Junkfood Cinema: Final Destination 3

By  · Published on August 12th, 2011

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; fatter than Jesus. This is the weekly column that celebrates the myriad ways a film can fail. Every Friday I take you for a ride on the SchlockCoaster; careening through each of the movie’s wild faults. I then level things off and explain how I still love the film despite those faults. Then, after your confidence in my tastes plummets at thrilling speed, we exit the ride and I treat you to a gooey, sticky snack food that is sure to unsettle your stomach.

With today’s inexplicable release of yet another Final Destination movie, I believe it’s called FIVEnal Destination Goes West, I thought it would be fun to look back at the only entry in the franchise that I find enjoyable.

This week’s snack: Final Destination 3

What Makes It Bad?

Final Destination 3 is about, ummm, I don’t know, something about a rollercoaster? Actually, it’s about the exact same thing the first two films were about. I don’t want to say the Final Destination franchise is procedural but it is surprising that they weren’t all written by Stephen Bochco; NYPD Blue much? If one were so inclined, one could actually mathematically chart the plot of any given Final Destination film. Unfortunately for you, I am so inclined. I therefore see it as…


In this equation, “X” is a monumental catastrophe in which each and every one of our teen protagonists perish. But then, as a cruel joke played on the audience, it turns out to just be a vision (as represented by “f”). Said morons are still alive and well because, by virtue of one of them having witnessed the vision, they managed to avoid the catastrophe. But then a very miffed death (personified without ever actually showing up on the screen (which is impressive/dumb)) seeks to map out a series of overly-elaborate deaths, “Y,” to collect his intended quarry.

So basically the vision “f” informs the association between the catastrophe X and grizzly subsequent deaths Y. It all adds up to a movie you could set your watch to, if your watch was set to Eastern Hack Time and it was Lazy Script:30. And yes, I am aware of the irony of the overly elaborate mathematical explanation I use as I deride the film’s overly elaborate deaths.

What’s interesting about the ending of Final Destination 3 is that it repeats the exact same formula again which looks like this…

Eyeballs-Brains=EnjoymentAll The Money in Your Wallet

What you’ve just witnessed is my giving this series far, far too much credit. Every single Final Destination film is a loosely constructed Rubbermaid container in which to store a feast of carnage. The non-deathly events of the film and pretty much every single line of dialogue are about as relevant as making an NYPD Blue joke in a bad movie col – *distracting cough*. These films are essentially Rube Goldberg machines in which a series of absurd events fall into place exactly as they need to in order to ensure the spectacular demise of some poor dope. It’s a lot like playing Mousetrap with Charles Manson.

This single-mindedness is especially evident in the victims characters of Final Destination 3. It’s not so much that their atrocious dialogue isn’t genuine. Granted, every word that falls from the lips of these punks is like an auditory stab in the face, but I believe all of it. I can completely buy that kids like these exist, but that only serves to make me hate them more. The adorable Mary Elizabeth Winstead is wasted in this as the girl who sees portents of her friends’ deaths in her camera. Huh, she must have bought a Nikon Ripped Off Gimmicks From The Omen 3500. We also get Dreamy McCuteBoy, Token Black Overzealous Athlete, and a creepy kid who sounds exactly like Evil Ed from Fright Night. But the two worst examples of humanity are the ditsy duo of Ashley and Ashlyn. I’m going to repeat that: Ashley and Ashlyn. Why doesn’t Death have a grudge against this screenwriter?

Oh, and let’s talk about Death for a second. Better still, let’s talk to Death for a second. Death – oh excuse me – Dr. Steve Deathenburg, I wonder if you might consider retooling your methods just a bit. If it is so vital to you that your mega-huge disasters net you a high kill count, maybe stop going after groups of teens containing at least one goddamn clairvoyant! I know, I’m not sure why there are so many high school soothsayers out there either, but maybe that knowledge can help you target a different demographic. Maybe try and collect yourself a train full of old, Portuguese goat farmers or something because apparently pretty=physic in this part of the world.

Why I Love It!

More so than any other film in the franchise, Final Destination 3 is stripped of pretense and fully embraces its exploitative charm. This movie hates these kids as much as we do and revels in their murders. There is almost an overt acknowledgment of the unimportance of the fibrous tissue connecting death scene to death scene. While the victims characters flap their burger holes around her, the camera follows Winstead’s eyes from threatening setpiece to threatening setpiece as if echoing the bumblebee-like attention spans of the series’ core audience…namely me. It doesn’t take itself serious but actually does take the time to ensure the kills look good; as opposed to The Final Destination which apparently spent the entirety of its budget on burglars tools so it could break in and steal effects from The Asylum. What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, the kills!

Every death in Final Destination 3 is a symphony of annihilation. The roller coaster opening is, despite a CG misstep here and there, damned impressive. It’s not simply that a series of circumstances leads to the cars flying off the tracks and squashing the doomed riders. No, no. Within the span of about two minutes, we are treated to a dozen individual and wickedly creative deaths. I honestly didn’t think they would be able to top it, and then a truck engine diced apart the back of a skull, a pair of weights pancaked the head of a deeply disturbed jock, and a goth chick got thoroughly nailed. It was Lucio Fulci’s Wheel of Misfortune. And as much as the ending is a hack callback, the subway crash is phenomenal and filled to the bloody brim with some of the worst imaginable ways to go.

There are a host of great little nods to classic horror throughout Final Destination 3. It may seem like overly slick MTV teeny-bopper fright fest, because it is, but it knows to whom it needs to genuflect. There is a victim character named Lewis Romero; a tribute to George Romero and lesser known schlock peddler Herschell Gordon Lewis. Two of the victims characters call each other by the nicknames “Pip” and “Zip” which is an homage to Tod Browning’s Freaks. There are references to White Zombie, Vampyr, The (original) Haunting, and Haxan. Even if the dead-eyed teen audiences to whom this film mostly panders don’t have the first idea who any of these people are, these references still make me very happy.

Junkfood Pairing: Funnel Cake

A staple of any carnival, the funnel cake is a twisty, turny, but ultimately fluffy and sugary treat. The similarities to Final Destination 3 should be therefore self-evident. No matter the individual contours of your funnel cake, there is but one possible outcome: it’s going in my mouth. Wait, this got weird.

Take your heart medicine and read more Junkfood Cinema

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.