Final Destination Review

by Ian Waldron-Mantgani (Ukcritic AT aol DOT com)
May 23rd, 2000

Final Destination ***

Rated on a 4-star scale
Screening venue: Odeon (Liverpool City Centre)
Released in the UK by Entertainment Distribution on May 19, 2000; certificate 15; 90 minutes; country of origin USA; aspect ratio 1.85:1

Directed by James Wong; produced by Glen Morgan, Craig Perry, Warren Zide. Written by Glen Morgan, Jeffrey Reddick, James Wong; from a story by Jeffrey Reddick.
Photographed by Robert Maclachlan; edited by James Coblentz.

Devon Sawa..... Alex Browning
Ali Larter..... Clear Rivers
Kerr Smith..... Carter Horton
Kristen Cloke..... Valerie Lewton
Daniel Roebuck..... Agent Weine
Chad E. Donella..... Tod Waggner
Seann William Scott..... Billy Hitchcock
Amanda Detmer..... Terry Chaney

I found myself forced to fill in a questionnaire the other day, which at one point asked: "Are you offended by anything that offends good taste?" I had to answer no. While I do usually take a highbrow approach to things, there are no absolutes when it comes to possible emotional reactions. Sometimes it's healthy to view things from a low down and dirty point of view.

"Final Destination" proves my point. It's not a great horror movie, nor a scary one, and it doesn't even try to satirise its genre. It simply inspires its viewers to indulge lurid fascination with violence. I usually find that repellent -- look at my scathing reviews of "The Bone Collector", "Ravenous", "8mm" and "Urban Legend". What distinguishes this film from those is how up-front it is about its morbidity; it's unashamed Grand Guignol, rather than sick titillation pretending to be serious drama.

The story begins when a group of forty high-school students board a plane for Paris. One of them, Alex (Devon Sawa), has a vivid premonition of the aircraft exploding into flames after take-off. He freaks out trying to warn people, and in the ensuing commotion gets thrown off the plane, along with a teacher (Kristen Cloke) and five other students (Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Chad E. Donella, Seann William Scott, Amanda Detmer). From the airport this group see that Alex was right -- the plane blows up before their eyes.

Are the survivors lucky? Well, no, because they soon start dying off anyway, and in a speech full of hammed-up grimacing and portentous groaning, a strange mortician named Bloodworth (Tony Todd) offers them an interesting theory as to why: In cheating death by getting off the plane, they've gone against the Grim Reaper's plan, and the creature is now stalking them to make up for it. All our heroes have to do is figure out the nature of this plan, and how to cheat it again. Ah, no problem.

It's unconventional to find a teen horror movie in which Death himself is the villain. Refreshing, too, since there is no opportunity for silly slasher-pic clichés involving friends creeping up on each other and causing false alarms, or moments where people creep around in the dark while a killer lurks in the shadows. Instead we get elaborate supernatural death traps, which are so twisted that our morbid curiosity is enthralled. I don't want to give too many specifics away, because the appeal of "Final Destination" lies in waiting to see how creative its moments of doom will get, but let me whet your appetite for their gleefully sadistic flavour: In one scene, a leak causes a kid's bathroom floor to get slippy, while he, unaware, uses a razor to nick a pimple from his neck, cuts his nose hair with a sharp scissors, and stands opposite a cord that could strangle him if he fell on it. We know he's going to die, we can see he's surrounded by potentially fatal objects, and we can't turn our eyes from the screen until we've seen him stumble into his demise.

This is of course sick, but it's fun, too, even after it's been repeated seven times. We leer at how gruesome the film is, allow ourselves to jump when death strikes, then laugh at ourselves for jumping. I suspect "Final Destination", unlike most horror movies, will not look dated in years to come, as it deals directly with the universally interesting theme of mortality. Okay, so it deals with it in a goofy way, but goofiness will live forever, too.

COPYRIGHT(c) 2000 Ian Waldron-Mantgani
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