I have a confession to make. After all my blathering in the blogosphere a couple weeks back about the thrill of driving two hours to see the 3-D spectacle The Final Destination, I must admit that I was less than thrilled – even despite very low expectations. True, it didn’t help that the couple that went with me and Dan walked out halfway through the film. After all, I tend to be overly sensitive about disappointing people – despite the fact that I didn’t make the movie, that I warned them it could be bad, and that the male half of the couple has notoriously bolted out of 20 percent of the movies he’s seen. What can I say? I’ve always been affected by other people’s moods.
But beyond all that, it’s just a horrid movie. First off, the acting is fairly dreadful – even from the likes of Mykelti Williamson, who’s usually good in everything he does, from Forrest Gump (1994) to August Rush (2007). Secondly, the kills are pretty outrageous, even by Final Destination franchise standards. Lastly, due to poor writing (as well as poor acting), I really didn’t care about any of the characters – which means I really didn’t care if anyone lived or died. Whether you like horror movies or not, you can probably agree that the more you care about the characters involved, the higher the stakes and, therefore, the scarier the film. Scoff if you will, but that’s what I like about the first three films – true, they’re gory and outrageous, but each one also has at least one character for whom I can root – though, admittedly, the films have gotten progressively worse in regards to character development.
Going into this fourth film, my expectations were super-low. For one thing, while the first three films focus on tragic accidents that terrify most folks in the modern age – plane crash, highway pile-up, and roller-coaster snafu – this one begins with a rather ridiculous fiasco at a racetrack – which I’ve feared less during my lifetime than getting hit by a wayward puck at a hockey game. The other thing that concerned me was that I suspected the filmmakers would be so preoccupied with setting up elaborate death scenes that made the most of the 3-D technology that they would fail to concentrate on something more important – the screenplay – and sadly, I was right.
So, I guess even my low expectations just weren’t low enough. And yet, despite the fact that the movie was mediocre and our friends’ sudden departure perturbed me, I’m glad that we saw it. ‘Cause the 3-D technology was indeed well done – and boy, did we laugh! It might not have been billed as a comedy, but it sure does seem like one. In its own way, it also respects the franchise audience – even having a unique opening credit sequence that uses skeletons to demonstrate kills from the previous three movies. And there are a couple scenes that genuinely freaked me out – guess I’m not the only one who finds escalators and automatic car washes terrifying.
As a bonus, this curious experience has made me reflect on the nature of expectation: how, sometimes, high expectations can ruin a perfectly good movie (like Signs, which I hated the first time I saw it and have now grown to love) and how the opposite can also be true – that low expectations can often heighten the movie experience. That’s what happened with this summer’s Star Trek remake. Despite some serious doubt, I enjoyed the heck out of that flick – especially Karl Urban’s spot-on performance as the insufferable Bones.
So, have expectations played a role in your movie-going experiences? If so, what film overcame your lowest expectations, and which fell far short of your hopes?
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