appears poorly thought out. In the end, the combination of the scene's taking place on a coaster and at night makes for an execution that is too fast, too tight and too dark.
All that can be said for the decision to use an amusement park ride is that it fits perfectly with such a swift, cheap thrill of a movie. It also brings the series back to where it started, and it doesn't exist in your mind after you get up from your seat.
Bad things may or may not come in threes, but for Final Destination 3, the truth is that bad things come with the number three, as in the third movie of a series.