Saturday, August 13, 2011

Final Destination 5

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (O) Roger Ebert (2 stars) Fr Dennis (for those who like this kind of movie 3 stars, for those who don’t please don’t go).

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Final Destination 5 (directed by Steven Quayle, written by Eric Heisserer and Jeffrey Reddick) is a movie that is DEFINITELY _not_ for everybody (understatement of the year (nervous ;-).  Parents: The movie _definitely_ deserves its R-rating and I can’t imagine why any parent would even want to take a pre-teen to such a “in one’s face” (and I’m not kidding, remember this is 3D) _again and again_ exquisitely filmed slash and gore fest.  I’d also add that anybody _with a heart condition_ ought to avoid the film, especially the 3D version.  And to anyone who is somewhat pressured to go see the film, honestly remember, _it’s okay_ to “close your eyes” at times (I learned this trick a number of years ago, when I was going with our parish youth group to the Six Flags / Great America amusement park.  I found that if one just closes one’s eyes, one could basically ride every roller-coaster no matter how frightening it would otherwise seem to be ;-).

That said, I’ve been around teens and young adults (and _I was_ a teen / young adult) long enough to know that movies like this are magnets to both age groups.  In fact, it was one of my parish's college-aged young adults who first told me that this movie was coming and that, yes, she was definitely going to go see it when it opened.

Now why would that be?  Why would movies like this be so attractive to young people?  Well Stephen King explained in his book, the Danse Macabre, that a good horror story is one that “touches a nerve.”  That is, it takes a value of the audience – in this case youth and vitality – and inverts it.  So one gets gore and splat.  The actors and actresses in this film are all attractive.  This adds to the shock appeal of, for example, actress Ellen Wroe playing a young gymnast going through her routine.  Everyone knows what’s coming, just doesn’t know when.  And then in an intricate, seemingly utterly random sequence of disasters she hurls off the apparatus in a seemingly utterly random fashion, lands _not_ on her feet (even on her head) but in a previously inconceivable, but truly _worst possible position_ ...  and splat (OMG how was that even possible?) the character in the story is dead, instantly.  Now repeat the same idea played out in a kitchen of a swanky high end restaurant, at a LASER EYE CARE center, at an acupuncture clinic ... and ... you get the picture.  Beautiful young people, seemingly “with their whole lives ahead of them” die _one after another_ in utterly unexpected but intricately plotted ways and ... that's the appeal.  They're so young, so beautiful, so full of life, yet instantly ... so dead.  Thus the movie plays on some of one’s greatest fears: that one could find oneself dead in an instant and in a seemingly utterly unexpected way.  And is one _really_ that surprised that young people who flock to roller-coasters and various ‘fright fests’ and ‘haunted houses’ around Halloween time would flock to a movie like this?

So what’s the story?  (Is there a story? ;-).  Well there's sort of a story: A group from an office of a nondescript “small company” set out on a chartered bus to go on a two day “company retreat.”  While on their way to the retreat center, they are to cross a long suspension bridge.  There’s road work occurring on the bridge.  The bus stops.  Then, one of the people from the group, Sam Lawton (played by Nicolas D’Agosto) has a horrific premonition of the bridge collapsing.  The bridge collapse sequence is, of course, horrific and graphic.  As he is about to fall off the bridge, he wakes up, _realizing that it was a dream_.  But as he wakes up, he realizes that things are happening _exactly_ like in the dream/vision that he just experienced.  So he freaks out and drags his girlfriend, Molly Harper (played by Emma Bell), off the stopped bus.  Six other confused passengers follow – junior exec Peter Freidkin (played by Miles Fisher), intern/college gymnast Candice Hooper (played by Ellen Wroe), hot secretary Olivia Castle (played by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood), creepy I.T. guy Isaac (played by P.J. Byrne), new-factory floor manager Nathan (played by Arlen Escarpeta) and department boss Dennis (played by David Koechner).  Because these eight got off the bus, they were able to “cheat death” and survive the Tacoma Narrows Bridge style collapse.

But Death does not like to be cheated.  So during the rest of the movie, Death moves in to take them all, one by one...

Is there any value to a movie like this?  Here I would like to note that the CNS/USCCB gave the movie an “O” or morally offensive rating because of the gore and because the reviewers there had an honest question about whether there’d be anything redeemable about a movie like this.  Well, if the movie does help to  remind young people that “death comes to all” and to pray for the dead –  for friends who died in teenage accidents (and teens do die that way) or for their loved ones who’ve died over the years -- then perhaps there would be a positive aspect to a story like this.  If it makes young people a bit _more careful_, not to take stupid chances, which young people often do, it’d have a positive value as well. 

So I don't see the movie as a total loss.  And I do know that a lot of the young people (even among the young people I know) are going to see this movie, whether they tell me or not.  Just folks remember that if you do see the movie, then do take the time to pray for the loved ones that you know who have died.  And remember to live life basically on the "straight and narrow" because _none of us knows_ when our lives will end, and when we’ll have to make an accounting for how we lived them to our God.

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