Final Destination (2000)

20 Mar

Final Destination2

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Death is all around us. It’s an unseen malevolent force that decides when we all die. It has this grand design that is already set in motion. But if that design is tampered with somehow, it only becomes worse for those who were meant to die in the first place. One by one, those who were meant to die originally die right away (not later—right away) in all sorts of freak accidents.

That is the premise for the movie “Final Destination” and what they don’t answer in this movie (or maybe the writers are just afraid to) is where religion fits into all of this. But once you take this premise and combine it with a dead teenager movie, you get a fun, scary thrill ride. This is the same league as dead teenager movies, such as “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” but somehow it’s better because it takes this premise seriously. The teenagers in this movie talk about their situation and try to deal with it before they die in horrific ways. Also, what makes this different from previous dead teenager movies (and more effective) is that the killer in this movie is Death itself—you can’t see it, you can’t feel it, you can’t escape it. That’s chilling enough.

The film opens with a terrifyingly convincing sequence in which a high school senior named Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his classmates are leaving on an airplane, heading to Paris for a class trip. But something goes horribly wrong and their plane explodes. This sequence is frightening for anyone about to take a trip on an airplane.

This sequence is a premonition from Alex. He sees the explosion and wakes up at the moment when the plane is about to take off. But he fears that this was no dream and he freaks out, getting himself and a few others (including a teacher) thrown off the plane before it takes off. It turns out his vision was accurate and they all watch as the most horrific occurs. OK, so they escaped Death for now, but this is just the beginning…

Now the question is who’s going to die next and how. One thing is certain—Death is not going to stop and (this is the goofiest part of the movie) no death will be subtle. It seems that Death is a huge fan of Rube Goldberg contraptions. All sorts of unexpected traps are set up to kill off these teenagers one by one. But strangely, it works, especially in a scene where it seems that a teenager is done for—a train is coming while the most macho and idiotic of the teenagers, Carter (Kerr Smith), has parked his car on the tracks; his seatbelt is stuck and the doors suddenly lock. The train is coming and despite the obvious oncoming, I bought the suspense.

Another element I liked about the movie—the teenagers talk about their situation. They have meetings. They try to figure out a way to cheat Death’s design. It’s fun to watch them talk about this preposterous yet terrifying situation. Alex and his girlfriend Clear (Ali Larter) even come in touch with a mysterious mortician (Tony Todd, “Candyman”), who seems to be Death’s spokesman and even has that chilling line, “I’ll see you soon.” (That’s even in the trailer.)

What really helps in the movie is that I actually did care about who lived and who died. Devon Sawa and Ali Larter are appealing as the two leads. The only exceptions are Kerr Smith, who is just plain obnoxious, and Seann William Scott (whom you might recognize as Stifler from “American Pie”), who overdoes it with the white guy-black guy wannabe persona and wardrobe.

Like the “Scream” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, “Final Destination” will inspire the obligatory sequels. I hope at least one of them is as good as the original. But then again, I’m asking for too much. Director James Wong, whose previous TV efforts are impressive, has created a dead teenager movie that has a new twist in the plot, a talented cast, and an intelligence that can’t be described if you asked me to describe it. “Final Destination” is scary, thrilling, well-acted, and well-directed. It is also silly. This is not a great film but a good film. I just hope Death doesn’t take that last sentence the wrong way. If so, I’m committing myself into a padded wall room in a mental institution.

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