Re-visiting Final Destinations

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


In case you loved "The Final Destination" and want to play catch up with Death in the first three films, here's what I had to say about the previous films in the franchise. The first opened March 17, 2000 and moviegoers never imagined it would span the decade.

'Final Destination'

Turns out listening to John Denver sing "Rocky Mountain High" can be hazardous to your health. Deadly, even.
When death creeps in, it announces itself - with an unexpected breeze, a rivulet of liquid and, somewhere, Denver singing his salute to Colorado. At least that's the way it happens in "Final Destination," a better-than-expected thriller that veers dangerously close to teen slasher territory once too often. No one just dies here; they strangle on a nylon cord (eyes hemorrhaging in the process) or have their head sliced off by a chunk of metal turned into a flying Frisbee. You get the picture, and it's not pretty.
"Final Destination" opens with high school French students preparing for a 10-day trip to Paris. As one dad says to his 17-year-old son, "Live it up, Alex. You've got your whole life ahead of you." But does Alex (Devon Sawa) have his whole life ahead of him?
Alex and his friends board the plane and, then, in either a dream or premonition, he sees the jet take off and be immediately rocked by violent turbulence. Bags tumble from the overheard compartments, oxygen masks drop, the left side explodes, passengers are sucked out of the plane, and then a wall of flames roars down the aisles and consumes everyone - including him.
When he wakes up, the same sequence of events begin to occur and when he announces the plane is doomed, chaos ensues. He and five others end up getting tossed off the plane. A seventh passenger is now forbidden to board.
Minutes later, while stewing in the boarding area, the seven watch the plane turn into a fireball and fall from the sky. All 287 passengers are dead. The only survivors are the ones who walked, willingly or not, off the plane.
Instead of being hailed as a savior, Alex is viewed with suspicion by the FBI and NTSB and his fellow survivors. The stakes are raised further when some of the seven begin to die, always when Alex is nearby. When he and one of the others (Ali Larter) sneak into the funeral home to see the corpse of a friend, they encounter a creepy undertaker (Tony Todd) who explains what is happening.
In death there are no accidents, no coincidences, no mistakes. When Alex walked off the plane, he interrupted death's design, the mortician tells him. But death still has him and the others in its sights, which terrifies and terrorizes the shrinking survivor pool.
"Final Destination" is from Glen Morgan and James Wong, executive producers of "The Others," the new NBC series about psychically gifted oddballs. As they do on the show, they imbue normal sights and sounds - a spinning fan, that noticeable gap between the jetway and plane - with ominous overtones.
The idea of this movie is, indeed, intriguing, although the circumstances are a little too close for comfort (perhaps purposely) to what happened to TWA Flight 800 in July 1996. That plane crashed off the coast of Long Island, N.Y., killing 230 people - including members of the Montoursville (Pa.) High School French Club and their chaperones. These kids couldn't have been traveling to, say, Spain?
"Final Destination" is the sort of movie that teen-agers may want to see because of its cast. In addition to Sawa and Larter, it stars Kerr Smith, who plays Jack McPhee on "Dawson's Creek." But the movie is rated R for violence, terror and language.
So you have a slasher flick without a visible slasher, but ample amounts of blood and gore. Alex accepts the word of the mysterious mortician (played by "The Candyman" star) without seeking other counsel, such as a minister or exorcist or a parent or someone who also beat the odds and survived a similar disaster. Trying to cheat death all by yourself can be a heavy load.
Wong says, "We want to do for planes and air travel what ` Jaws' did for sharks and swimming." So if you're scheduled to fly any time soon, consider yourself warned. Of course this is one movie you won't be watching while returning your seat to its upright position.

Rated R for violence, terror, language
Starring: Devol Sawa, Ali Larter
Director: James Wong

 'Final Destination 2'

Nowhere to go in 'Final Destination 2'

Friday, January 31, 2003

 In "Final Destination 2" there is no such thing as "lucky to be alive." If you cheat death, it will simply haunt you, stalk you and execute you at a later date -- by such methods as impalement (a favorite), dismemberment, beheading, explosion and a close encounter with a very large, heavy piece of glass.

Death, you see, never takes a holiday. That's what we learned in "Final Destination," a March 2000 movie so popular that it spawned an oxymoronic sequel: "Final Destination 2."

In the original, a high school student headed to Paris with his French class had a premonition that the plane was going to crash. He and his friends bolted and they were the only survivors of an explosion that claimed 287 lives. One by one, though, they all died in bizarre accidents -- except for one person, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter).

Now, it's been a year since the jet disaster and a girl named Kimberly (A.J. Cook) and her friends are heading for spring break in Daytona in a red SUV. But, stopping on the freeway on-ramp, she has a premonition of a horrendous, multiple-car accident that starts with logs breaking loose from a flatbed truck and ends in widespread fire and death. When Kimberly tries to explain all this to a state policeman (Michael Landes), an accident unfolds before their eyes and he ends up saving her life.

Now, they've cheated death and death proceeds to go after the drivers and passengers who would have died -- had Kimberly not prevented them from entering the highway. So, it's here-we-go-again time as the survivors try to figure out how to stay alive. Unlike the high schoolers in the original, these folks are a motley crew including mom and son, recent lottery winner, stoner, confident career gal, teacher.

"Final Destination 2" lacks the sheer novelty of the first film and the deaths seem even more gruesome and less inventive this time. It was directed by onetime stuntman and stunt coordinator David R. Ellis, who stages a couple of spectacular highway crashes and creates an ominous mood through such touches as a splotch of transmission fluid resembling blood, fog, a harrowing trip to the dentist's office and the sight of a man carrying a crate of artificial limbs.

Larter isn't the only original cast member returning; Tony Todd has a cameo, again, as a creepy undertaker. The sequel tries to take the death-has-a-design mandate to another level and it partially succeeds -- amid the R-rated language and carnage that includes a blackened limb being flung around like a piece of barbecued meat.

"Final Destination 2" is a far better horror movie than, say, "Darkness Falls," but a little of the thrill (not to mention teen star quotient) of the first is gone.

'Final Destination 3'

Friday, February 10, 2006

 Death by ... tanning bed?

Yes, and by roller coaster and drive-through window. The Grim Reaper -- or New Line Cinema -- sure knows its audience. Toss in a digital camera and you've got all the modern touchstones for "Final Destination 3" (R for violence/gore, language, some nudity).

This time, a senior named Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is strapped into a seat on a roller coaster when she has a premonition that the wheels are going to come off, literally, and everyone will die. She hysterically insists that she be allowed to get off, and her premonition comes to pass.

As before, though, Death never takes a holiday. One by one, the other students who bolted from the coaster start to die, and it's up to Wendy and a classmate (Ryan Merriman) to figure out the punishing pattern and beat it.

The first 25 minutes of "Final Destination 3" conjure more dread than all of "When a Stranger Calls." But then it turns into a splatterfest, with writers Glen Morgan and James Wong engaging in a contest for the Rube Goldberg Device of Death, with extra points for turning heads into bloody pulps. 


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