'Final Destination 5' keeps the series alive

Reviewer’s rating ★★½

Graphically gruesome and inevitably fatal, the Final Destination horror movie series nevertheless remains creatively alive. Like its death-dispensing predecessors, Final Destination 5 finds many imaginative ways to knock off its marked-for-death characters.

The second of the series to be presented in 3-D, Final Destination 5 doesn’t mess with the proven formula. Screenwriter Eric Heisserer assembles the usual ensemble of characters, neatly introducing each of them as they’re about to embark on a corporate retreat.

The characters, all employees of a paper company, are traveling by bus. Their route includes a bridge that’s being repaired.

The bridge work offers the movie’s first chance to inflict massive damage to dozens of people. Director Steven Quale, whose previous work includes being second-unit director for the greatest 3-D film ever made, Avatar, and writer Heisserer stage the bridge’s collapse in swift but exacting detail.

True to the Final Destination series’ history, the resulting carnage is explicit. These movies are not for the squeamish. Even the not so squeamish may want to turn their eyes from the screen during a scene or two in Final Destination 5, especially when the oncoming horror takes enough time to create suspense.

The film’s cast features a mostly young crop of actors playing distinctive characters. Nicholas D’agosto is Sam, the aspiring chef who has a vision of the bridge collapse.

Having witnessed the disaster that’s about to happen in his vision, he leaps into warning mode seconds before the real thing begins and saves many of his fellow bus passengers. This being a Final Destination movie, however, the film milks the bridge disaster, depicting Sam’s vision beforehand in its excruciating entirety.

Sam, a good guy just trying to make his way in the world, tries to convince his girlfriend, Molly, not to leave him. Molly, played by Emma Bell, is an equally good young woman who only wants the best for her boyfriend.

In pre-Final Destination-era horror movies, characters who possess the goodness that Sam and Molly have - as opposed to their hedonistic, misbehaving peers - tend to be spared. Of course, it doesn’t work that way in Final Destination movies.

Tom Cruise look-alike Miles Fisher co-stars as Peter, a paper-company colleague of Sam and Molly’s who’s rocked by the horrible death of his girlfriend, Candace. Playing Candace, Ellen Wroe does her own gymnast stunt work for one of the film’s especially suspenseful sequences.

A few older actors - David Koechner from TV’s The Office; the unmistakable Tony Todd, probably most famous for the horror film Candyman; and Courtney B. Vance, complement the young cast. Koechner adds some comic relief as the bridge survivors’ boss. Todd, appearing in a film whose principal character, death, is never actually seen, provides the vaguely menacing presence of a mysterious stranger who’s witnessed the Final Destination scenario many times before.

“Death doesn’t like to be cheated,” Todd warns Sam and his co-workers.

Delivering the deftly choreographed calamity that’s carried the series thus far, Final Destination 5 doesn’t cheat the series’ followers. The squeamish, however, had best not ride this bus.