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Final Destination (2000)


Is it possible to cheat death? Could you avoid a grisly fate if you just had enough warning, a premonition that things were about to go horribly wrong? What if you did? What if you were able to prevent a handful of deaths on the eve of a horrifying disaster? Now, Death’s books must be balanced, and he doesn’t like things to be left untidy. It’s nothing personal. Just business.

Final Destination is an American horror film writted, produced, and directed by James Wong, based on an idea written by Jeffrey Reddick and originally pitched as an episode of The X-Files. It was distributed by New Line Cinema (the House that Freddy Built). It stars Devon “Idle Hands” Sawa, Ali “Heroes” Larter, Kerr “Lucid Days in Hell” Smith, Kristen “Stay Tuned” Cloke, Daniel “The Fugitive” Roebuck, Roger Guenuer “No, that’s not The Rock” Smith, Chad “Disturbing Behavior” Donella, Seann William “Dude, Where’s My Car?” Scott, Amanda “Saving Silverman” Detmer, and Tony “Voice of the Antichrist” Todd.

Alex Browning (Sawa) is about to go on a high school field trip to France with his French class. Shortly after boarding, Alex has a vision of the plane exploding shortly after takeoff (in a terrifying sequence depicted more or less from Alex’s point of view – that is, from inside the fuselage… yeep). He wakes from this nightmare and, finding that events are unfolding just as he saw them in the dream, he appropriately freaks out, screaming that the plane was going to explode. His freakout and the resultant brawl in the aisle gets himself and a handful of others removed from the plane, including French teacher Ms. Lewton (Cloke), jerkass Carter Horton (Smith) and his girlfriend Terry (Detmer), and his friend Tod (Donella). Billy (Scott) is caught out due to being in the airport bathroom, and Clear (Larter) leaves of her own accord, sensing something wrong. Airport security, naturally, takes this thing very seriously, especially after the plane actually explodes as predicted. The survivors are devestated, and two FBI agents (Roebuck and Smith) question them, especially focusing on Alex’s vision.

A month passes before Alex starts to see the darker consequences of his apparently miraculous. As his entire class has heard about the incident, he is treated as a pariah already, so when Tod apparently hangs himself in the bathroom (actually a freak accident) Alex is blamed, bit Clear isn’t so sure. After a brief encounter with the mortician in charge of preparing Tod’s body for burial, Mr. Bludworth (Todd, as himself), Alex and Clear learn that Death has a design – and that Alex has messed up this plan. As a result, Death is trying to set things right by making sure that those that were scheduled to die, do die, by accidental methods as intended. Fortunately, Death still has a pattern, and if Alex figures that if he can figure out this pattern, he might be able to cheat death a second time – but how long can he outrun Death?

Final Destination was a pleasant surprise when I first saw it in theaters. After nearly a decade of unscary gorefests, I was delighted to finally find a horror movie that genuinely put the fear of death in me. Much of the paranoia fuel come in not knowing where or when the deaths would come – and because it’s Death himself stalking the leads, there is literally no escape – if he wants you, he will get you, and it will virtually come out of nowhere. The randomness of the accidents was most believeable (though Ms. Lewton’s death seemed like teabagging after a certain point), and I found myself walking into a room afterwards and subconsciously counting the ways it could kill me. On an interesting note, when I first saw FD in theaters, I was in this state of situational paranoia when I went to drive home, and discovered that it had started pouring down rain during the movie. And I had to drive home in that. Yaaaaay.

Another pleasant surprise was the quality of the acting. While many horror movies I’ve seen feature Bad Bad Acting, the leads were plausible as survivors of one disaster trying to outrun others. Sawa seemed a bit flat at times, but this is easily excusable as residual shell shock. They appeared to be believeable, rounded people, so that even Carter’s increasing douchebaggery when confronted by a threat he couldn’t fight seemd to fit. I felt genuinely bad for Alex as his class and fellow survivors turned on him, but fear does strange things to human nature. Tony Todd, the only actor I recognized during my first viewing, makes a very creepy Mr. Exposition without his scene seeming shoehorned (and he would reprise his role as Bludworth in FD2).

Final Destination was the first movie I’d seen in a long time to genuinely scare rather than simply shock. Therefore, it ranks amongst my favorite horror movies, and I would definitely recommend it for people who want a scary movie that doesn’t rely on gallons of blood to make its point.

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