The Final Destination

When the decision was made to produce a fourth “Final Destination” movie, there must have been conversations about whether the same formula would work without any reconfiguring. Audiences were pretty familiar with it by now: someone has a premonition that saves a bunch of people’s lives; then Death comes back around to kill everyone anyway, in the order they’d have died in if they hadn’t gotten away the first time. Someone must have asked, “Should we tweak the formula a little? Offer some kind of new angle or a surprising twist we haven’t used before?”

That person, if he existed, was outvoted. The new film, senselessly called “The Final Destination,” follows the formula to the letter, without deviation. You might just as well stay home and watch one of the other three, where at least there will be some devilish wit and ironic humor in evidence. You’ll get none of that here.

This time we’re at a racetrack when Nick (Bobby Campo), a young man with no defining personality traits, has a vivid daydream about a horrific accident that kills him, his friends, and 50 others. Spooked, he gets out of there just before the real thing happens, saving his own life and the lives of his girlfriend, Lori (Shantel VanSanten), her best friend, Janet (Haley Webb), and Janet’s preppy d-bag boyfriend Hunt (Nick Zano). A security guard (Mykelti Williamson) is also spared, along with a few tagalongs.

What was the source of Nick’s premonition? Not explained, or even really wondered about. Why does he continue to have premonitions detailing how the survivors will die, one by one? Also not an issue.

What’s important is that they do indeed die, and in the bizarre, elaborate ways that have been this franchise’s hallmarks. The gimmick this time is that director David R. Ellis (“Final Destination 2,” “Snakes on a Plane”) shot it in 3D and takes every opportunity to fling gore and viscera at us. But the writer, Eric Bress (a co-writer on “FD2”), evidently took this as an excuse to get lazy with the screenplay. After all, why waste effort on imaginative deathtraps when the whole thing can be spiced up with 3D? There are no humorous exchanges or amusing characters. The central figures apparently don’t have families, jobs, or other friends, existing only as cardboard cutouts to be run through the paces of the story.

I say all this as someone who really enjoyed the first and third “Final Destination” films as clever, self-aware horror machines. This fourth one is strictly by-the-numbers, without a moment of genuine tension and no real surprises. (Small wonder it’s from the same creative team as the lackluster part 2.) Even Death himself seems a little bored this time.

D (1 hr., 22 min.; R, a lot of harsh profanity, one scene of fairly strong sexuality and nudity, abundant bloody, graphic, gory violence.)