Thursday, October 2, 2014

#1,508. Final Destination (2000)

Directed By: James Wong

Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith

Tag line: "Can You Cheat Death?"

Trivia: The film started off as a spec script for a potential episode of the TV series, The X Files

In most horror films, the main characters are at least given a chance to survive; even those facing off against such time-honored killers as Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jigsaw sometimes find a way to make it out alive. But the “killer” in 2000’s Final Destination is a different sort of beast altogether. It isn’t flesh and blood, spirit or demon; it’s death itself. You might be able to steer clear of Leatherface, but how long can you outrun your own fate?

While on a plane bound for Paris with the rest of his senior class, high school student Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that the aircraft is going to explode within moments of taking off. After insisting quite loudly that a disaster is about to take place, Alex gets into a fight with classmate Carter Horton (Kerr Smith), and as a result both students (and a handful of others) are escorted off the plane. Along with fellow teens Tod Waggner (Chad Donella), Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer), Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott) and Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), as well as teacher Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke) who volunteered to stay behind with the group, Alex and Carter watch as the plane takes off, then immediately blows up in mid-air, killing everyone on-board.

Five weeks pass. Alex and the others are still reeling from the experience when, all of a sudden, one of them unexpectedly dies. Though the death is ruled a suicide, Alex believes something much more sinister is at play. Hoping to learn the truth, he and Clear break into the funeral home to inspect the body of their recently deceased friend, and instead have a run-in with a creepy mortician (Tony Todd), who informs the teens that none of them were supposed to survive the crash, that Alex threw a monkey wrench in Death’s plans when he led the others off the doomed aircraft. So, in an attempt to set things right, Death has now come to collect them. One by one, the survivors meet a grisly end, causing the remaining few to band together and search for a way to once again cheat the Grim Reaper.

Originally written as a potential episode for the sci-fi series The X-Files, Final Destination gets off to a great start, showing us, in detail, what Alex sees in his mind’s eye (the sequence where he “dreams” the explosion and the ensuing chaos is really powerful stuff). From there, the movie spends a little time exploring the character’s reactions to what happened. Teacher Valerie Lewton, who told her associate to get back on the plane, is riddled with guilt, while Carter has a hard time accepting the fact that Alex saved his life (a strongly independent person, he hates the very notion that he’s not in control of his own destiny). By dealing with the emotional aftermath, Final Destination gives weight to both the tragedy and the characters who survived it, turning each one into something more than your typical horror movie victim.

Of course, none of them are given much time to ponder the “what ifs”, because Death has once again come looking for them. The scenes in which some of the characters meet their fate are given an almost humorous bent, with Death taking advantage of everything at its disposal to finish the job (one inadvertently spills vodka on their computer monitor, resulting in an explosion that sends debris flying, some of which slices the victim’s throat). A few times, we even get to “see” Death, represented by way of a dark shadow that sweeps across the screen, letting us know something very bad is about to happen.

A unique film with plenty of surprises, Final Destination takes horror in a new - and very entertaining – direction.


David said...

Hey there Doc. Sorry I haven't commented in so long. It doesn't mean I've not been reading regularly; I can always rely on you to review an interesting and extraordinary variety of stuff.

"Final Destination" is one of those movies that I think is given a hard time by a lot of folks and I think it's easy to write off its premise as a cheap excuse for over-the-top deaths(some of the kills in this franchise rival the "Saw" movies when it comes to Rube Goldbergian ridiculousness) but I think the actual concept at the films heart is truly terrifying. It takes the unrelenting, indefatigable killer to the next level.

This isn't exactly a great movie, but I enjoy it as much for nostalgic reasons as anything else. I guess I was about 13 or 14 when I first saw this and it's stuck with me ever since.

- David

Juan Esparza said...

I believe this to be a modern classic. Sure, it is self indulgent, ridiculous, silly, and over the top, but it's so much fun! "Final Destination" may be not be as important for horror in the 2000s as movies like Saw, Hostel or The Ring—to name a few—but it definitely left its mark.

Peter Nielsen said...

Haven't seen this in a while, but I highly enjoyed it the last time I watched it!
Good choice, Dave!