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Saturday, August 20, 2011

(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, dated 20 August, 2011)

So, we know what happens in a Final Destination movie now – a gruesome premonition, a narrow escape, followed by gory deaths. Though it’s debatable whether being killed by a spanner shooting through your skull is preferable to having your skin seared off by tar before you plop into a river.
The latest in the series, Final Destination 5, starts off like a teen comedy. And then, of course, the movie does a 180-degree-turn. You’ve got the cheesy dialogues, the cheesier face-offs, and the cheesiest graphics – screams (Ooooh! A fire’s broken out!), sizzles (Owwww! My skin’s bubbling over!) and splat (‘Okay, now I’m oozing my body fluids on the windshield of a car. Does the guy have insurance? Oh, hi, God. Or are you Death? Or am I being racist?’)
It’s the kind of movie you should definitely watch if you’re into grisly deaths – you know, the kind where someone gets impaled, falls a few feet, and then gets strangled by his own intestines which have got stuck on a hook in the middle of nowhere.
What makes it worth the while is that the intestines will look like I.V. tubes, and the imaging is a call-back to the sixties. Every time someone squirts out a jet of blood, it’s like someone else popped a few cans of tomato juice. I found myself reminiscing about Hot Shots several times during the movie, especially when the sequences got video-game like.
The funny parts are funny. The actors time their lines well, the humour is subtle, and the comic relief is a great foil to the kitsch of the sinister parts. And in a movie that feeds on clichés, the ominous signs do send a couple of shivers down one’s spine.
The hilarity of the movie isn’t restricted to the asides, though. Blame it on my addiction to cartoons, but there’s something about an eyeball popping out that makes one laugh.
And then, there are the quotable quotes. The build-up of music, the montage, the confrontation, and the pronouncement – “You changed things on that bridge. It’s a wrinkle in reality, and that wrinkle is you.” The widening of eyes, the deer-in-headlights expression, the deep breath, the confession of what really happened, and the outburst – “Whaa...? You saved your girlfriend, not mine? Dude, what the hell were you thinking?” Oopsie!
The movie lasts only an hour and a half, most of which you spend ducking severed limbs, cruel spikes, and buckets of mortar.
The cast is well-chosen. The main character Sam Lawton, played by Nicholas D’Agosto (whom I last recall as the teenager puking out his insides on House M.D. six seasons ago), is gullible and gallant. His lady love Molly Harper (Emma Bell) is the selfless Swan Princess. P.J. Byrne as the pervert Isaac Palmer is as creepy as he was in The Mentalist. The rest of the cast is as nondescript as need be. Miles Fisher, whose spoof of Tom Cruise in Superhero Movie went viral, is the only one whose character can offer a three-dimensional performance, and he doesn’t disappoint.
You know a movie of this kind has served its purpose when you’re still queasy half an hour later. You pull out of the car park, paranoid that a gust of wind will throw the security guard on your windshield wiper. You’re scared a branch will swoop down on a scooterist, who will crash, sending a shard of glass from his rearview mirror into your throat. As you doze off, you ponder the likelihood of a short circuit in the AC starting a fire, which will fling you on to your dresser, where your hairpins will poke your eyes out.
So, go with your friends, your college mates, your colleagues, and that old cliché – a girl you’re trying to get cosy with. But be warned that if she’s the twitchy sort, you just may get hot tea splashed on your lap, or an elbow in your arm.
If you know nothing about the movie, and have watched all the others in the series, keep your eyes on the screen – the penultimate scene will be a stunner. All I’ll say for now is that the movie is deceptively titled, and this time round, Death may cheat you.


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