Final Destination Review

by Christian Pyle (tlcclp AT aol DOT com)
May 22nd, 2000

Final Destination
Reviewed by Christian Pyle
Directed by James Wong
Written by Jeffrey Reddick, Glen Morgan, and James Wong
Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, and Kerr Smith
Grade: B+

While Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) waits at JFK to leave for a school trip to Paris, bad omens seem to surround him. As soon as he buckles into the plane, he has a vision of the plane exploding seconds after take-off. When the vision begins to come true, Alex bolts for the door, dragging several students and a teacher in his wake. The plane takes off without them and explodes just as Alex predicted. He becomes an object of fear and suspicion among the community, and the tension only increases as the survivors begin to die. Alex and another survivor, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), investigate the suspicious "suicide" of a friend, and a mortician (Tony "Candyman" Todd) clues them in to the truth: Alex interrupted Death's design by saving people who should have died in the explosion, and Death will want to claim its rightful victims. In order to save himself and the others, Alex will have to figure out Death's new plan and thwart it.

Of the countless horror films that have competed for a piece of the "Scream" audience, "Final Destination" is the best so far. Talented young screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick offers a fresh variation on a familiar formula. We've seen hundreds of movies where a group of teenagers are murdered one-by-one by a faceless slasher, but Reddick cuts out the hockey-masked middle-man and makes the villain Death itself. First-time feature director James Wong made the most of that premise. Every scene is permeated with creepiness and foreboding, reminding us that Death is everywhere, can come at anytime. Everyday objects and events vibrate with menace. The most amusing harbinger of doom: John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High," which is played several times in the movie before someone dies. (The link is that Denver died in a plane crash, and the song includes a line about fire in the sky.)

The performances are stronger than those usually elicited by teen horror. Devon Sawa, who previously starred in another horror flick, "Idle Hands," gives a frantic and convincing lead performance. Kerr Smith is Carter Hogan, an antagonist of Alex's whose quick temper causes him to pulled off the fatal plane. Smith plays Carter as filled with anger and confusion that constantly threatens to bubble over into violence. Seann William Scott, who's also in theaters right now in "Road Trip," plays the somewhat dim Billy Hitchcock and provides a needed counterpoint to the intensity of Alex and Carter. Tony Todd's one-scene cameo is delicious but all too brief.

Bottom line: Watchable teen fright flicks are few and far between, but this destination is worth visiting.

2000 Christian L. Pyle

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