Whereas arguably every film since the original, (and the first sequel), has forsaken all character beats for cool looking death scenes, this one actually makes an attempt at creating some likable, semi-rounded people to root for. It helps that they got on board some actors who can actually act this time. This ain't Laurence Olivier but it's a long damn way from the rage inducing douchebaggery of the fourth film. Of course, theres little real depth here but this isn't a character study, its not fucking RAY, its a film about hapless randoms having their asses handed to them by the Grim Reaper. People watch these films for one reason only, and that's the gruesome and inventive kills. But as the last two films proved, you have to have at least some fucking story, or else your just watching what amounts to a high budget snuff movie. The first film grasps this amazing concept, the second looked it up and down in the bar, then flirted with it some, and the third and fourth may as well have had crash test dummies as its cast. I cant remember a single one of those characters/actors besides that hot chick from SCOTT PILGRIM, and that was only because shes that hot chick from SCOTT PILGRIM.
FD5 tries a little harder, and manages to create some sympathetic characters. The lead, and this films 'psychic' is identifiable as an average guy who loves his work and loves his gal, and seeing as his gal is Emma Bell, (FROZEN), you'll most likely love her too, and get right on the guys side. His best mate is well played too, by Miles Fisher. You believe these guys are buddies. The rest of the cast do well enough too, and you'll be sorry to see some of them go, even though watching them go is a damn blast. Also of note, the mighty Tony Todd reappears here as the creepy ass coroner who seems to relish telling each group of survivors they're fucked, without being in any damn way helpful. Love the guy, and its always a trip to see him onscreen, however brief. That's all you gotta do, Tony, just show up and freak the cast out with your 'Death has a plan' riff, and I'm sold, sir.
Todd's behaviour isn't the only familiar thing here though. The film feels more like a remake of the original than a continuation. Theres very little new plot elements here, and the film follows the originals template beat for beat until the third act, when it tries to do a few things differently. We've seen it all before, we know the huge accident is coming, we know theres a funeral to end act 1, and an interrogation scene with the lead and some feds, we know there'll be thirty second discussion that helps explain the plot to anyone who's been living in a rain forest for eleven years. We know all this, yet its familiarity feels pretty welcoming. The formula still works. These films are akin to a fairground ride, and when done well, as this one most certainly is, they're a hell of a lot of fun. Its nice though , that they still make attempts at doing things a little differently in the final act. And its refreshing to see a fifth part in a series have so much care go into it. The writers and directors really ought to be kept on board for the inevitable sixth entry.
If your worried that the franchise can only sink lower after part 4, don't be. This is a solid genre pic that goes back to the series' roots and ups the stakes in some pretty amusing ways. Its cruel, graphic, well directed, smartly written and is a real treat for the faithful. Who'd have thought a fifth part in whats essentially a slasher series could aim so high? This ain't high art, hell, it ain't even low art, but its an enjoyable ride while it lasts. Grab your bud's, grab some beers and give it a chance.
7.5 Roasted Eyeballs out of 10