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Final Destination 3

Once More, With Flaying

Any discussion of Final Destination 3 must be of a technical nature, because there's no point in scrutinizing the characters or the plot, which follows an established formula for box-office success. By now, you've probably figured out whether you're a fan of the Final Destination series and its preposterous, over-the-top methods of killing teenagers. If you are, then this grisly slice of mayhem should be a welcome distraction. If you're not, consider a good book. Or a warm bath.

I should admit that I'm a fan. Final Destination had a modestly clever idea, and Final Destination 2 used that idea as the framework for 90 minutes of the most enjoyably overwrought chaos ever committed to film. Now, creator James Wong has returned to the scene of the crime for a third installment, and if he's content to recycle the same old story, he can be forgiven. These movies are about the thrill of the kill, nothing more.

For the uninitiated, a quick recap: A group of kids narrowly escape some disastrous brush with death -- in this case, a roller coaster flying off the tracks -- and breathe a big sigh of relief. The only problem? Death is still waiting in the wings, and it's up to the kids to watch their backs and, if possible, change their destinies.

But enough plot. There's not a lot of suspense in Final Destination 3, because it's not a question of whether the kids will die, just how and when. And when the Grim Reaper comes calling, it's never pretty. This is a movie driven by spectacular special effects and cleverly conceived deaths, with attractive young bodies being burned, splattered and punctured in all sorts of diabolical ways. It's an absurd theater of the macabre, amusing to fans and, I can only imagine, repellent to everyone else.

If anything, Final Destination 3 doesn't quite match the standards of demented invention set by its immediate predecessor, but it's a close call. Fans will relish the gory spectacle, but moviegoers seeking fleshed-out characters and a compelling story will be invariably disappointed. So, for those drawn to this kind of stuff, it's a three-star experience; for the rest of you, knock it down to two. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars