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Final Destination (or as it’s known in China : “The Death God Comes”) is the story of a group of teenagers who narrowly escape a plane crash after one of them experiences a premonition. As the days unfold the group begin to die in a specific order.
Big flipping spoilers.
It’s with a great fondness that i recall Final Destination. It could even have been one of the first DVD’s i ever bought. Here we are 21 years later and it’s with a similar fondness in mind that i sit down to review it.
The premise for this outing is as solid as a brick wall and the messaging here is clear : If you cheat death, it will come for you and eventually it might even catch you. That’s not the tagline for the film but it should be! The actual tagline was “No Accidents. No Coincidences. No Escapes. You Can’t Cheat Death.” It’s got a nice ring to it, but it doesn’t really pop, does it?
Wandering into this franchise in 2000 would have been a difficult outing for any cinema-goer. Billed as a “Teen Horror”, a genre which peaked during the noughties, Final Destination was not typically stylised as such.
Although being very much of the Horror genre the film contains an unseen enemy and not the typical murderer/slasher that features so heavily in that classification. This is common place today but back then we had the likes of Mike, Fred, Jason and Chuck to name but a few. This is one of the elements i find so appealing about Final Destination – the manifestation of Death as a moving, stalking entity with a plan, yet still not visually represented as a character.
The imagery and forboding score of the opening credits gives off distinctly Cape Fear-meets-Davinci Code vibes which really do take their sweet time to play out. Or it could just be impatience.
Alex (Played by Devon Sawa) is established early on as the protagonist and turns in a decent performance despite some cringey dialogue throughout. As with Ali Larter, they make the most of what was a questionable script, but it enables the characters to move through difficult areas in the plot.
This film also stars Sean William Scott (fresh off the heels of American Pie, 1999) as Billy, who comes across as innocently goofy and annoyingly likeable. Scott lends comedy to the some of the drier scenes in the film. Billy has a knack for showing up at inconveniently comical moments and his death plays out in equal fashion.
During this viewing I experienced a satisfying jump scare in the morgue scene when Tod’s arm moved. I’m not sure why but it caught me at the right moment and it felt great! The same nearly occurred seconds later in the scene when i saw Tony Todd who, for many of us, will forever be Candyman. His character Bludworth seems to not only be intertwined with the franchise (i’m informed, as i haven’t watched the 4 sequel films, read the 2 comic books or read the nine novels yet) but has otherworldly knowledge of Death and its behaviors. (there is also reportedly a 6th installment in development for 2022??)
The camera work in this outing is fun and a real treat to build up the scenes and impending deaths. The camera floats and creeps along walls and down corridors, almost signifying a presence of its own. It drifts through the set only to land on a possible threat, or at least establish potential threats within the environment the target character inhabits. The camera work in the pre flight portion of the film especially (aboard the aircraft) is wonderfully claustrophobic.
The actual crash doesn’t really get the screen time it deserves which is both a strange choice and a logical one. The plane explodes in the background almost incidentally to the scene within the terminal.
It’s around this time during the viewing that i realize this film contributed heavily to my dislike of flying…..
Originally entitled Flight 180 (a number we see reoccurring throughout the film) New Line Cinema changed the name to avoid any confusion with similar sounding film titles.
This film contains one of my all-time favourite character-gets-hit-out-of-nowhere-by-a-bus scenes, which i have included here for reference :
All in all Final Destination has aged fairly gracefully. Much more than some of its contemporaries within the teen horror genre. The absence of a physical slasher-type enemy adds a layer of sinister evil which carries the film. Death cannot be stopped by walls or doors. It’s an intelligent premise certainly and not a run of the mill, set-em-up-knock-em-down horror film.
The film occasionally dips into more comical and campy areas (like when Alex is avoiding any danger within the cabin, or in the closing scene) but i feel like it helps the film steer clear of shallower waters.
It’s interesting to theorize how exactly Alex knew the plane might explode. Surely it wasn’t death “giving him a heads up”. Could it be that Alex has some sort of psychic ability or ability to see the future, which the various victims catch glimpses of and Clear later adopts? Or why he in particular is so attuned to the actions of death as an entity with designs of its own?
Final Destination is an exercise in foreshadowing, and pardon my pun, beautifully executed. There’s an extensive list available between Screengeek and the wonderful Final Destination Fandom site which i suggest you check out.
You can also find the alternate ending for Final Destination here.
I recommend a rewatch of the whole franchise before tackling Ryan Hollinger’s fantastic dissection of Final Destination.
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