Having exhausted the potential of the death-as-serial-killer gimmick in the first three movies, the fourth Final Destination takes the Scream route by poking fun at its morbid premise and peppering its grisly set-pieces with self-referential in-jokes.
The opening racetrack disaster takes place at McKinley Speedway, dubbed (one assumes) after the assassinated US president; a racist redneck dies being yanked in flames behind a truck bearing the legend ‘Destiny Towing’; and a mother-of-two perishes after having her locks trimmed at ‘Salon Dante’. (“We just lost a hot MILF!” sighs one character after she is viscerally offed.)
There is also a nod to Clear Rivers, the role Ali Larter took in the first two instalments of this gleefully gruesome series.
You don’t go to a Final Destination for the jokes, though. You go for the kills, here lent an extra fillip by 3D visuals that send the hapless victims’ entrails dropping into our laps and their sundry means of destruction (wooden spike, car tyre, plummeting engine block) flying in our direction.
Yes, having one bratty youngster meet her maker while watching a 3D movie does push David R Ellis’s film perilously close to shark-jumping self-parody.
But for the most part those glasses do their job in generating enough of a reason for the Destination team to have one last hurrah.
It should definitely end here, though. Even 3D can’t disguise the creative bankruptcy of a franchise that has to use its traditional “It was only a dream!” rug-pull twice just to reach the finish line, or one whose idea of getting a big name is to cast Mykelti Forrest Gump Williamson as a recovering alcoholic.
The juvenile stars, meanwhile, are almost spookily faceless, being little more than mannequins off the Hollywood production line. For them, you suspect, Final Destination is not so much a career break as a virtual death sentence.
Returning 3D to its exploitation roots, the latest Final Destination ups the gory splatter and plays it pretty much totally for laughs. Nine years on from the first one, though, the Grim Reaper is finally running out of lethal surprises.