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Is Final Destination 5 the best sequel ever made?

The Final Destination franchise - where every film starts with someone having a premonition, a bunch of teenagers escape death, but then death catches up and kills them in elaborate ways - has always sat on my "yeah I like it, but don't fangirl for it" film list.

I've always loved the concept of the films - that death has a design and no one can cheat it - and the kills are always brilliantly creative (if unlikely), but the annoying teenage characters grated on me. And, unlike many franchises, there wasn't a consistent final girl to root for or a villain to hate. What all the films have in common is the idea and concept, rather than a character, location, or backstory.

Currently, James A Janisse of Dead Meat YouTube fame (who is one of my favourite creators and every horror fan should be following him) is covering the Final Destination franchise on his Kill Count series. So far he has covered films 1-4, all of which I have seen and I pleasantly enjoyed James's snarky commentary. So in preparation for him covering Final Destination 5 next week, I decided to pop it on Netflix for some Friday night wild times. 

Since the fourth film, The Final Destination, was a hot piece of garbage (and just the low-standards that tend to plague sequels in general, let alone the 5th instalment) I went in there with really low expectations. 

But instead, 

I found, 


the world's 

greatest film sequel, 


I'm going to warn you now, that this blog post is not a review but instead a mind-dump of OHMYGODHOWFUCKINGCOOLWASTHAT? There's a massive twist at the end, which is foreshadowed throughout but I still didn't see it coming, and I will be revealing it in a few sentences. 

So, like, go watch it first and then come back and squee with me in the comments. 

You also need to very familiar with the franchise to appreciate the twist when it comes.

But those of you who know what happens, let's hyperventilate over everything Final Destination. 

Are your eyes away now?

The outdated cultural references felt out of place but I put it down to poor scriptwriting. Even when they talked about moving to Paris the whole fucking movie I didn't make the connection with the first film. When they got on the plane my initial reaction was "why are they doing a plane scene again? You did that in the first fucking film. Have we ran out of elaborate death ideas?". 

It wasn't until I saw Kerr Smith being dragged off the plane by security that I was like HOLY FUCKING BATMAN THIS WAS A PREQUEL THE ENTIRE TIME AND THEY ARE GOING TO FUCKING DIE ON THE PLANE CRASH FROM THE FIRST FILM. 

It hit me like a bus. 

LOL. I make myself laugh (if no one else).

The only clue in the film that really stood out to me, but I ultimately put it down to a scriptwriting choice, was that they never made reference to the other films. In the other sequels, the teenagers received guidance from news stories and commentary about Flight 180 - and in the second film, they even sought the consult of a survivor. As noticeable as this was to me, I just got annoyed about it rather than making the connection that this film was set before the events of the first film. My internal dialogue was wondering why the characters weren't Googling their way out of this situation - but duh: smartphones weren't a thing circa the millennium and most homes still had dial-up.

The only advice they received was from the Coronor who randomly walks up to them at a funeral.

The filmmakers also created a nice balance between sneaking in a few nods to early 00s culture and technology, while not going so overboard that you immediately realise that this film is set in the past. There was a flip cell phone at one point (which I didn't notice), and there was a Lisa Lobe reference (which I did notice, and was like "wasn't that the chick who had one big song in the 90s then...nothing" I was nine when the millennium passed, so I wasn't super culturally-aware yet).

But there was something about the decision to return to the first film that stood out to me culturally, but only after I realised what was happening. Both films are set in 2000, but the second film was actually released in 2009. And between 2000 and 2009, the world witnessed 9/11 which had a big impact on the entertainment industry.

The first Final Destination film is painfully pre-9/11. To clarify, the first Final Destination film, where an aeroplane blows up, was released 18 months prior to 9/11 - which is uncomfortably close. If someone who is old enough to remember 9/11 watches Final Destination, without knowing its release date and storyline, they might find it a bit jarring as clothing, actors, and technology give away that its an early 00s film and was culturally in the same time frame as 9/11.

Final Destination 3 did come under fire for referencing 9/11 in a photograph.

(We also know, that these days, someone screaming "the plane will crash" will probably be shot straight in the chest, even in films.).

But because 9/11 is too powerful an event to ignore, filmmakers tend to stay clear of blowing planes up. That's why the return to the first film took me a little by surprise. The first film was made in a pre-9/11 world, while the last was made in a post-9/11 world (even if it was set at the turn of the millennium). But they looped it right back. Don't get me wrong, I'm not offended by it and I don't think we should ban film producers from using planes as plot devices, but it was a reason why the decision stood out to me. 

However, it wasn't just the twist at the end that made Final Destination 5 such a great sequel.

Firstly, the opening sequence. Most of the opening premonitions in the Final Destination franchise play on our biggest fears: flying, car crashes, and rollercoasters (but weirdly the fourth film went for a race track blowing up?). The final film goes for a bridge falling apart. Now, I don't know about you, but bridges have always made me feel uneasy. I'm not afraid of them to the point where I'll plan my entire journey to avoid them. But when I'm on one, I am consciously aware of how far off the ground (or water) I am. That's why this opening sequence unnerved me more than the others.

Secondly, the characters are fleshed out. As mentioned at the start, the Final Destination films throw stereotypical teenagers together, then concentrates on creating gory deaths. That's cool. But it's also the reason I don't think I've ever been a massive fan. They spend a lot more time on character development in this film, where the characters all know each other already (through work). Especially Peter, who develops trauma off the back of his near-death experience where he then has to discover that death will catch up with him anyway! Once upon a time, we showed trauma survivors to be "strong" and ready to prove everyone wrong, but it's becoming more common to show characters with PTSD symptoms.

Then there was the extra mythology. Since these young adults, are (chronologically) the first people to cheat death in the franchise, they don't have previous experiences to rely on. So the writers had some fun with the advice given by the coroner. The new tweak to the formula? If you kill someone else you can take their place within the living, as death will accept their life instead. This is questionably not correct as Peter does take the detective's life and then Sam takes Peter's life - but Sam and Molly still die? But it was still an interesting take on how death works and adds an extra philosophical question to the theory of death's design.

Then finally: the elaborate deaths. Now, this has always been something that the Final Destination franchise has done well. But what I really liked about the deaths in Final Destination 5 is that they were in, some ways, more believable. I, for one, am creeped out by the concept of laser eye surgery (or things coming near my eye, full stop) so a death scene involving a burnt eye got right under my skin. Then there was a gymnastic routine gone wrong (though, I did burst out laughing) and there was a straight-up murder. Then the eventual plane crash that killed Sam and Molly wasn't overly far-fetched either (previous instalments have had people flattened by signs and bathtubs falling through ceilings). It taps into real fears, albeit in an elaborate way.

And oh, the final scene of Final Destination 5 is in sync with the plane crash from the first film:

Final Destination 5 wrapped up the franchise nicely, and I hope it gets left alone. A reboot in another decade could work. As would a tv, stage, or graphic novel adaption. But this timeline of events is one that has nicely tied up loose ends and it would be great to see it left the way it is. 
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Fringe Favourites: Cruel Intentions the 90s Musical

Cruel Intentions
© The Other Richard

Love or hate it, nostalgia is big right now. Film directors, theatre companies, games producers, and record labels are cashing in on our desire to relive decades gone by. And why not? It's a widely known part of the human experience that we hold the biggest place in our hearts for the pop culture of our childhood and teenage years. I can't name a single Billie Ellish song (but I know who she is, I'm not that out of touch) but ask me to recite every song from Green Day's American Idiot album and I'm your girl.

So obviously the Edinburgh Fringe is chock full of acts attempting to tap into everyone's inner teenager. But the performance that is shouting the loudest (if posters could shout) is the musical adaption of Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions is a bit of a random film to adapt. I was just short of being a teenager in 1999, and while the film did perform well, it didn't have the same pop culture influence that Clueless or Mean Girls did. And as much as Sarah Michelle Geller was in her prime in the late 90s, these days we never really see her (see this YouTube video for a quick analysis as to why). Despite being a film I've always enjoyed, it doesn't stand out as one of the big ones. 

But the producers were smart and decided to tap into the audience's nostalgia for all things the 90s. In addition to bringing the story and dialogue to the stage, they sprinkled some of the most recognisable pop songs from the 90s into the script. We're talking Britney Spears, N*SYNC, TLC, Goo Goo Dolls, Natalie Imbruglia and the Dawson's Creek soundtrack. And they made reference to AOL Chat and other 90s peculiarities. 

Before I went into the theatre, I knew that this formula had the potential to really work...or fall flat on its face. 

Thankfully, it really worked. 

The singing from every cast member was on-point, Rebecca Gilhooley perfectly impersonated Sarah Michelle Geller's accent, Sophie Isaacs physically resembles Reese Whitherspoon, and a special shout out to Evelyn Hoskins for nailing the cringier scenes in her over-the-top take on the naive Cecile.

The musical adaptation also stays true to the original film but does soldier through it at a very quick pace (there's no interval). And as you would expect from any musical adaption, it is much campier than the original film (which wasn't very campy at all).

They performed the musical adaption in a pop-up marquee in George Square Gardens, which did mean they were limited by their performance space. Throughout the performance, they kept the same set that consisted of two chaise lounge-style benches (which wouldn't have looked out of place in the original film). A great set is difficult to acquire if you're limited by cost or space. And sometimes stretching a production budget to create visual set changes can make the audience painfully aware of how little budget you have (or at least it can for me). But the decision to make just one setup work for the entire show simplified the performance and meant the audiences' focus was on the story.

Saying that, if this musical gains traction (which I think it will) I would love to see what they could do with a proper stage set up and team. But I'm thankful the kept it simple at this stage.

Was it a high-brow Shakespearean play? Absolutely not. Was it fun? Hell yes. If fun pop songs make you break out in a rant about manufactured bands who don't write their own songs, then Cruel Intentions The 90s Musical is not for you. And if you didn't live through the 90s (did you know that people born in 2000 can now legally drink alcohol? Mental) then some of the references might be lost on you. 

But if you like the original film and still boogie in your room to the Backstreet Boys, then Cruel Intentions The 90s Musical comes highly recommended. 
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