For as long as I can remember, the Final Destination series has been one of my favourites and has been a part of some of my most memorable film experiences growing up. It was always the perfect movie to put on at a sleepover that you knew you weren’t supposed to be watching with your friends. Gory, violent, fun but not too scary that the kid who hasn’t been exposed to such films will freak out. While we all can agree on which one is the worst (No. 4 I’m looking at you), there’s been a constant debate in the horror community and Final Destination fandom over which one is the best. I’ll always put respect on the original films’ name because you just can’t go wrong with that cast, third act and of course its iconic final scene. The fifth and final one as well was such a high note for the series, adding such a nice wrap up and full circle story that the fourth could never achieve. But if I’m being completely honest, it’s the third entry that steals the number one slot in my ranking and here’s why.
I was only eight years old when Final Destination 3 came to theatres. I vividly remember seeing the poster where a group of people are screaming on a roller coaster and some of their faces are fading into skulls every time my parents took us to the movies. Although most eight year olds don’t grow up watching slashers and horror films every weekend, I did. My mom, grandmother and aunts always showed me the classics and it was with them that I got to see all the new scary films once they came to DVD. You could say I was most definitely kept up to date with the newest hits in horror by a very young age but they never scared me. So it sucked that I would see this poster every time we went to the movies and I was never able to actually walk into the theatre to watch the film I was most excited for in the moment. But of course, we rented it as soon as it came out on DVD and I loved every second of it.
At the time, I didn’t necessarily have a favourite out of the first three because I was a kid and didn’t expect much from any of these films except for good gory fun. In recent years, I’ve done a rewatch of all five entries, multiple times I must add, and it always seems to be the third I come back to when I’m in the mood to watch death collect its mistakes. It always hit me the hardest and got me more excited than the rest because of where it takes place and its opening accident, the theme park. This film took us to a location that was so different from the previous films which involved an airplane crash and a highway pile up. While it’s always a scary thought when it comes to either accidents, the idea of a Roller Coaster derailing or even having the slightest technical difficulties is such a common fear for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, I love giant Roller Coasters and I’m always that friend who begs the others to sit in the front with me; but until the ride is over there’s so many scenarios that run through your mind and everything is out of your control as soon as it starts. Final Destination 3 taps into that by having us follow a character who’s petrified of heights and rides, envision our worst fears come true and live every moment of it.
For those who aren’t familiar with these films, every one of them starts out with our protagonist having a vision of a freak accident where their friends, strangers and even themselves end up dying brutally and tragically in. They all freak out and end up saving a lucky few from the accident, only to be picked off one by one by death themselves in some sort of pattern that’s been created. High School senior Wendy is the “lucky one” this time around and has a vision of the ride they’re about to experience malfunction, killing everyone on it. After a complete meltdown, she’s able to save nine of them but the rest, including her boyfriend and best friend, are killed after not being able to exit the ride. This opening ends up being one of the most exciting of the series due to some twisted kills, smart moves and just pure chaos that radiates off the screen. Like I said before, as soon as that ride starts your adrenaline and anxiety is kicked up a notch leaving everything out of your hands and you can feel that with Wendy.
As for the characters, the Final Destination movies aren’t necessarily known for their fantastic character building and development; but these leads are a tad above average compared to the rest. Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Kevin (Ryan Merriman) are an unlikely duo who just don’t like each other at first. The only real reason they ever hung out was due to Kevin dating her best friend, and she didn’t even like him that much. As the film continues they realize they only have each other as Death gets closer and closer to them, making them a pretty badass duo as they attempt to save others and cheat Death. This was also such a refreshing team because they didn’t need to be romantically involved in the end to actually care about each other; they just realize that outside of trying to save themselves and stay alive, they’d make pretty good friends.
The reason this series can survive without having great character development is of course for its innovative and wickedly cruel death sequences; and this one does not disappoint. Although the plot becomes generally predictable during the second act, the tanning bed, gym and fast food drive thru scenes are all stressful and brutally fun to watch. All three scenes keep you on your toes until ultimately ending in blood splattered everywhere; but it’s the final act that really sets this one apart from the rest of the series. Taking place at a town festival littered with possible death inducing scenarios, the remaining survivors are left to fight a series of attempts one after another that Death has set up. It’s quick paced, unpredictable and seriously thrilling. The fact that Wendy’s younger sister is now involved even raises the stakes and you genuinely don’t know who’s going to make it out alive. I’ve rewatched this climax almost too many times and still haven’t gotten enough of it; it’s just that great.
Final Destination 3 isn’t here to reinvent the genre or be groundbreaking; actually none of this series is. These films are made to deliver fun, creative and unpredictable chaos for us to enjoy with a crowd or at home with friends; I’ll always be excited for another entry because I know I’ll at the very least be entertained for an hour and a half. So if you’re looking for a quick fix of Final Destination, and you’re sitting there thinking to yourself “which one should I watch”. I highly recommend picking this one. Who knows, you may enjoy it a lot more today than when it came out.