31 March 2000 | Movie-12
Thrilling with a creepy atmosphere. *** out of ****.
FINAL DESTINATION / (2000) ***
Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Chad E. Donella, Amanda Detmer, and Kristen Cloke. Directed by James Wong. Written by Jeffrey Reddick, Glen Morgan and James Wong. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated R (for terror violence and language).
I think it is safe to say every individual has different feelings about death. Some fear it. Others deny it. Most are weary in some way regarding decease. "Final Destination" is a perfect thriller for skeptics, detailing seven confused individuals who accidentally escape demise, discovering the impossibility of defrauding their destined time. The film's atmosphere provokes cringe through a presumably omnipresent force stalking the characters, producing audience participation whether the Grim Reaper is footsteps away from us all.
Devon Sawa ("Idle Hands," "Wild America") is a high school senior named Alex Browning. He and his French class are at an airport flying to Paris for a field trip with their teacher, Ms. Lewton (Kristen Cloke). Once on the plane Alex begins to experience a dream-like vision of the jet exploding in midair killing all of its passengers. As the plane is about to descend, Alex notices his illusion gradually comes to life. This leaves him no choice but to cause a small riot leaving him and six other passengers thrown off the flight.
Students Carter (Kerr Smith), the ignorant jerk and girlfriend Terry (Amanda Detmer), Alex's best friend, Tod (Chad E. Donella), other peers Billy (Seann William Scott), Clear (Ali Larter), Ms. Lewton and Alex watch from the airport as their late flight bursts into flames within minutes after takeoff-leaving these characters suspiciously confused about fate.
The film wastes no time depicting its setup. The rushed opening leads to lack of character development. Whereas the character's personalities are clear, we feel little remorse for many of them. The dramatic premise is horrific and revealing, playing like an extended "The X Files" episode without paranormal detectives. "Final Destination" is creative and full of variety; we witness the plane crash from two different perspectives, as a passenger and an observer.
Days after the crash, the survivors begin to die in unusual manners-almost as if a curse of death was placed on them for cheating demise. Alex digs deeper and discovers his companions are being killed by strange coincidences in the order they would have died from the explosion on the flight. In desperation, he attempts to contradict death for everyone remaining while under superstition of two disillusioned law enforcers.
There are a few overlooked characters in "Final Destination," mostly adults who seem to have an IQ score in the mid-nineties. The teenager's parents are left out most of the story. There is also a briefly creepy appearance by a mortician but is short-circuited by the plot. He is one of the many characters who end up explaining a lot of the plot to us.
Most recent teen horror romps feature a madman chasing characters with sharp objects. "Final Destination" is too smart to fall in that cliché, however. It has a punctual reason for inhabiting teens: these are young people full of energy and life, all the more reason for them to fight death.
The film, written by Jeffrey Reddick, Glen Morgan and director James Wong, never explains why the Alex character has visions of upcoming disasters. The idea makes for an intriguing story, but there are no interesting subplots or side characters here. Therefore without being backed up by supporting stories the filmmakers must thoroughly justify the character's reason for being. Wong seems to overlook Alex's illusions, a concept holding the entire movie together.
Although "Final Destination" provides many edge-of-your-seat surprises and tension, the film likes to poke fun at many of its scenes. Like the average teenage thriller, the movie takes itself seriously about three quarters of the time-leaving the last quarter as comic relief. Certainly having nothing against comedic sequences in horror flicks, I just prefer a movie true to its genre. Even though "Final Destination" is nowhere near perfect, it is the truest film to the teen slasher gender along time.
"Final Destination" is brought to you by New Line Cinema.