Final Destination 5 isn’t what you think it is. Oh sure, it’s more of the same with a group of college kids trying to figure out why they’re being picked off by ludicrous freak occurrences. Death makes its presence felt, people are snapped like twigs, and then… well, you just don’t see it coming.

No, Final Destination, in this or any form, didn’t need any exqusite writing. Most of the challenge for writer Eric Heisserer was trying to find a fresh way to produce the same information and stunned looks as the cast figures out the events. Even if his grand scheme isn’t on the level of of Hollywood’s most glamorous or shocking twists, it’s more than this series has ever been given credit for.

So, yes, maybe this series will eventually prove it has a brain, and not just the type that splatter towards the camera to exploit 3D effects. Kills are set up with hilariously overdone cheats, even generating a shred of tension which hasn’t been seen for a few movies now. Final Destination 5’s grand opening, a suspension bridge collapse, is wonderfully hokey too, a wildly overdone piece of disaster spectacle that would make Irwin Allen blush. The sad part is that most of the people seeking a little destruction escapism when watching this franchise don’t have a clue who Allen is.

The rest of it is, as expected, terrible. There’s a clunky, exposition-laden romance, a villain played by a guy who looks like Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller’s illegitimate love child, and a nosy cop looking for answers. This fifth entry gives Death a kinda/sorta face too, or at least the means of explaining the events past searching Google. That’s something.

There’s comic relief, massage parlors, insane lasic surgery, gymnastics gone wrong, construction mishaps, factory oopsies, and a grand finale that won’t be spoiled here. For as routine as these films are, arguably the most formulaic of any slasher/murder genre affair, it’s a mixture of kooky dark comedy that keeps on giving. Apparently, as long as demented gore effects wizards remain, so will this franchise. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Destined for 3D, the digitally captured follow-up to what was supposed to be the final installment is sort of a mundane visual pleaser. There’s little wrong with it, colors finding a pleasing saturation point and black levels holding firm, yet there’s a lack of firm, consistent detail that causes this AVC encode to just exist.

There are winning close-ups, reproducing a firm, clean layer of definition that’s oft-requested for HD material. Texture is present when needed, pores, hair, clothing, etc. Oddly, it just never quite makes that grand transition into something more. As lazy as this may seem, it’s hard to be precise and nail what it is here that feels lacking.

It’s not a lack of dimensionality at least, the black levels producing a a deep, rich layer of hearty contrast and balance against brighter portions of the image. They hold under some stresses, including interiors of a restaurant where light is barely generated. A massage parlor with nothing more than candlelight is pleasing too, a nice change of pace from most digitally captured content.

A handful of mishaps are notable, including a thin layer of noise and spotty aliasing. Acupuncture needles at 47:09 break down from their angles, the worst case in the movie. The rest of Final Destination 5 keeps a firm grip on its resolution and the resulting HD material, even if it always feels like it’s missing… something. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

There’s an overload of bass here, overpowering other elements with a hearty, aggressive low-end that exists to please subwoofer worshipers at the expense of everyone else. The opening bridge debacle crumbles hard into the LFE, deep, rich, and satisfying bass pummeling the home theater.

There are other elements at work, the cables snapping and swinging through the soundfield via precise imaging. Objects, people, and cars travel through as the construction breakdown continues, never without some sort of chaos filling the room.

None of the deaths go by without something of note, from fire to rogue lasers taking every bit of the power possible out of this DTS-HD mixture. With 3D making a mark, it means more opportunity for the gore to swing around into the rears too, one kill splattering a head with parts hitting the “camera.” The audio effect makes it a gore hound fantasy. By the time the twist finale rolls around, the explosions begin rattling the subwoofer again with full force, and it becomes a hard moment to forget. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Circle of Death is a rushed making of/promo that is trying to cram far too much into a five-minute time slot. Two alternate death scenes could have been trimmed to the actual deaths since it’s 16-minutes worth of content that is only needed for about two. Dual visual effect comparisons split the screen for before-and-after images of the opening bridge collapse and the ending sequence to mark the finale of the bonuses. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

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