I recently had the good fortune to visit the United States of America. It was a great trip, relaxing and exciting at the same time. I met some nice people and saw some interesting sights; all in all it was a good holiday. Now that some time has passed since my return it is easier to be a little more objective about the experience. There’s only one thing I really wish I could change and that would be the flight home as it turned out that a large group of teens were traveling to Ireland for some kind of field trip on the same plane as I was. Teenagers in large groups are the same the world over and the prospect of a seven or eight hour flight with this lot on board scared the shit out of me far more than any horror film ever could. I hadn’t thought about the problems with that particular plane ride until last evening when I sat down to watch Final Destination.
Final Destination (2000) focuses on a group of teenagers as they embark on a school field trip from New York to Paris, France. One of the gang, Alex, gets an uneasy feeling on the plane just before departure that develops into a vision of disaster in which the plane explodes and those on-board all die horribly. He wigs the fuck out on a grand scale and has such a spaz attack that he, and a bunch of his classmates, and one of their teachers, are removed from the plane and left at the airport to catch the next flight. As they’re cooling their heels in the departure lounge watching their flight leave, the plane explodes killing all on-board, just like in Alex’s vision. (This is what reminded me of my return flight from the U.S., as after about ten minutes in the company of those teenagers going on their field trip I was praying that the plane would explode!).
In the aftermath of the disaster Alex finds himself ostracised by the other survivors as well as pretty much everyone around him as they’re all convinced there’s something weird, and more than a little frightening, about him. Meanwhile, the FBI agents investigating the explosion follow Alex as they try to work out how he knew about the crash before it happened.
Those who got off the plane are all dealing with a large dose of survivors’ guilt, with some doing better than others. One night, Alex’s friend Tod is killed in his bathroom by an unseen force, though the manner of his death leads everyone to the conclusion that it was a suicide. Alex is unconvinced and he and his new friend Clear (which I swear they pronounced “Clare”) break into the mortuary to take a gander at Tod’s corpse. There they meet a creepy mortician who informs them that Tod was struggling at the time of his death, so it’s unlikely he died by his own hand. Alex and Clear, with a little help from the mortician, come to the conclusion that they were supposed to have died in the plane crash and that death is now stalking them and the others as it’s not possible to cheat the grim reaper.
One by one the survivors die off in bizarre circumstances as sure enough something is out to get them…
Final Destination is a fun movie on many levels. The ways in which death comes after the different kids (and their teacher) are interesting and often funny, some of them are even delightfully gory. Each of the deaths are setup in a way that allows the audience to see them coming from a long way off, which is actually great as you get to wonder who the victim is and if they’ll get out of their impending doom.
The performances are all as good as they need to be for a film of this type. In terms of casting there are two surprises, Sean William Scott (Stifler from the American Pie movies, though I prefer to think of him in Role Models as that was actually good) as Billy, and Ali Larter (the good looking chick from Heroes) as Clear. The direction, provided by James Wong, who made a name for himself directing episodes of The X-Files, is perfectly adequate, getting the shocks in the right place and not getting too hung up on things that would have been wasted in Final Destination, like a B-Plot or character development, or an explanation for what was going on.
The core idea of Final Destination of death itself as the baddie is a decent one, but it’s also the biggest failing of the film. Death is not really seen, there’s no actual reaper just a dark shape that appears before another character dies, so the villain of the piece is really a concept. But death is a concept we all live with all the time, though hopefully we don’t always have to face it too often. In making death the thing the characters in the film are facing the audience needs a really good reason not to want the characters dead. Not want the characters dead? Not want the annoying, all white, wholesome American teenagers with their cars and their clothes dead? That’s not fucking possible! Anyone watching Final Destination will be cheering for death to get the little bastards in as gruesome a manner as he can – like I said, it’s a fun little movie.
Also, the good looking chick from Heroes is in it.
Two Thumbs Up for Final Destination.