The literary critic Paul Bleton argues that the difference between genre and non-genre pieces is that genre pieces have a structure resembling that of a string of pearls. What Bleton means is that genre (whether erotic, sensational or criminal) is all about big dramatic set pieces. These dazzling moments of spectacle attract the eyes, stimulate the brain and distract you from the fact that the plots and characters they involve frequently serve no purpose other than to tie the set-pieces together into something broadly resembling a story.
Interesting though it may be, Bleton’s conception of genre is now seriously out of date. Firstly, a generation of writers and directors with interests in character and subtext have worked at reclaiming genre devices so as to blur the distinction between pearl and string. Secondly, a generation of directors including Michael Bay (Transformers), Gore Verbinsky (Pirates of the Caribbean), and Mark Neveldene and Brian Taylor (Crank) have stripped away the fig leaf of plot and character to produce films that are nothing more than series of set-pieces held together by implication and the fact that they are packaged and sold as a single artistic unit.
With the difference between genre and non-genre under continuous assault on multiple sides, there is something pure and elegant in a film that is unapologetic in its string of pearls-like structure. The Final Destination series has never been anything other than a series of lavish set-pieces held together by weak plots and terrible characters but in that terrible predictability lies real profundity.