Giddily gruesome and perversely entertaining, Final Destination 3
proves, yet again, that horror franchises will thrive as long as teenagers keep finding spectacular ways to die. A stand-alone sequel to the first two Final Destination
thrillers, this one begins when a group of seven high-school graduates luckily escape from a deadly roller-coaster disaster, only to discover that their own deaths have been only temporarily avoided. Cute brunette Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) spots clues of impending doom in digital photos of her soon-to-be-expiring classmates, and an ill wind follows her everywhere, suggesting the presence of a supernatural force that makes her a catalyst for gory events, as each of her friends is dispatched in the order they were meant to die. Returning to give their brainchild a suspenseful, low-budget makeover, franchise creators and former X-Files
writers James Wong and Glen Morgan cleverly play on our collective fears (the roller coaster sequence is genuinely terrifying) with a knowing nod to violent urban legends, which explains their inclusion of the '70s hit "Love Roller Coaster" on the soundtrack when two stuck-up girlfriends pay an ill-fated visit to a tanning parlor. And that's just for starters: With Wong as director, FD3 serves up its grisly deaths with tight pacing and humor, and the cathartic carnage is discreetly edited yet gory enough to satisfy hardcore horror buffs. When morbid mayhem is this much fun, it's a safe bet that another sequel is just around the corner. --Jeff Shannon
On the DVD
As befits a horror franchise heavily invested in the idea of "fate," the Final Destination 3 disc carries a "Choose Their Fate" option. In other words, you can watch the movie with occasional choices offered; click on one of two alternatives, and see that version play out. This won't give you the power to let one character live or die; it's more like deciding whether somebody honks her horn twice in a scene, calls heads or tails on a coin flip, or pushes the thermostat to 72 degrees or 76. Not exactly life-changing, but it's kind of fun.
The bonus disc includes a 90-minute "making of" feature called Kill Shot, which covers the production of the movie in exhausting detail (honest detail, too: filmmakers James Wong and Glen Morgan are funny and blunt about the business they're in, including a section on how the original ending was scrapped in favor of a bloodier finale). It's everything you'd want to know about this movie--but who needs to know this much? A 7-minute cartoon, "It's All Around You," is an amusing meditation on bad luck and laws of probability, while a 25-minute featurette called Dead Teenager Movie spins off from Roger Ebert's theory about the rigid formula of a certain kind of horror film (Ebert weighs in on the subject himself). A few experts opine on the traditions of teenagers dying in horror films; some of them don't seem to be aware that the formula pre-dated the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Audio commentaries, special effects sidebars, and trailers fill out this needlessly authoritative disc. --Robert Horton