It’s easy to call Final Destination 3 a better sequel to Final Destination than installment number 2 was simply based on tone. Before anything had gone wrong, our main character, Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) was already looking around eerily at her surroundings. Director James Wong, the man who helmed the first of the franchise, returns for this one and brings with him the same dark tone that made the first film very enjoyable.
At this point in the franchise, you probably know what’s going to happen. After getting on a roller coaster, Wendy has a vision involving everyone on the ride dying. She manages to get many of the people off it before it departs, although get boyfriend ends up becoming one of the deceased that she predicted. Seemingly ruining her life, she decides to skip graduation, cut herself off from everyone except for her sister, Julie (Amanda Crew), and her boyfriend’s friend, Kevin (Ryan Merriman).
You know what comes next. Someone dies, someone else dies, the main characters find out, realize that the dead people were the ones who were supposed to be on the roller coaster, and soon come to the conclusion that they’re going to be dead soon as well. Death is angry that they ruined His plans, so the next logical course of action is to figure out how to ruin them again. Tangential references are made to the first couple of films (it provides an easy way for the characters to find out about the rules that we already have hard-wired into our brain), and everyone has to try to figure out a way to escape Death once and for all — if that’s actually possible.
This time around, all of the victims are teenagers. That’s also as close to the first film as the series has been so far. Round #2 gave us mostly adult characters, although they still acted like teens. Maybe the reason that teen slasher films are so popular is because teens are frequently stupid and annoying (in the movies), and seeing them get their just deserts is satisfying for an audience. This is especially true in this film, as some of the characters are really just asking for Death to come to their door and take them away.
Take, for instance, the two “popular” girls who decide to go for a quick tanning bed session before graduation. They go into the room without the help of the manager, disobey the “no drinks in the room” order and also turn up the temperature even after one of them states that it might be low to keep the machines running properly. They’re practically begging to be roasted. The same holds true for some of the other characters. They either don’t know or don’t believe that Death is after them, and to prove how cool they are, they act as stupidly as possible. We want to see them die.
There needs to be a gimmick as well, so Final Destination 3‘s idea is to make the pictures that Wendy took at the theme park manage to be clues regarding how death is going to kill them. If there are scissors in the picture she took of someone, they’re probably going to be sliced up in one way or another. They think that this will allow them to save the soon-to-be-victims, and because Death apparently allows people to be skipped if someone intervenes in his plans (again), they’ll be able to stop everyone from dying. Maybe using teens is a good idea just because they have a lot of optimism.
The main point of this series is still to just have gruesome, complicated and unrealistic death sequences that the newspaper will call “tragic accidents.” We get enough of those to keep us entertained. If you liked the previous films, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well simply because it’s more of the same. If you don’t like watching random teenagers die in bloody and horrific ways, then this won’t be a film to change your mind.
With that said, this isn’t the pinnacle of the series so far. What made the first film so good was the way that it made every little action seem like it could trigger a character’s death. This one sets the deaths up in such an elaborate way that it’s very easy to tell exactly when and how the character will die. There’s no tension and it doesn’t seem like the character has any control. Maybe that’s the point — and one character is described as being a “control freak” — but this doesn’t help the film scare or excite audiences. This is more about the kills than the buildup, a departure from what made the first film a real winner.
I have to wonder, however, what happened to the survivors of the last film. Did Death finally come for them? Did they wind up in an asylum? Or did the actors not want to come back for a sequel? I guess we’ll never know, but if the ending of this film is to be believed, I think I have a pretty good idea. This is probably the first ending in the series that I actually enjoyed, largely because it didn’t cheat like the others kind of, or mostly, did.
To be short: This is a better film than Final Destination 2, but not as good as the first one. It sets a better tone than #2, but doesn’t give us as many genuine thrills as Final Destination did. It’s fun, and it gives us enough elaborate executions to be worth your time. If you liked the first two films, this is more of the same. If you didn’t, then this isn’t a movie for you. That’s about as simple as it is at this point.