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We’re all going to die—some of us violently. And most of
those violent demises will most likely go down because of the most ludicrous of
happenstance—stupid mistakes that could have been avoided had we just paid
attention to our surroundings. Now, not even the sharpest of wits would be able
to escape their designated fates in the FINAL DESTINATION films, but it’s the
treachery of the everyday that fuels those movies, creating paranoia
surrounding activities as mundane as taking a shower. They’re visceral, gory,
blackly funny, hyper-suspenseful thrill rides that supply operatic shocks to
their primarily teenage audiences—and with last year’s poorly reviewed but very
successful THE FINAL DESTINATION, those frissons were rendered with
And in the latest addendum to the series—FINAL DESTINATION
5, opening this Friday—also shot in state-of-the-art 3D, audiences can look
forward to having blood, bone and horror shot through the screen again. Except
this time, the film was guided by one of the most sophisticated digital 3D
designers working today. Not only that, but—as evidenced even in the
trailer—there seems to be a depth to this latest entry that exemplifies character
as much as it does Grand Guignol.
The filmmaker in question is James Cameron protégé Steven
Quale, who helmed the 2nd unit on the immersive 3D epic AVATAR and directed the
Cameron-produced IMAX film ALIENS OF THE DEEP. To accompnay our preview coverage
in FANGORIA #306 (on stands this month), we chatted with the director a mere
week before his bloodstained baby’s theatrical debut.
FANGORIA: The FINAL DESTINATION pictures sometimes get a
sneer from mainstream critics. Fans love them, but some elitists can’t seem to
get past the formula of the body count. But there’s more to them, isn’t
there—an almost Hitchcockian attention to suspense sequences that are often
STEVEN QUALE: Absolutely, you’re correct. There was a reason
Hitch was known as the “Master of Suspense,” and one thing I learned from both
studying his work and designing the sequences in FINAL DESTINATION 5 is that
audience expectations are more important than the deaths themselves. Those
misdirects—those MacGuffins, as Hitchcock would say—are key, and rendering them
in a cinematic way that fully engages the audience is paramount. And that’s the
fun part of the filmmaking process for me: to get the actors to give good
performances while reacting to these bizarre, TWILIGHT ZONE-ish things
unfolding that lead to their demises. There’s no self-reflexive, wink-wink,
nudge-nudge moments in these sequences, either—the kind of moments that some of
the other later FINAL DESTINATION films did. I purposely avoided camp, and any
humor that shows up in the movie comes organically from the characters
reactions to the situations.
FANG: This ties into our next question, and that is while
the first FINAL DESTINATION was straight-faced and grim, the rest of them
allowed the characters to be rendered as cardboard. But judging from the
trailer alone, there is a much more serious tone and dynamic at play in your
QUALE: Yes. There were three things I said I was going to do
with this movie. One was that the 3D would be a spectacular tour de force, and
when you see that opening bridge sequence, you get that sense of vertigo. The
other was, on a narrative level, to make a scary, ominous horror film, using
the techniques to create tension, and three, to get good actors, great
performances and real characters you care about, drowning the fantasy in a
reality that makes the movie just…well, just a better movie period.
FANG: The greatest strength of the FINAL DESTINATION
pictures is that you walk out of the theater paranoid…because they take wicked
pleasure in making even the most mundane element of living a source of
malevolence. Has this been retained?
QUALE: For me, when we were working on the script and
developing the death scenes, it was my mission that the more mundane the setup,
the better. You put someone in a kitchen, and you look all around you wondering
how a kitchen can kill you; that’s much more effective than being in a factory
at the mercy of a hydraulic press. That’s obvious, but a kitchen…
FANG: Are you afraid of death?
QUALE: I am not afraid of dying, no. I mean, I don’t want
to. But we all are going to die, and every human has a basic self-preservation
instinct. But at the moment, I am not afraid of death, because I am not
thinking about it…but that fear is there waiting for me, I’m sure.
FANG: Warner Bros. was the first studio to do a theatrical
3D horror feature with 1953’s HOUSE OF WAX, and that’s still my favorite 3D
genre film; give me a paddleball man and a can-can girl anyday. Do you have a
favorite 3D movie?
QUALE: Wow, yeah, I remember seeing HOUSE OF WAX in film
school. It was in 2D, unfortunately, but we all laughed because we knew that
those two sequences and others like them were supposed to be in 3D, obviously.
But favorite? That’s tough to say. I certainly credit Jim [Cameron] for doing
what he did with AVATAR and making an environment out of 3D, using subtlety and
making you forget about it, just immersing you in that world. FINAL DESTINATION
5 is a hybrid of that aesthetic and the in-your-face shock of stuff like in
WAX. It’s not so much a gimmick, like, you don’t wonder why an inexplicable
paddleball comes at you for the sake of coming at you—but if something flings
at you, if it makes sense in the action, it comes at you, and we have lots of
those great moments.
FANG: FINAL DESTINATION 5 will no doubt fare as well as its
predecessors at the box office, and you’ll have the chance to have your pick of
other projects. What’s next—do you know at this point? Another 3D film?
QUALE: My focus right now, as of this interview, is to just
sit back and see how audiences react to this movie. Our preview screening was
unbelievable, and that’s what it’s all about, making something the audience
loves and has fun with. As a kid, I read Fango and had dreams about being a
filmmaker and making these kinds of movies, so this is all a dream come true.
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