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(Note: this article will contain analysis on the film Final Destination 3 and in order to get the best insight into the article, it is recommended that you watch the entire film at least once).
The absolute epitome of the "screamer" film, Final Destination peaked with its third instalment which remains my personal favourite to this day. It's an incredibly made film with some real amount of gore which are both done for shock and comedic effect. This is what makes it a great screamer. If you're looking to make something like this for your next project, you have to have what I call "The Jeepers Creepers Effect" in which you insert shocks for comedy rather than horror, but the concept itself is still pretty frightening.
What has come to be known as "The Final Destination Style" is death in which there is a coincidence or multiple coincidences that happen in order to cause the death of a human being. For example: if someone was inside their cellar and it went up in flames by them lighting a match near some pieces of wood, the stairs up to the main lobby would be burned away by the fire, trapping the person inside and killing them. It's logical and could happen, but there's a coincidence in which they are in the cellar and the only method of getting to safety is destroyed—so what other choice do they have? This is a very simple example of that style.
There are certain themes we are going to look at and, with three in total I can bet you've already guessed what they are:
- Dark Humour
Let's take a look at our themes then:
One of the most well-known things about Final Destination is the sheer amount of violence and gore involved in the death scenes. This is mainly for comedic effect, but sometimes they take it to the point where you don't know how to feel about it. Final Destination is really concentrating on how to make us feel like we are the worst human beings in the world for laughing at the pain of others. As I've said, in some cases, we don't really laugh anymore, but you can't look away from the screen. This is called "morbid curiosity" and it plays on the fact that as humans, we want to be able to see what can really kill us and we're curious about how we experience extreme pain. It's one of the reasons why people watch slasher and screamer films.
Possibly one of the greatest filmed scenes in the entire Final Destination franchise is the "Tanning Beds" Scene. Why? Well because it does just that in the paragraph above; it plays with the fact that at first, we find it kind of funny—but after a while you don't know how to feel about it, and yet you cannot look away from the screen as two people are being burned alive before your eyes.
Look at the way it is filmed as well. It's highly effective because we get to see everything that's happening. It kind of goes like this: Outside, Close-Up, Inside, Close-Up because on the outside we have the entire situation in the space where it is taking place. We then have the close-up on a particular section of the accident (the melting slush cup) that will change the situation. We have a view of the inside of the tanning beds in order to see how things slowly change and become more dangerous and we have Close-Ups in order to show us the changing expressions of the girls.
It's important that your audience gets to see each aspect of the scene in these different frames, otherwise they will not be able to see how the build-up to the accident is created. The most important thing is to use some sort of method in order to make sure there is a build up to the accident and that it doesn't happen too quickly. If it happens too quickly, your audience may miss it and it will fail to have the required effect.
Death is the most obvious theme in the Final Destination franchise and I believe it is used best in the third one. The fact is that death is always quite coincidental (see: introduction) and the way in which it is made to look is almost comedic, as we've established. The scene entitled "Frankie's Death" is no exception; to be honest it's pretty hilarious even though it isn't supposed to be.
Death is used quite clearly in every Final Destination film, again we have the same sequence we see in "violence" that leads up to the death of the character. But the theme of death is presented first and foremost as something completely inescapable as it seems so close to the characters at any one given time.
If you watch this clip, you will see exactly what that means. Speeding up the frames and the music, increasing the tension just to give a complete anti-climax in which a character that most people hate gets killed instead of the main characters.
In the Final Destination franchise, you will see this repeated throughout as a trope. Each character will die except for the main character; it is only when the final accident happens that we've got a chance at the main character dying as well, which marks the end of an era for the FD films.
Dark humour is a design feature of Final Destination because we always have those deaths that we don't know whether we should still be laughing when people are being burned alive in tanning beds, the deaths where the head jolts once after death when the motor dislodges from his skull and then, these deaths that offer a little light-hearted humour tone because they're so long and pathetic. They are, as we would say, too obvious.
Erin's death in Final Destination 3 is one of these lighter moments in which we are given permission by the film to laugh at it because it makes fun of itself. Even though we have the same level of gore and the concept is still kept the same, the screamer requires these moments in which the film laughs at itself. We have the coincidence of the picture in the frame mixed with the overly long frames of things falling and breaking and spilling; finally, we end with a death scene which is underwhelming to say the least. This gives the anti-climax of the death with someone simply having nails pushed through their face. A tame moment for Final Destination made to be lighter hearted than the other, more intense and horrifying deaths.
I hope you enjoyed this article on Final Destination 3 and I also hope you enjoy making your next screamer film. Remember, dark humour is the key to reeling in the audience and making them feel like they are terrible human beings for laughing at this stuff, even though the concept of it is actually terrifying.