I spent a whole chapter of my Master’s dissertation in Film Studies discussing how the term “torture-porn” is an eye-catching, hyperbolic phrase that should be swapped out for “torture horror.” Which is to say, I’m not an exaggerating ninny anytime some gore hits the screen. Final Destination 5, however, does make that term “torture porn” come to life in unsettling ways.
As established in the four films that precede it (or rather follow it, since it’s a prequel), a handful of youths avoid dying in a horrific accident and Death, being a stickler for figures, catches up to the kiddies by whacking them in highly orchestrated mundane ways.
I went out to see this film because of some early buzz that it did something novel, and it does try to breathe some new life in a franchise now over a decade old. However, it cruelly decides in the final moments SPOILER (?) that any hope of living full lives is dashed away, and a rule that would save them is cashed in for… I’m not sure. SPOILER OVER The issue with Final Destination 5 is you’re never sure if you’re supposed to laugh at the various, horrific deaths our characters suffer or be emotionally traumatized for the next few years. I haven’t seen people killed so viciously since Hobo with a Shotgun, but the difference is that the latter film’s world is so gonzo absurdist you’re pretty safe laughing or squirming, and are not in danger of feeling depressed.
Final Destination 5 is obviously a vehicle for special effect death mayhem, but it’s trying to craft a legitimate story, instead of putting it within a Hobo with a Shotgun absurdist slant. Seeing this film makes you feel like you need your humanity card revoked. At least two of the characters are brutally tortured before being put out of their misery. During the torture session we’re horrified, but when the end finally comes for the characters we’re supposed to laugh. What?
A film’s tone is always an important context for violence and the rub of Final Destination 5 is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be: funny or dramatic? Its waffling on this matter makes it a disturbing, uneven feature, and not in any of the good ways for a horror film.