Oh, hey, I've got an idea! How 'bout a Roller Coaster this time?!
And now, here we have Numero Tres, which would pretty well fall into the same category. Again we have a group of teenagers put into mortal danger by a seemingly mundane occurrence, tragedy is again narrowly averted for a select few thanks to the visions of one of the teens, again they all die, one by one in the order in which they "should" have died and again the real tension is found in knowing what is going to happen, but not when or how. Because it's all about that green paper, naturally this one has to up the torrent of red liquid, pump up the gore effects and flash-flood the frights to keep those theatre seats filled with ass. Although James Wong and Glen Morgan are back (the second film proceeded without them), it's clear there was a lot of "suit" intervention here, as none of the subtlety and smart pacing of the first film managed to grace this one for us. But this film is packed with the gratuities that keep its fun themes from wearing thin, and while this might never be considered a great film or a classic, I had a great and creepy time, and will probably watch this stupid thing as many times as I have the second one... and that's an ass load.
It's coming close to High School graduation day, 2005, and sweet Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her friends are having that proverbial "gay old time" at an amusement park. When the gang decides to ride one Devil of a Roller Coaster, Wendy has that standard psychic vision of the fatal accident that will do her and her friends in faster than Notre Dame fans at an LSU home game. She freaks out, she gets off, a fight breaks out the accident happens anyway, death goes on to wrong that which once went right, and a blah-blah-blah, yackity schmackity! We've seen it, you've seen it, huzzah, and Semper Fi.
This time, however, instead of repetitive visions or a restructured seating chart, Wendy has a stack of Yearbook Photos that she took on the day of the accident, which give her hints about how each living goober is going to get smacked next. Apparently (like the legend of The Ring) the story of flight 180 is now so commonplace that survivor Kevin (Ryan Merriman) recognizes their predicament immediately, and Wendy soon becomes a text book expert on the subject. So encyclopedic is their knowledge as they warn friend by friend and attempt to intervene to thwart the plans of Death itself, that I was pretty curious as to whether they had stopped at their local BallBlocker Video store to rent the previous films in the series just before the first funeral.
Many (even most) might find this one to be a waste of time, especially as its been done before. However, there's a lot to like here. The cast is interesting to watch, especially as they appear to be a veritable who's who of small faces in varied horror flicks (and more). Notable in this distinction is the fact that Kris Lemche actually gets a large part in a flick for a change (don't recognize the name? You'll recognize the face!). Interestingly, Lemche's Ginger Snaps costar, Jesse Moss, also appears in a small, yet important role in Final Destination 3. Amanda Crew is pretty cool as Wendy's younger sister Julie, and Texas Battle brings us the standard angry bad-boy jock we've seen in each entry (and virtually every other horror film since I was a Teenage Werewolf). "Is Tony Todd in this one?", I can smell you ask. Aaaaaaah, that would be telling, now wouldn’t it. I'll say this... don't look with your eyes, listen with your ears!
Most memorable of the smaller roles are those of Ashlyn and Ashley. If you're wondering if the gratuity ante was upped in the "Nudity" category, you'll be happy to know that the answer is yes, and happier to know that that bid was placed by Crystal Lowe and Chelan Simmons respectively (and respectfully). Man, I tell you, the long scene during which these two doff their clothes, climb into tanning beds and bed-dance to "Love Rollercoaster" in the nude was worth the price of any admission ticket, and ended all too soon. Of course, noting that two beautiful girls confine themselves to a couple of tanning beds in a movie series in which mechanical failures are the fright of the moment pretty well gives away what their fate is... but in a movie series that takes a while to get to each hatchet-job, you'll most certainly enjoy the visuals accompanying the hold music in this one. I could've held longer, really.
The problems here are manifold and strangely they often overlap with the good things in Final Destination 3. In the first film Wong took his time and threw around more red herrings than Lew Zealand during every death scene, keeping the audience tense and on their toes, never knowing just how or when the fatal blow would come about. Here the wait seems less "paced" than "obligatory". The pauses seem forced, the red herrings aren't as convincing. We get it, we get it... everything within a five mile radius might kill one of them. While this one much more closely resembles Final Destination than Final Destination 2 in its formula (to the point that only a few name and place edits really separate it from the first film), this one far too often feels like it's more of a montage of cleverly thought up death scenes with the plot being a secondary afterthought. Which, of course, it is. The creativity here went into thinking up strange and utilitarian ways to ice teenagers, not into creating a new angle on the theme. With the very definition of "unfortunately" held aloft like a worn buckler, most of these victims you just don't care that much about, and in a case or two these characters are so stock that you actually are happy to see them leave the screen in a red mist. Ashlyn and Ashley are noteworthy exceptions, natch!
Make no mistake about it, however, for all its flaws, this is a great ride, and the time spent writhing in your seat as you wait to see who lives, who dies, and how both happen is worth any horror fan's time. Sure, this is going to appeal only to fans, and sure many non-fans are going to hate it. Personally, I love this movie... but I'm realistic enough to know that it's not "good". Quality and Favoritism aren't usually bedfellows at all, which leads me to the Two and a Half Star out of Five, no, wait, make that Three Star rating for Final Destination 3. The title seems to make a little less sense with each entry, and we're getting to the point that the "double meaning" is as lost as the Arc of the Covenant. Ah, well. Enjoy the ride... it's a bumpy one, and even though you know the destination by now, sit tight and don't leave your seats until it's finally final! After all, in real life, roller coasters don't do a whole lot for the old I.Q., but you're grateful for the ride nonetheless. See you in the next reel, and I promise it won't be the final one... at least... I hope it won't. I'd better do a safety tour of this place one more time just to be safe. My new neighbor sure looks a lot like Tony Todd!
Hey, Chelan and Crystal, can you introduce me to your four friends?
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