Final Destination Review

by Greg King (gregking AT netau DOT com DOT au)
April 22nd, 2000

(New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow)
Director: James Wong
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Tony Todd, Kristen Cloke, Seann William Scott, Chad E Donella, Amanda Detmer, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith.
Teen hunk Devon Sawa (Wild America, Casper, etc) seems keen on carving out a little niche for himself in the teen horror genre. First there was the decidedly juvenile Idle Hands, and now there's the formulaic Final Destination, a teen slasher film that seems influenced by The Twilight Zone. Final Destination also owes a lot to films like Friday The Thirteenth and the Scream series, albeit without the knowing genre references and irreverent style.
Sawa plays Alex Browning, who seems blessed, or cursed, with the ability to see death coming. When he and several class mates are setting off for a trip to Paris, Alex has a premonition that the plane will explode in spectacular fashion immediately after take off. He creates a panic, resulting in him, five friends and a teacher being thrown off the plane. Soon after, the plane does explode, and Alex falls under FBI suspicion. The seven survivors try to deal with their guilt and sense of loss in different ways. But it soon seems that the seven have only temporarily escaped fate, as one after another they begin to perish in bloody and mysterious circumstances. Alex believes that the deaths are following a pattern and desperately tries to save his friends and cheat fate once again. Under the guise of the formulaic teen supernatural slasher genre, co-writers James Wong and Glen Morgan (who contributed to episodes of spooky tv series like The X Files) explore some important philosophical questions. Is there a pattern to the way we lead our lives and the manner and timing of our deaths? Can we really cheat death if our time is up? Is Alex deluding himself into believing that events are following a pattern, and that he holds the power of life over death in his hands? However, many of these themes become a little loss amongst the gore and bloodletting.
The symbolism during the opening scenes is heavy handed, but Wong's handling of several scenes throughout injects some suspense, a sense of dread and even some unexpected touches of humour into the proceedings. His direction sometimes shows flair and invention, and an understanding of the demands and limitations of this genre. He maintains a fast pace throughout that, albeit temporarily, glosses over many of the implausibilities, inconsistencies and gaping holes in the narrative. The performances of the mainly young and unknown cast are more than adequate for this type of film. Fans of the genre will recognise Tony Todd, the original Candyman, in a cameo as an unnerving mortician.
Final Destination may not be a classic of the genre, but it delivers enough thrills and shocks to satisfy its target audience!
greg king

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