FD5 logo Steven Quale (Director), Eric Heisserer (Screenplay) & Craig Perry (Producer) Final Destination 5 Interview

In ‘Final Destination 5,’ Death is just as omnipresent as ever, and is unleashed after one man’s premonition saves a group of coworkers from a terrifying suspension bridge collapse. But this group of unsuspecting souls was never supposed to survive, and, in a terrifying race against time, the ill-fated group frantically tries to discover a way to escape Death’s sinister agenda. Directed by Steven Quale, the film stars Emma Bell, Nicholas D’Agosto, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe, David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance and Tony Todd. ‘Final Destination 5′ is out in cinemas now.

How does a concept to do something like this begin?

Steven Quale: It starts with the script.

Eric Heisserer: I was attracted to the series because I was a huge fan of the first movie, and I had a number of favourite moments from the entire franchise that have hung with me. But I’m sort of first at bat with the Final Destination franchise, as is Steven. And I think our enthusiasm for this project that carried us a long way.

Mainly, though, I wanted to add something new. I wanted to add something that was basically a moral dilemma for the characters that they could push against—that would make them more proactive—and a decision that would divide the team about, would you kill someone or not and how do you choose who that person would be?

It seems that the audience comes to this movie for the death sequences, but with five films, how do you find a fresh way into that given the audience’s expectations?

Steven Quale: Well, one of the things I did when I got this job is I watched all four previous Final Destination movies back-to-back and said, ‘What is it about these sequences that I like and what is about them that I don’t like. And what works and what doesn’t work?’

And as a filmmaker, I said, ‘Okay, well, the audience has certain expectations. I know that there are these deaths, but it’s not the deaths alone that work. It’s the suspense leading up to the deaths and the different twists and turns of how is that person going to die, with the audience trying to figure it out. Is it going to be the screw on the balance beam? Is it going to be the air conditioner falling on them? There are all these different things that are happening. And then, when it finally happens, if it’s done in a sort of suspenseful way and then a twist, you get that satisfaction.

So, what you do is you hit them with a really scary moment, but really quickly. It’s so shocking that they’re almost like, ‘Did I actually see that. I can’t believe that actually happened.’ It’s a fun experience and a horrific shock and a jolt and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe I just saw that.’ Then you move on and there’s humour afterwards. It’s the combination of those two forces.

Eric Heisserer: Also, many times, laughter is just a natural human reaction to that. When you see something shocking you start laughing at it because …

Steven Quale: What else can you do?

Eric Heisserer: Yeah.

There’s also a fair bit of teasing that you do, with all the things that could go wrong in the scene. How much of that teasing do you do before you deliver it?

Eric Heisserer: It’s a magic show, really. When you look at how magicians operate, it’s all about misdirection. There are plenty of elements at play and, at the end of it, you’re like, ‘How did they pull it off?’ So, we had to find that sweet spot in most of these death sequences to keep audiences guessing. Otherwise, that shocking moment that Steve delivered so well with all of these wouldn’t have nearly the impact and the result.

Steven Quale: I think what helps, too, is the setting, like the kitchen. If you have it incorporated in the most benign situation, everybody knows what a kitchen is. There are some dangerous things in there, but for the most part everybody lives with that. And that, to me, is the ultimate. If you do it in some giant, dangerous factory that has big cutting machines or something, of course you know something bad’s going to happen there. But if you just go in a kitchen, what could happen in a kitchen?

Craig Perry: It also has the take home factor. We all have kitchens at home. So, suddenly, when you’re in there cutting up carrots, you’re like, ‘Well, this didn’t work out so well in that movie.’ And that, I think, is the real challenge with this. You take an accessible, normal environment and then inject it with a sense of malevolent presence, so that each inanimate object that you have a normal, everyday interaction with, suddenly you’re going to question it. Like, ‘Boy, going on that elevator was a bad idea for them. I don’t know if I want to go on this elevator. Maybe I’ll take the stairs. Oh it didn’t happen well for the stairs either.’ So, that’s the fun part of this is the take home value too.

Has working on these movies affected the way you view real life?

Steven Quale: There’s a certain vernacular where everybody calls it ‘an FD moment.’ You have something that’s a close brush with death or something and everybody says, ‘Oh that was an FD moment.’ So, you think about it. And if it doesn’t affect you, it gives you an awareness.

How do you keep the movie scary and not slipping into self-parody?

Steven Quale: Yeah, I don’t like the word ‘camp,’ so you have to work really hard and you have to ground the characters in a certain reality. You have to make the situations believable enough that when those extreme things happen, it doesn’t take you out of the story. That was a hard thing to do. We worked really hard to make it happen in the scrip, the casting and the sensibility of how it looks and how you shoot it and how you stage things. As a filmmaker, you have to be really aware of all of those elements to make them organically fit.

Craig Perry: Also, since the last one was successful, it gave us the opportunity to sort of readdress the balance that’s specific to your point. With the opening title sequence, we wanted to say to everybody that we’re taking this movie seriously. It’s not what you would expect given the last couple of movies in the franchise. We are sort of coming back home and we hope that audiences will appreciate it.

And I think that the idea of humour in this thing is very specific. The characters are funny. The situations aren’t campy. They’re not wink, wink, nudge, nudge. But the characters do have a sense of humour. Their comments have gallows humour, but it doesn’t take you out of the movie. The movie takes itself very seriously. There’s irony and that’s fine, but it’s not campy.

One of the things that Steve was adamant about was to make it grounded, palpable and real. And right off the bat, you can leaven it with all kinds of humour that doesn’t take you out of the movie. It’s still organic to the world of the movie. It’s funny. And I think that that’s why we found our way in terms of the tone; I think we finally found exactly the right balance.

Steven, so many movies are now in 3D. Can you talk about why you wanted to make this particular film in 3D?

Steven Quale: I come from a slightly different background in 3D than maybe some other contemporary filmmakers in that I was working with Jim Cameron back in 2003 pioneering the 3D technology in our IMAX documentary movies, Aliens of the Deep and Ghostly Abyss. So, I learned early on what the 3D cameras can do and what they can’t do and what works organically for a film. And then, on Avatar, we took that even further, having directed the second unit and doing some visual effects.

I have years of experience working in the 3D realm and I think it’s dependent upon the filmmaker to figure out what he or she wants to do with it to organically make it part of the movie. I think not all films necessarily need to be in 3D, but if the director decides to embrace it, they can do an amazing job.

With this movie, I wanted to make it organic and fun for the fans, to really punctuate it when you want to, but, at the same time, make it a little more subtle and more enveloping of the characters because, to be honest, some of the best 3D is just a medium close-up of a face. There’s something about that 3D face that is so real compared to a 2D version; if you get enveloped in it, you almost forget that you’re watching a 3D movie.

But hasn’t it been something of a Pandora’s Box because of all the 3D conversion going on?

Steven Quale: Well, this film is one hundred percent natively shot in 3D. Every shot in the entire movie was shot in 3D and projected in 3D, whereas the conversion process is a way of getting 3D that I think has diminished the quality of what people think 3D should be like.

Tony Todd indicated that it was a challenge at first to act in front of the 3D cameras.

Steven Quale: Well, it is a little intimidating because what normally is a small camera is this huge giant contraption with technicians running around and adjusting things and so forth. And, as the technology improves, that’ll get closer and closer to what a normal camera is. So, it can be a little intimidating in that sense, but you just have to relax the cast and crew and get them comfortable with this giant mechanism that’s being put right in front of you as you’re shooting.