Starring-Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith
Scott’s Review #1,186
Reviewed October 16, 2021
Following the commercial success of Wes Craven’s Scream in the mid-1990s, the horror genre was now a hot ticket item once again. New Line Cinema capitalized on this financial goldmine by creating the popular Final Destination franchise in 2000. Five films were created in total.
The Final Destination films all have the same premise. A small group of people escapes impending death after one individual sees a sudden premonition and warns the others about the mass-casualty accident that is about to happen. Their luck is unfortunately short-lived.
After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are systematically killed off one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect. In other words, there is no way they can cheat death and the bastard will have his way with them.
The upside is that the deaths are highly creative and oodles of fun for the blood-thirsty horror viewer to feast upon. Instead of a knife-wielding maniac, the protagonist is an evil force which at the time was a neat little add-on that made the film unique.
The victims are mainly teenagers or twenty-something characters which are the target audience for these and most other horror films.
In Final Destination (2000), high school student Alex Browning (Sawa), is about to embark on a fabulous trip to Paris for his senior class trip. He is joined by a group of his schoolmates. Just before takeoff as the group is settling in for their eight-hour journey from New York to Charles de Gaulle Airport Alex experiences a premonition and sees the plane explode moments after leaving the ground.
Alex becomes unruly and insists that everyone get off the plane and seven people including Alex, are forced to disembark. All watch as the plane explodes in an enormous fireball, killing everyone on board. He and the other survivors have briefly cheated death, but will not be able to avoid their fate for very long. One by one, these lucky survivors fall victim to the grim reaper.
I have seen each one of the Final Destination films and enjoyed them all. Atypically, the first film is not the best. I may argue that part 2 is the best but that is irrelevant to this review.
The premise is extremely clever and instantly absorbing. Instead of the dated “final girl” one assumes that Alex will be the last survivor and that may or may not be true as a twisted game of figuring out which order the seven survivors will be killed is based on their seating arrangements on the flight nearly drives Alex mad.
It’s the perfect engagement for the viewer.
As a clue, director James Wong who co-wrote the screenplay creates stock characters like the dumb jock, Carter Horton, with the muscle car, played exceptionally well by Kerr Smith, and the douchey Billy Hitchcock (Seann Williams Scott). There is a teacher and FBI agents thrown in for good measure so it becomes obvious who is going to be killed off.
The fun is watching how they are killed. Delicious deaths like being run over by a bus, embedded by flying knives, and a good old-fashioned decapitation by flying shrapnel are to be enjoyed.
The final sequence, ironically set in Paris, is exceptional as three survivors are left and they feel safe. They are not safe at all as one of them suddenly realizes resulting in a clever final kill followed by sudden end credits.
This is narrowly usurped by the brilliant plane crash premonition scenes as Alex teeters between reality and premonition. The plane explosion is highly effective and is shown from inside the fuselage. The visual effects which used a miniature Boeing 747 are wonderful to watch with heart-racing detail and excitement.
At times during Final Destination, the action lags and Ali Larter who plays Clear Rivers is not the greatest actress. Her silly battle with electric sparks while sitting in a car is not the film’s finest sequence.
Final Destination (2000) is a fun popcorn film with some admirable unexpected turns. It stays true to the horror formula while offering some unique additions that feel fresh. It’s a roller coaster ride meant to be enjoyed and not overanalyzed. The innovation suitably balances the fun.