Exploiting Fear Of The Wildly Unlikely In FINAL DESTINATION 3

The event of injury due to failure or malfunction on the part of the roller coaster itself or any other freak of nature is, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, 24 million-to-1. The odds of dying for the same reason is quite higher, at around 300 million-to-1. Let that sink in. Those are the same odds as matching all six numbers in the Powerball. You’d have an unimaginably higher chance dying on your way to the amusement park than you do on any of the rides, yet a fear of the steel giants is one of the top in the country.

So the question that naturally has to be asked is: Why?

Why do we worry ourselves over scenarios that are literally millions of times less likely to happen than dying while doing activities like driving and eating – things we do every day and don’t give a second thought? Why does something as outrageously over-the-top as something like the opening sequence of Final Destination 3 give you such a feeling that, even if you can just laugh it off for the badness of it all, still give you morbid thoughts each time you go to a theme park?

How Horror Lingers

In short, it’s horror. Whether it’s your run-of-the-mill slow-burn horror treats for film snobs, a stupid, schlocky R-rated slasher, or even a particularly gruesome news story, horror is a special kind of genre that lingers long after you’ve left the theater or TV. To get that effect, a movie or story either has to be so dramatically compelling or the themes so thought-provoking that you can’t stop thinking about it for weeks on end, your entire philosophy of life turned on its head, or it just has to be nearly any competently made horror movie in existence.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Horror movies don’t have to be good to get the same effect that some thought-provoking melodramas that writers and filmmakers work for years carefully crafting. It’s really true. Blame your brain, if you want. Blame redundant subconscious instincts leftover from our early years as cavemen that are exploited by smart or cheap horror alike. It’s in our DNA to not only jump when something sudden pops up on screen or a sound jerks you awake, but whenever a familiar setting and an absolute worst-case scenario plays out on screen.

Exploiting Fear Of The Wildly Unlikely In FINAL DESTINATION 3
source: New Line Cinema

No matter how wildly unlikely the scenario, no matter how unrealistic or exaggerated, we can’t help but feel that much warier the next time we come across whatever real-life place set the stage for the movie in question. Whether it’s an amusement park in the case of Final Destination 3, or your own home in the case of hit movies like Paranormal Activity or The Strangers.

And what’s interesting is that that place may not be somewhere you encounter every day – it could be once a month, maybe, or even once every couple of years. It could be decades before you come across the setting of that stupid slasher movie you saw when you were a kid. But when you’re particularly vulnerable to the cheap tricks of horror – whether as a kid, scarred for life, or as a squeamish adult – you can’t help but have it stick with you, deep in inaccessible parts of your subconscious, for a really, really long time.

In the case of the movie in question, let’s break down exactly how much of this is exaggerated, and how much is real. And in doing so, you might leave here a little bit more informed, and once you see exactly the level of unrealism on display here, maybe a little less anxious.

Debunking The Lies of Final Destination 3

The inciting incident – the one, singular action that makes this whole disaster possible is, I kid you not, a video camera that falls on a piece of track and, through some force of physics, wraps itself in a tight hug around the tubular steel.

Think about that for a second. The cause of this whole catastrophe of gore is the result of a hefty piece of early 2000s video equipment falling from some fifty-something feet in the air. You, a friend, a friend of that friend, or whoever you may know that saw this scene way back when and were scarred from ever riding a roller coaster again now or used to have a phobia based on this fact.

Exploiting Fear Of The Wildly Unlikely In FINAL DESTINATION 3
source: New Line Cinema

Though it gets worse. Fast forward to where all hell has well broken loose, where the camera has done its damage and several riders have met their grisly end, and we reach the climax of our scene. This one, miraculous moment that makes the event with the camera seem plausible. The trains rolls to a stop – loses its momentum entirely – on top of a loop.

Let me repeat that. The train stopped upside down. Upside down. At the top of a loop. And stayed there.

I’ll admit, I was deathly afraid of roller coasters after watching this very movie at my cousin’s house, and now I’m obsessed with all things roller coasters – can’t get enough of them. It wasn’t until I rewatched the opening scene again all those years later that I realized a nearly decade-long fear developed from a scene developed by filmmakers who thought audiences would buy something like this. But, evidently, they did. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, talking about it to this day.


All in all, If I intended this to accomplish anything, I’d like to think that at least one person out there might think twice about their doubts and anxieties the next time they feel them rising up inside them when they next see a roller coaster, or anything else that some random horror film from years ago might have ruined.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t watch these movies – even the worst of them make for good guilty pleasures – just the fact that a mere collection of billions of pixels and sound waves has such a powerful inroad to our psyche is worth merit on its own.

What you should do is be aware of these movies, and what they do. Appreciate them for the power something that really only a movie can do, but also keep in mind a simple idea that can’t help but come off as condescending no matter how it’s put – what you see on screen isn’t real – even documentarians have to fix their footage in the edit to better suit a narrative. Every movie in history has to be exaggerated to a certain degree in order to properly entertain and horror movies do it best.

What do you think? Is there a movie that made you scared to go somewhere or do something? Let us know in the comments!

Watch Final Destination 3

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