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Final Destination 3

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Final Destination 3
Image showing Wendy and Kevin along with the rest of the survivors on the Devil's Flight roller coaster as it's performing an upside down loop looking at the camera and screaming.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Wong
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on Characters created
by Jeffrey Reddick
Music by Shirley Walker
Cinematography Robert McLachlan
Edited by Chris G. Willingham
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
Running time
93 minutes[1]
Country United States
Budget $25 million[2]
Box office $117.72 million[2]

Final Destination 3 is a 2006 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wong and the third installment in the Final Destination film series. The screenplay was written by Wong and Glen Morgan, both of whom had worked on the franchise's first film. Final Destination 3 stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ryan Merriman, and is set five years[note 1] after the first film. Winstead plays Wendy Christensen, a teenager who has a premonition that a roller coaster on which she and her classmates are riding derails. Although she saves some of them, Death begins hunting for the survivors. Wendy realizes the photos she took in the amusement park contain clues about how her classmates will die and tries to use them to save the rest of the survivors and foil Death's design.

Development of the film began shortly after the release of Final Destination 2 (2003), though Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the franchise and a co-writer of the first two films, did not return for Final Destination 3. In contrast to the previous film, which was a direct sequel to the original, Final Destination 3 was envisioned as a stand-alone sequel. The idea of featuring a roller-coaster derailment as the opening-scene disaster came from New Line Cinema executive Richard Bryant. From the beginning, Wong and Morgan placed control as a major theme in the film. Casting began in March 2005–Winstead and Merriman landing the lead roles–and concluded in April. Final Destination 3 was filmed in Vancouver, Canada, as with the previous two installments, over a three-month period; the first two weeks were spent entirely on filming the roller-coaster's derailment.

Following its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2006 the film was released on February 10, 2006, in the United States. The DVD version was released on July 25 and includes commentaries, documentaries, a deleted scene and an original animated video. A special-edition DVD called "Thrill Ride Edition" was also released with the "Choose Their Fate" feature. This acts as an interactive film, allowing viewers to make decisions at specific points in the film that alter the course of the story.

Final Destination 3 received a mixed response; some critics felt that the film was formulaic and did not bring anything new to the franchise while others praised it for being enjoyable and fulfilling its audience's expectations. Positive attention was given specifically to the death scenes involving a tanning bed and a nail gun, as well as Winstead’s performance. The film was a financial success and, at the time of its release, the highest-grossing installment in the franchise. The film was followed by two sequels—The Final Destination (2009) and Final Destination 5 (2011).


High-school student Wendy Christensen visits an amusement park with boyfriend Jason Wise, her best friend Carrie Dreyer and Carrie's boyfriend Kevin Fischer for their senior-class field trip. As they board the Devil's Flight roller coaster, Wendy has a premonition that the hydraulics securing the seat belts and roller coaster cars will fail, killing everyone on board. When she panics, a fight breaks out and several people leave or are forced off the ride, including Kevin; best friends Ashley Freund and Ashlyn Halperin; alumnus Frankie Cheeks; athlete Lewis Romero; and goths Ian McKinley and Erin Ulmer. As they leave, they see the roller coaster derail, killing the remaining passengers, including Jason and Carrie, leaving Wendy devestated.

Several weeks later, Kevin tells Wendy about the explosion of Flight 180 and the subsequent deaths of the survivors, believing they are still in danger. Thinking that Kevin is mocking her, Wendy dismisses his theory and leaves. Later, Ashley and Ashlyn are killed at a tanning salon when their tanning beds malfunction. Now convinced that is still Death is after them, Wendy and Kevin set out to save the remaining survivors using omens hidden in photos that were taken by Wendy the night of the accident.

Frankie dies next at a drive-through, when a runaway truck crashes into the back of Kevin's truck, causing the engine fan to blow out. The next day, Wendy and Kevin try to save Lewis at the gym; but he tells them that he does not believe them shortly before two iron weights from the weight training machine swing down and crush his head. Next, they visit Ian and Erin at a hardware store; and Wendy saves Ian from being impaled by falling planks of wood, causing Death to skip him and move onto Erin, who falls onto a nail gun and is shot through the head.

Later, Wendy learns that her sister Julie and a friend were also on the roller coaster, and rushes to the county fair to save them. She and Kevin manage to prevent Julie from being impaled on a harrow after being dragged by a panicked horse and Wendy asks her who was sitting next to her on the roller coaster, since they are next on Death's list. Her question is quickly answered when Julie's friend, Perry Malinowski, is impaled by a flagpole that is launched by a rope tied to the horse. Wendy saves Kevin from an exploding propane canister caused by all the commotion and is confronted by a deranged Ian, who blames her for Erin's death. Fireworks go off and nearly hit Wendy, but she dodges them and they strike a nearby cherry picker instead. As Ian shouts that Death cannot kill him, the cherry picker collapses and crushes him in half.

Five months later, Wendy is on a subway train with her roommate Laura and her friend Sean. When she sees more omens she begins to get off, but sees bumps into Julie as she enters the car and decides to stay. Wendy then notices Kevin sitting in the back of the train. Suddenly, the train derails, and everyone on board dies; Julie is hit by a stray wheel, Kevin is crushed between the train and tunnel wall, and Wendy survives the crash, but is hit by another train. This turns out to be another premonition and three attempt to stop the train. The screen then cuts to black, followed by the sound of screeching metal.



Top: Photograph of Ashley Freund (left) and Ashlyn Halperin (right) taken by protagonist Wendy Christensen, foreshadowing their death.
Bottom: Ashley burning to death on a tanning bed.
Film scholar Ian Conrich identifies the usage of "temperature, color, and light" to foreshadow and realize the deaths of these characters, which he argues epitomize the death sequences of the franchise.[3]

Three modes of critical response to the Final Destination franchise have predominated. First, it has been framed as a postmodern horror franchise, one which, in the style of the Scream franchise, self-consciously refers to the history of horror cinema and rewards viewers for their knowledge. Second, the films have been examined for their visual effects. This is particularly true of The Final Destination (2009) and Final Destination 5 (2011). Third, the franchise has been criticized for being cynical and reductive.[4] For example, the film studies scholar Reynold Humphries dismisses the franchise as "obscurantist nonsense whose only 'idea' is that death is an agency that has a 'plan' for each of us".[5]

Final Destination films, for the film and media studies scholar Eugenie Brinkema, are characterized by their move away from the typical horror antagonist and toward the certainty and inevitability of death.[6] This makes the films inconsistent with many analyses of horror, according to which horror films require a monster. Final Destination films depart from other horror films, and even other horror films aimed at teens, in that they feature "no families, no repression; no psychic, geographic, or domestic hauntings; and no sexuality—neither the pursuit of pleasure in the slasher convention of easy bodily access nor the monstrosity of sexual difference".[4] The films, Brinkema argues, are not about the seeking of pleasure, as are paradigmatic slashers, but are instead about the avoidance of pain and death; they are "constitutively bitter, anhedonic, paranoid, and sad".[7] In the films, death becomes its own cause; the premonition of the roller-coaster derailment in Final Destination 3 is without context or cause, but the fact that some characters are able to avoid the death they would have had grounds the necessity of their deaths, in the order that they would have died on the roller coaster.[8] Thus, "Death's list" or "Death's design" is realized.[4] Final Destination 3 spends as much time interpreting deaths as displaying them. Wendy's close analysis of photographs allows her to come to understand the deaths, but is inevitably too late.[9] In the franchise's films, Brinkema says, "one must closely read to survive (for a spell), and yet reading changes absolutely nothing at all".[10] Thus, the characters "might as well" have stayed on the roller coaster.[11]

Ian Conrich, another scholar of film studies, argues that the series marks a key departure from slasher norms in that death itself becomes the villain. Final Destination films draw influence from slasher cinema, but the franchise's action sequences, including Final Destination 3's roller-coaster derailment, draw from action and disaster cinema.[12] The franchise, for Conrich, thus marks a new slasher-film subgenre: "In relation to the scale and excess of these [death] sequences, the multiplicity of deaths that can occur in one moment, and the inevitability of death in the context of a wider scheme, I would term these films 'grand slashers'."[12] Other grand slashers include the films in the Saw and Cube franchises.[12]

A notable feature of the Final Destination films is the threshold or tipping-point logic of characters' deaths.[13] Conrich frames the complex death sequences in Final Destination films as "death games, contraptions or puzzles in which there are only losers", which he compares to Rube Goldberg machines, the Grand Guignol, and the Mouse Trap board game.[14] Brinkema picks out the deaths of Ashley and Ashlyn from Final Destination 3 as epitomizing the death sequences in the Final Destination series. The characters' deaths are brought about by "a series of neutral gestures, a set of constraints that will ultimately lead to their conflagratory ends"; these include the placing of a drink, a rifling-through of CDs, and an ill-chosen doorstop. The scene utilizes logics of temperature, color, and light to realize the deaths of the characters, as well as to allow Wendy to recognize the threat that they face.[3] The "literal tipping point", at which the characters can no longer escape, occurs when a coat rack is knocked onto the sunbeds; it is blown by an air-conditioning unit, which was turned on by the rising heat.[15] Conrich identifies the roller-coaster derailment as paradigmatic of the franchise's focus on mobility in death sequences. He argues that theme-park rides and horror cinema are mutually influential; the former draw from the frightening aspects of the latter, while the latter draw from the "theatrics and kinetics" of the former.[14]



Final Destination 3 was originally the last part of a trilogy and had been in development since the release of Final Destination 2.[16] Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the franchise and one of the co-writers of the first two films, did not return for the third installment.[17] According to director James Wong, Final Destination 3 was envisioned as a stand-alone sequel featuring new characters from the beginning, unlike the second film which was closely tied to the first film and continued its story.[16] He stated:

[W]e really felt that the idea of Final Destination, or the fact that Death can visit you and you can cheat death, that that could happen to anyone. And so we wanted to divorce from the first film character wise. We didn't want to follow that same thread. Part of the difficulty in that is when a character understands what happened to them before; it's a whole different way in which they react to what's happening now. We felt the franchise could exist with a new group of people, instead of following those older characters all the way through. We wanted to see if this could work.[16]

The film's original title, Cheating Death: Final Destination 3, was changed during development.[18] The companies that co-produced the franchise's first film—Craig Perry and Warren Zide's Zide/Perry Productions, and Wong and Morgan's own Hard Eight Pictures—returned to produce Final Destination 3. Practical Pictures and Manitee Pictures also helped with the film's production. The film was initially intended to be shot in 3D, but plans for this were abandoned.[19] Morgan declared that this was due to financial reasons, but also because he believed that fire and blood would not be shown properly in the red color filters of anaglyph 3D.[20]

According to Wong, the idea of using a roller-coaster derailment as the opening-scene disaster came from New Line Cinema executive Richard Bryant and was not inspired by a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad incident. The idea of death omens in photographs was taken from The Omen (1976).[16] Morgan stated he searched the aisles of a local store at Sunset Boulevard for days to get inspiration regarding Erin's death at the hardware store.[20] According to Morgan, the loss of control was a major theme that he and Wong had envisioned from the very beginning for the film; this is exemplified by both Wendy, who is afraid of losing control, as well as the roller coaster. He stated that one of the reasons people are afraid of roller coasters is because, according to psychologists, "[they] have no control" while on them.[21]


Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a Caucasian female, is wearing a gray dress and looking a few degrees sideways from the camera.
Tony Todd, an African-Americal male, is looking directly at the camera wearing a hat.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (left) portrayed the film's visionary, Wendy Christensen; Winstead had previously auditioned for the second film.[22] Tony Todd (right), who had previously appeared as William Bludworth in the first two films, came back in a voice only role as the Devil's statue and the Subway Announcer.[23]

During casting of the film, Wong sought actors who were able to portray the main characters as heroic individuals with realistic qualities. This sentiment was also echoed by Perry, who stated that for the two lead characters, he and Wong sought actors who "had the charisma of movie stars, but weren't so ridiculously rarified that you couldn't feel like you might know them". The casting of the supporting characters was given equal weight, being considered of equal importance with the casting of the main characters.[24]

On March 21, 2005, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ryan Merriman, co-stars of The Ring Two (2005), were cast as Wendy Christensen and Kevin Fischer.[25] Winstead, who had auditioned for the second Final Destination film,[22] won the role because her portrayal of the character's emotion impressed Wong and Morgan. Wong said that he had originally intended for Wendy to be a "perky blonde" and reworked the character slightly after Winstead was cast; he believed the actors were right for their roles. On Winstead, he said that "[she brought] a kind of soulfulness to her role as Wendy" and her character "is deeply affected by the accident, but she's strong, and fights to maintain control".[26] On Merriman, he said that "the moment [he] came in I thought he was the right guy to play Kevin" and described the character as "the kind of guy you want to hang out with, your goofy best buddy, but also someone who could rise to the occasion and become a hero".[26]

On April 9, 2005, Kris Lemche and Alexz Johnson were cast as the goth couple Ian McKinley and Erin Ulmer.[27] Johnson, who was starring in the Canadian television series Instant Star (2004–2008), had auditioned to play Wendy's sister Julie; that role later went to Amanda Crew, who originally auditioned to play Erin. Johnson said that she wore a rocker jacket during her second reading and was in a bad mood. As she was leaving, the filmmakers called her back to read for Erin, with the dialogue in her scene being sarcastic. Johnson thought that her dry sense of humor, which the filmmakers caught, helped her land the role.[26] Regarding his role, Lemche said that Ian "spouts some interesting facts that seem to be just right there on the tips of his fingers". Lemche researched most of Ian's information. During read-throughs, he often asked Morgan about Ian's facts; to help him, Morgan wrote Lemche notes and gave him URLs to research the information Ian gives out.[26]

Jesse Moss was cast as Jason Wise, Wendy's boyfriend. Texas Battle, who had a supporting role in the film Coach Carter (2005), played athlete Lewis Romero. Chelan Simmons, who appeared in the television films It (1990) and Carrie (2002), took the role of Ashley Freund. Sam Easton, who appeared in Miramax's film Underclassman (2005), played school alumnus Frankie Cheeks. Gina Holden portrayed Kevin's girlfriend and Wendy's best friend, Carrie Dreyer.[27] Crystal Lowe joined the cast as student Ashlyn Halperin. Tony Todd, who appeared in the first two films, did not return as the mortician Bludworth but voiced the devil statue at the roller coaster and a subway conductor at the end.[23] Maggie Ma and Ecstasia Sanders played Julie's friends Perry Malinowski and Amber Regan.[28]

Filming and effects[edit]

Like the first two installments of the Final Destination series, Final Destination 3 was shot in Vancouver, Canada.[29][30] The Corkscrew roller coaster at Playland was the basis of the Devil's Flight.[31] Winstead and Merriman said in an interview that the film required three months of shooting; the first two weeks were spent on filming the roller-coaster scene and the rest of the film was shot out of sequence. The cast members often rehearsed with each other for better on-screen chemistry.[30] Filming concluded in July but due to negative reception toward the ending in early screenings, a new ending sequence featuring a subway train derailment was filmed in November.[29]

Photograph of a red roller coaster in Vancoucer performing a loop.
The Corkscrew roller coaster was used as the Devil's Flight in the film, with CGI and a variety of camera angles making it look larger.

The death scenes required varying degrees of 2D and 3D graphic enhancement, with the roller coaster scene alone being composed of 144 visual-effect shots. Custom-designed coaster cars were created and modified, based on events in the script. Most of the model was hand-built, with MEL scripts aiding specific elements. The coaster-crash scenes were filmed with the actors performing in front of a green screen with a CGI background. Several of the roller coaster's cars were suspended with bungee cords to film the crash and the deaths required CGI onscreen effects; each actor had a corresponding CGI double.[32]

Meteor Studios produced the roller-coaster and subway crashes while Digital Dimension handled the individual post-premonition death scenes. The death of Ian McKinley, who is bisected by a cherry picker, was especially challenging. A clean plate of the bucket falling was originally shot with a plate of Lemche acting crushed and falling to the ground, with his bottom half in a partial green-screen suit. After setting those plates, Wong said that "he wanted more of a gruesome punch for the shot". A standard CGI body of Lemche's height was used; several animation simulations of crushing the body with a CGI object were filmed with the director picking the version he liked the most. A new plate was then filmed, with Lemche imitating the chosen animation and positioning his body at the end. The scene in which Ashley and Ashlyn are killed in tanning beds was handled by Soho VFX instead of Digital Dimension. It consisted of about 35 shots of CG skin, glass, fire and smoke mixed with live fire and smoke. For the subway crash in the film's epilogue, a CG environment reproducing the main volumes of the set was generated.[32] The film was edited by Chris G. Willingham, the Emmy-winning editor of the crime / espionage series 24 (2001–2010).[28]


The soundtrack for Final Destination 3, as with the previous two installments of the series, was composed by Shirley Walker. Score mixer Bobby Fernandez created a "gore-o-meter", measuring the violence of each death, to ensure that the score would match the scene.[33] Final Destination 3 is the only film in the series without a released musical score.[34] Greek-American musician Tommy Lee provided a cover of The O'Jays 1972 song "Love Train" which was used as the end credits theme of the film. Lee stated that he highly enjoyed "being able to put [his] own darker spin on it for the movie".[35]


Final Destination 3 premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on February 1, 2006.[36] New Line Cinema set up a promotional website several months before the film's release.[37] From there, visitors could be redirected to another site that allowed them to download mobile-phone ringtones and wallpapers relating to the film.[38] A novelization written by Christa Faust was published by Black Flame a month before the film's release.[39] During San Diego Comic-Con 2006, a panel was attended by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, James Wong and Glen Morgan on July 22, to promote the DVD release of the film. There, they discussed the features of "Choose Their Fate" and filming new sequences.[40]

Box office[edit]

The film opened on February 10, 2006, in 2,880 theaters in the United States and Canada and earned $19,173,094 on its opening weekend (an average of $6,657 per theater).[41] Final Destination 3 placed second at the United States box office its opening weekend, behind the remake of The Pink Panther (which opened the same day and earned $20,220,412 domestically). The film dropped to fifth on its second weekend and seventh on its third, dropping off the top-ten list on its fourth weekend.[42] Its last screening, in 135 theaters, was its tenth weekend; the film grossed $105,940 at 37th place in the box office.[43] Final Destination 3 grossed $54,098,051 at the domestic box office and $63,621,107 internationally, for a worldwide gross of $117,719,158.[44] At the time of its release, the film was the highest-grossing installment in the franchise; it retained this title until it was surpassed in 2009 by The Final Destination, which achieved a worldwide gross of $186,167,139.[45]

Home media[edit]

Final Destination 3 was released on DVD on July 25, 2006, in widescreen and fullscreen.[46] Special features include audio commentary, a deleted scene, three documentaries, the theatrical trailer and an original animated video.[47] Audio commentary is by Wong, Morgan and cinematographer Robert Mclachlan. The deleted scene is an extended version of Wendy and Kevin's discussion after they are questioned by the police.[48] The first documentary, Dead Teenager Movie, examines the history of slasher films. The second, Kill Shot: Making Final Destination 3, focuses on the making of the film and includes interviews with the cast and crew. The third documentary, Severed Piece, discusses the film's special effects, pyrotechnics and gore effects. A seven-minute cartoon, It's All Around You, explains the various ways people can die.[49] Special DVD editions labelled "Thrill Ride Edition" also include an optional "Choose Their Fate" feature, allowing viewers to make decisions at several points in the film. Most provide only a minor alternate scene, but the first choice allows the viewer to stop the four characters from getting on the roller coaster before the premonition, thus ending the film immediately.[50][48] Final Destination 3 was released digitally on streaming platforms Amazon Video,[51] Google Play[52] and Netflix.[53]


Critical response[edit]

Final Destination 3 received mixed critical responses when it was released. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 43% of 116 critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is five out of ten. According to the site's consensus, "Final Destination 3 is more of the same: gory and pointless, with nowhere new to go."[54] The film averaged 41 out of 100, based on 28 critics, on Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[55] CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[56]

The story was described by several critics as formulaic when compared to the previous installments; Roger Ebert wrote that the film's main issue was its predictability and lack of tension as it was "clear to everyone who must die and in what order".[57] The narrative was negatively compared to the franchise's second installment by Variety as lacking "narrative intricacy".[58] The New York Times similarly described the film as lacking the "novelty of the first [or] the panache of the second".[59] The downtime between characters' deaths was perceived as "dull" by TV Guide, who highlighted it as one reason why the film failed to match the formula set out by the previous installments.[60] Other reviewers were more positive: IGN praised the story, with Chris Carle writing that the "formula has been perfected rather than worn out" by the third film.[61][62] Even though they felt the film primarily adhered to the structure set out by the rest of the franchise, Empire and The Guardian found the story to be enjoyable.[63][64]

The film's tone and death scenes were positively received by critics. Writing for ReelViews, James Berardinelli described Final Destination 3 as incorporating more humor in comparison to its predecessors and felt that it worked to the film's benefit.[65] The Seattle Times agreed that the humorous tone helped to elevate the film and believed fans of the franchise would enjoy the death sequences.[66] Sarah Dobbs of Den of Geek!, a publication of Dennis Publishing, attributed the tone as what made Final Destination 3 the high point of the franchise. Dobbs commended the film's style as a "brightly coloured [and] slightly silly meditation on how we're all gonna die one day, so we might as well do it explosively".[67] The tanning bed and nail guns scenes were singled out as the best death sequences from the film and the franchise as a whole.[68][69][70][71]

Winstead's performance was highlighted by critics, with the BBC writing: "… the real tragedy is that promising young actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead must endure this torture."[72] She was described as delivering "as competent a job as one could expect in these dire circumstances" by Berardinelli. Felix Gonzalez, Jr. of DVD Reviews praised Winstead and Merriman's performances as one of the few positive aspects of the film.[73]


The film was nominated at the 2006 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Highest Body Count, Line That Killed (Best One-Liner), Sickest FX (Best Special Effects) as well as Most Thrilling Killing (Best Death Scene) for Frankie's death.[74] At the 2007 Saturn Awards it was nominated for Best Horror Film, with the "Thrill Ride Edition" being nominated for Best DVD Special Edition Release.[75]


  1. ^ The film is set in 2005. Kevin's statement to Wendy outside their school that the Flight 180 explosion from the first film occurred "six years ago" is a continuity error, as the first film is set in 2000.



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  • Brinkema, Eugenie (2015). "Design Terminable and Interminable: The Possibility of Death in Final Destination". Journal of Visual Culture. 14 (3): 298–310. doi:10.1177/1470412915607923. 
  • Conrich, Ian (2015). "Puzzles, Contraptions and the Highly Elaborate Moment: The Inevitability of Death in the Grand Slasher Narratives of the Final Destination and Saw Series of Films". In Clayton, Wickham. Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 106–17. doi:10.1057/9781137496478_8. ISBN 9781137496478. 
  • Humphries, Reynold (2002). The American Horror Film: An Introduction. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748614165. 

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