Final Destination

Final Destination, the latest from the teen horror genre, gets off to a strong start and plummets downhill from there. It was written and directed by X-Files veterans, but they choose to abandon what they do best and pander to the lowest-common-denominator audience. By the time the action reached its climax and all hell broke loose, I felt like I was watching a group of obviously talented writers defeated by the system. I’ve read that the original draft actually had the Grim Reaper chasing the characters with his scythe. Perhaps that would have been a bit more original — not to mention funnier.

The movie starts off with a creepy titles sequence that has something to do with fans and then cuts to Alex (Devon Sawa), a high school student getting ready for his senior trip to France. He’s a slightly superstitious kid and he’s been having bad feelings about this trip for a while now. Creepy omens, premonitions, things like that. This doomsday state peaks when Alex actually gets on the plane. As he settles in his seat, he sees a disaster happen; first the plane shakes, then it explodes. He panics, causing himself, 5 other students and a teacher to be kicked off the aircraft. Minutes later, as the flight takes off, they hear a crash and the airport window breaks violently. The plane exploded and killed all onboard.

Understandably, this elicits tumultuous feelings from the 7 people who got off the doomed flight 180. Most consider Alex to be a spook, considering the unnerving way in which he predicted the disaster. The FBI suspects him. The teacher he presumably saved reviles him. But then things take a turn for the weird. The 7 people that lived start dying, one by one. It seems that Alex’s premonition wasn’t part of Death’s plan and Death still wants them. But there is no Grim Reaper here; Death comes in the form of bizarre accidents and coincidences.

There are some effectively creepy scenes in Final Destination‘s first half hour. The plane sequence manages to evoke some actual jumps and the first death is genuinely scary because it’s not as overblown as most of the ones that come later. Of course people will be talking about the “bus scene,” on which I won’t elaborate beyond saying that it evoked memories of a certain scene in Meet Joe Black.

Unfortunately, the movie can’t keep it up. Once we pass the halfway point, Final Destination starts to get more ludicrous, more standard-issue with every minute of its running time. The climax is absurdly self-important, with a lot of explosions, fire, et al. There is not a touch of awareness that this has all been done before — and better. And the movie doesn’t even have the guts to resist inserting that obligatory final scare that we’ve all come to expect from horror movies. It’s always passed off as a big surprise, but is it that surprising if it’s present in nearly every film of the genre?

The performances are mostly unremarkable. Devon Sawa is merely ok as the hero and Kristen Cloke is irritatingly snobbish as the teacher who turns against Alex (it’s almost fun to watch her get her comeuppance, even though that probably wasn’t the intention). Only Amanda Detmer, as Alex’s newfound buddy, gives a performance quirky enough to be unique.

Can these frighteningly good-looking teenagers cheat death and come out alive? It’s a plot brimming with potential but dependent on good execution. Final Destination relies too much on mayhem and too little on suspense to be an effective thriller, teen or otherwise. Someone’s going to get fired for this. I can feel it.

-- Eugene Novikov

Leave a Comment

Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

View All Entries »