Calling the fourth movie in the hit horror franchise The Final Destination is not just a clever way to avoid putting the number 4 in the title: Some producers really intend it to be the final Final Destination film. Presumably, the makers of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday were also sincere at the time, and we know how that turned out.
FD producer Craig Perry recalled the marketing decision to shorten the film's original cumbersome title, Final Destination 4: Death Trip 3-D. "The people over in marketing were bandying about a bunch of different names," Perry said in a group interview this week in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Someone, having seen Fast & Furious, said, 'What if we call ours The Final Destination? It's probably the last movie. Let's call it The Final Destination, which sort of speaks to the fact that we have the fourth movie in a franchise called Final Destination, which makes no sense anyway! So let's actually land this son of a bitch.' Now that makes sense. The Final Destination will be the franchise capper."
But even the film's director, David R. Ellis, is calling B.S. on Perry. We don't believe it's the last one, and neither does Ellis, who directed both the second and the upcoming fourth installments. "Why would it stop?" Ellis said in a separate exclusive interview. "If it makes money, it won't stop, and if they can come up with creative ways to keep killing people, there're so many fans of the series that they're going to keep coming back and seeing it. They know the formula. They know what it's going to be. It's going to be a lot of key people and some extra people that cheat death, and they're all going to die, but they want to come see that s--t, so they're going to keep coming. They'll keep coming and seeing Halloweens, too. They keep coming to see Freddy."
In all four films, the formula remains the same: A person has a premonition of a horrific accident. He persuades a group of friends to leave the scene before the accident happens, and they survive. But, subsequently, each person in the group meets a grisly demise in the order in which he or she was originally supposed to die. The various sequels have explored all the possible accidental deaths that could occur at home, in an elevator, at a tanning salon, etc. The possibilities are endless.
So why stop now? "Because at this stage, I feel like we have explored as much as we possibly can, so let's end on a grace note," Perry insisted. "If we have the opportunity, and if the audience asks for it, then the onus is back on us to come up with a justifiable reason to make the fifth one. That's the trick."
Perhaps Perry is hedging his bets. This Final Destination, which opens today, faces competition from Rob Zombie's Halloween II. Ellis understands that, while there could always be artistic reasons to make a sequel, the numbers have to come first.
"We've got to do good," Ellis said. "We've got a tough weekend, a really hard weekend, a crazy weekend. That we would have two huge franchises squaring off in the same genre on the same weekend, it's just nuts. We have Inglourious Basterds' [second weekend], which did great, and they're going to hold some of our demographic, so it's going to be a really tough fight for everybody out there this weekend. So maybe it won't do as good as they need to do to say to their shareholders, 'We made a profit on this movie. Let's do another one.' And maybe it will."
Or they could just stop trying so hard and make more generic death movies under Warner Premiere, the studio's straight-to-DVD label. Perry is not prepared to go there. "You could, but then you really are doing a disservice to the people who actually do like these movies," Perry continued. "Yes, we could churn out what is the equivalent of horror porn, where you're just [in] Van Nuys churning out titles, but there's something so interesting about the idea of this franchise that to kind of whore it out doesn't make you feel any better about yourself."
At the very least, the options are open. Just because this is The Final Destination doesn't mean there couldn't be The Next Final Destination or Another Final Destination. "[The title] just says that this is your final destination," Ellis said. "Maybe that means it's the final destination for the kids in the movie, because they're all going to die at the end."