If you’ve seen one Final Destination movie, you’ve seen them all. Actors drift in and out of the series, forever linking themselves to the mythology dreamed up a decade ago by screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick, but their on-screen fate remains as inevitable as death itself. The reaper is coming, and he doesn’t take no for an answer.
The franchise has long been sustained by a single idea – once Death has you in his sights, he keeps swinging until his scythe cuts you down. The hook that keeps fans coming back for more is the variety of ways, often absurdly elaborate, that characters are laid low. Final Destination 2 (2003) was most inventive in slicing and dicing its cast of doomed teenagers. Two subsequent installments – including this, the rumored finale – haven’t exactly raised the bar, but they have kept it at box-office height.
The Final Destination arrives with a gimmick – 3-D, the latest trend, used here to dubious effect. Production values are shockingly pedestrian, more befitting a TV movie-of-the-week than a major studio effort, which raises an obvious question: Why call attention to them by presenting them in three lackluster dimensions? It’s like tricking out a Ford Pinto.
Otherwise, the series’ lethal premise is intact, and as silly as ever. Screenwriter Eric Bress (The Butterfly Effect) keeps the carnage coming, snuffing out the survivors of a fiery car wreck with ludicrous precision. Give him credit: His sick sense of humor is evident throughout. At 82 minutes, the movie is barely feature-length, but that didn’t keep it from grossing more than $180 million worldwide during last fall’s theatrical run.
Has the franchise reached its own endgame? Producer Craig Perry has hinted as much, but I don’t believe it for a second. As long as there’s money to be made, and moviegoers willing to fork it over, the Final Destination series will be its own neverending story, bound for a next stop that won’t be its last.
EXTRAS include two alternate endings (exclusive to Blu-ray), a smattering of deleted scenes and Body Count, a behind-the-scenes featurette that boils each death down to its cinematic essence.
I’ve heard Jennifer's Body described as a cross between Evil Dead II and a John Hughes movie. That’s about right. If you want blood, you’ll get it. But screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) seem less interested in cheap scares than in something more substantive: exploring the purgatorial existence of teens caught between being kids and adults.
“Hell is a teenage girl,” we’re told, and witnessing the feud that estranges Jennifer (Megan Fox), a high-school alpha female, and Needy (Amanda Seyfried), the BFF who has lived in her shadow, it’s easy to believe. The story begins, not so innocently, at the local rock club, where a band from the big city is prowling for a virgin to sacrifice. Their deal with the devil seems to be sealed when Jennifer accepts a ride in their van, but complications arise. Rather than surrendering her soul to Beelzebub, she winds up a flesh-hungry banshee.
The violence in Jennifer’s Body is so over-the-top that it can’t be taken seriously, and I think that’s the point. This is a comedy at heart, and a sharp one. Even when self-indulgent – but more often when it’s not – Cody’s dialogue can be insightful, and Kusama frames her story stylishly, paying homage to genre classics like Carrie and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The movie knows its history and playfully tweaks it, but without seeming derivative or ironically detached.
Fox, whose acting has been overshadowed in Michael Bay’s Transformers movies by towering explosions and CGI bots, is a natural femme fatale perfectly cast as the high-school heartbreaker; she has a dismissive sneer that could bring boys of any age to their knees. Yet it’s Seyfried, convincingly pulling off the transition from mild-mannered innocent to Buffy-style demon slayer, who serves as Jennifer’s rapidly beating heart.
There is tragedy in Jennifer’s downfall, and in the bitter dissolution of her friendship with Needy. (Behind her bitchy snarl, Jennifer's still a kid, and her loss of innocence is a real waste, heartbreaking if you stop to think about it.) But there is uplift as well. Even in hell, the ending seems to suggest, the bad guys don’t always win.
EXTRAS: Available on DVD and Blu ray, the severely underrated Jennifer's Body allows viewers to choose between the theatrical version or an extended director's cut. Both feature commentary tracks by Kusama; Cody weighs in only on the theatrical edition. The two-disc Blu-ray set contains deleted scenes, a gag reel and video diaries from Fox, Seyfried, Cody, producer Dan Dubiecki and co-star Johnny Simmons.