Final Destination (2000)
“Death Doesn’t Take No For An Answer.”
Director: James Wong
Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith
Synopsis: After a teenager has a terrifying vision of him and his friends dying in a plane crash, he prevents the accident only to have Death hunt them down, one by one.
The only certainty in life is that it will one day come to an end for each and every one of us. We’ve all pondered over when that day will come, and what measures we can take to ensure that fateful day remains far off in the future. Then we eat the wrong foods and drink too much alcohol in the mistaken belief that even though we know we’re going to die, we’re still somehow immortal. Final Destination cleverly plays with those universal fears and anxieties, and exploits them to good measure by playing on that knowledge that death can’t be escaped.
Final Destination opens with a group of high school kids preparing to board a plane for France. One of the teens, Alex (Devon Sawa), has a terrifying (and well-constructed) premonition of the plane exploding shortly after take-off and his panicked reaction results in himself, five schoolmates and a teacher being ejected from the plane. While the group argue over their missed flight we see, through the departure lounge windows, the plane on which they are supposed to be travelling turned into a giant fireball in the sky.
The survivors never feel any relief at having escaped the fate of their fellow travellers. They’re too busy suffering survivor’s guilt and trying to come to terms with Alex’s premonitory dream for that. And then, after a month or so, they begin to die. First, Alex’s friend Todd dies in a freak accident that’s mistaken for suicide by the coroner, although Alex is already beginning to suspect supernatural forces are at play. Then one of the girls is mown down by a bus (a fairly mundane – but unexpected – type of death for an FD movie). It soon becomes apparent to Alex that death is stalking them, determined to claim the lives it should have taken on the night of the air crash.
Final Destination is pretty good for a teens-in-peril movie – although that doesn’t mean it’s a particularly good film in general. Let‘s face it, as far as teen horror movies are concerned the bar isn’t really set that high. The writers demonstrate their grounding in old horror movies by naming their characters after classic directors and stars, and they fill the screen with references to both old horror movies and to its own forthcoming executions. Some of the deaths are inventive, but some are less so, and none are as elaborate as the deaths that were to follow in later movies in the franchise.
Much of the movie comprises of the imperilled teens talking about their predicament, and about the implications of what is happening to them. And the manner in which their typical unthinking assumption of their own immortality is systematically stripped away is like an extreme acceleration of the changes in thought we all undergo about our own inevitable demise as we grow older. And this, more than the ingenious deaths themselves, is what makes Final Destination unique in the horror genre. We can all relate, because one day we’ll each of us try and defy death by drawing just one more breath…
(Reviewed 16th June 2012)