Final Destination and Final Destination 2 (review)

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You can tell that Final Destination is a fantasy, because it starts out at the airport — at John F. Kennedy International Airport, actually — and we see a flight actually get into the air 30 seconds after the plane pulls back from the jetway and the captain tells the flight attendants to “prepare for departure.” It’s rainy night at one of the world’s busiest airports, but there’s no waiting in line on the tarmac, listening to the captain tell you that “we’re about twelfth in line for takeoff and expect to be in the air in about fifteen minutes”; there’s no need to return to the gate to refuel when fifteen minutes turns into an hour. Just whoosh: and we’re on our way.

In fact, the least fantastical thing about this scenario is that the plane explodes just after takeoff.

And then it goes all fantastical again, cuz see: A bunch of teenagers who were supposed to be going to Paris on a class trip got off the plane just before it departed, and now they’re still alive and Death is pissed. You’d think a guy like Death would see these things coming, but I guess he’s got a lot on his plate. So now he’s got some loose ends to clean up, which he does by actually making very big bloody messes where intact teenage bodies used to be. I’m not sure why it’s always teenagers in these things, except that maybe 17-year-olds’ feelings of immortality protect them from actually worrying about actually dying, and so teens are the only ones who can genuinely enjoy a movie about their peers getting offed in horrible ways.

It’s dramatic in an X-Files-y kind of way in the beginning — it was a vision of the plane exploding by one of the would-be explodees that prompted the kids to get off the plane in the first place. And hey, what’s this? X-Files vets James Wong and Glen Morgan are behind this, though it rapidly leaves Fox Mulder territory and devolves into hamhanded teen-philosophy stuff about fate and death’s design and living forever and nobody controls my destiny. Plus it’s hilariously portentous, too — absolutely everything is a sign of something nasty about to happen. No, I mean everything: every gust of wind, every turn of a ceiling fan, every falling leaf, every torn bit of newspaper, even the print of the wallpaper and an ominously leaking toilet. Death, the perv, comes to those in the bathroom a lot, actually, which I guess is creepy, cuz no one wants to die on the toilet. Just ask Sergeant Roger Murtaugh.

Also: John Denver is a portent of Death, but I think we already knew that.

It gets kinda goofily giddy, waiting for everyone to die, except we know Ali Larter (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, American Outlaws) lives cuz she’s witchy and sees things and is very philosophical — “Fuck Death,” she proclaims — but also because we know she’s in the sequel. And this is before she went blond, and no girl deserves to die before she has that opportunity. Still, it’s refreshing to witness the separate and equally horrifying demises of Devon Sawa (Extreme Ops) and that Dude, Where’s My Car? guy.

Die another day
Even though we were told “there are no second chances” in Final Destination, here we are anyway. No X-Filers were involved in the production this time around — now it’s director David R. Ellis, a former stuntman and “noted second unit action director” and some guys who scribbled a script out on cocktail napkins — which likely accounts for its uncomfortable combination of giggle-inducing absurdity and disgustingly graphic visions of death, dismemberment, impalement, crushing, squashing, etcetera.

Not that Final Destination 2 was ever meant to be a treatise on logic and rational thinking, but this is a story that takes place on Long Island — you know, that long, flat piece of land that sticks out in the Atlantic and is mostly known for its beaches — and posits that a highway accident here could be caused by a logging truck losing its cargo.

I grew up mostly on Long Island. My parents still live there. I’m on Long Island a lot. I have never seen a logging truck on Long Island. Nor have I seen the snow-capped mountains or the breathtaking ranges of soaring, majestic pines of Long Island, but maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.

Maybe it’s meant to be an homage to the fantastical opening of Final Destination 1.

So now it’s a whole new group of people in British Columbia– I mean, on Long Island, who have put themselves in Death’s crosshairs by surviving that logging-truck pileup when they were supposed to lie down quietly and die, there’s a nice mortal. It’s almost the same motley band of losers, too: the scoffer, the one with a death wish, and so on. They’re all so bland and interchangeable that it’s hard to distinguish them, which makes you wonder how Death can tell the difference between them, either.

Ali Larter is back, blond now, though she’s been living in a padded room in a mental hospital, sure that Death is coming for her since the we-don’t-know-how-to-end-this ending of FD1. A.J. Cook (The Virgin Suicides) comes for her instead — she’s the gal who had the vision of the highway mess and allowed a bunch of folks to trade one horrifying death for another, and she hopes Ali can give her some advice. Mine would have been: Fire your agent and do summer stock, anything, to avoid having to appear in awful films like this one. And as for Ali: Sister, your American Outlaws costar has graduated to an Al Pacino movie, and you’re doing horror sequels?

Final Destination
viewed at home on a small screen
rated R for violence and terror, and for language
official site | IMDB

Final Destination 2
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers
rated R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity
official site | IMDB

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