Final Destination (2000)

James Wong

Devon Sawa - Alex Browning
Ali Larter - Clear Rivers
Kerr Smith - Carter Horton
Seann William Scott - Billy Hitchcock
Chad E. Donella - Tod Waggner
Kristen Cloke - Valerie Lewton
Amanda Detmer - Terry Chaney
Tony Todd - Bludworth

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Supernatural

Running Time - 98 Minutes

Score - 4 Howls Outta 4

If one takes a survey on what frightens people the most, I'm sure Death would be in the top five somewhere. Thinking about it, it's quite a funny and ironic answer. After all, aren't we born to die? Sure, we never know when it'll happen and even scarier - how. But it's not like we can escape death.

Or can we?

In one of the best horror films [and franchises for that matter] of the past decade, FINAL DESTINATION, a small group of characters attempt it after they manage to flee an airplane before it explodes. But remember - you can't cheat Death and He won't take kindly to it if one does. But hell, I hope more people try and fool the Grim Reaper. There's no doubt the consequences will be as entertaining as FINAL DESTINATION itself.

Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) and his senior class get on Flight 180 at JFK Airport in New York City [thanks, I'm never flying again now] as they plan on travelling to Paris, France [not Texas]. Suddenly having a premonition where everyone on the plane will die due to a horrible explosion, Alex freaks out and is escorted off the plane along with other rowdy/scared classmates (Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Seann William Scott, Amanda Detmer, and Chad E. Donella) and a teacher (Kristen Cloke). While the ones off the plane believe at first that Alex just had a bad dream due to a fear of flying, they're traumatized when they watch Flight 180 explode in front of their eyes.

Believing they have a new chance at life, the teens and the rest of the community mourn the loss of the senior class. However Alex is treated like a lepur due to his premonition being on the money, while some of the others have trouble dealing with the fact that they survived while a lot more didn't. Unfortunately, things get worse when Death decides that his plan for Flight 180 was incomplete. Using the things around the survivors that anyone would take advantage of in every day life, Death begins to murder the survivors of Flight 180 in the exact order they were supposed to die on the plane.

Death, however, doesn't realize that Alex can sense and see what his design is. Becoming obsessed with cheating Death again, Alex begins researching and figuring out ways to keep the members of Flight 180 that survived alive. However, playing cat and mouse with Death is never easy. In fact, it can be quite deadly.

I remember when FINAL DESTINATION was released back in 2000. This was during a time where the horror genre had grown quickly stale after the reinvigoration of the genre by Wes Craven's SCREAM in 1996. Everyone loved SCREAM. Then came I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, which alot of people liked. But then we got URBAN LEGENDS, and SCREAM 2 and 3, and I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER - films that just seemed to get worse and worse as they capitalized on the teen slasher craze. But then FINAL DESTINATION came along and it was a refreshing take on the teen slasher. The teens were intelligent without being self-aware of horror films, the cliches and motifs were used in new creative and inventive ways, and the villain wasn't some person in a mask or after revenge but something none of us can escape. It was a semi-rebirth of the genre, which is desperately needed at the time.

FINAL DESTINATION is written by James Wong and Glen Morgan, two men who worked on X-Files and Millennium. That pedigree is enough for any person to realize that the story will not only be creepy, but well-written and logical enough for us to remain entertained. Wong and Morgan know exactly how to craft a chilling horror film, making us question how Death works. Does Death have a design? Can we control our fate and destiny? Or is fate and destiny already controlled for us since birth? The fact is that we never really know for sure. Using FINAL DESTINATION as a vessel to get those life questions across in a way that people will eat it up was very clever and very smart.

Wong and Morgan do something that many other horror filmmakers sometimes fail to do: make their villain truly scary and a force of nature [literally in this case]. Death isn't a man, or a monster, or some tangible being that has a weakness. It's a force that nobody can escape no matter how hard they may try. And the fact that this force can use ANYTHING to kill you in horrific ways raises the situation's stakes. All you can do is hope that Death never catches up to you because when he does, you're fucked! I would rather deal with Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger combined than deal with Death in FINAL DESTINATION. At least I have hope I could survived the first four. I know I have no chance when it comes to something I can't see, hear, touch, smell, or taste. That's truly scary and that's why FINAL DESTINATION works so well - we don't fear dying - we fear not knowing how or when we will die.

Where the story also excels is the characters. Sure we get the usual stereotypes like the nerdish guy [Alex], the quiet one [Clear], the asshole jock [Carter] and his popular girlfriend [Terry], and the goof [Billy]. But they're fleshed out here and actually act intelligently instead of acting so stupid that you start hitting yourself with the remote. You actually like the characters and kind of root for some them to survive. Some, I think, are still a bit overboard that they get close to annoy you [Carter's foul-mouthed angry character comes to mind]. But for the most part, the teens act like teens and think like teens. That's another reason why FINAL DESTINATION stands out from the rest.

FINAL DESTINATION is mainly known for its ridiculous and over-the-top death sequences. While I like the more elborate deaths in the sequels, I think FINAL DESTINATION has some cool ones too. I think the premonition of the plane exploding is still a pretty incredible sequence after almost 10 years, really creeping me out because that's just a bad way to go. Being pulled out of an open plane while in the air and then being burnt by fire is just messed up. I also like Tod's death scene, with the clothesline in the bathroom strangling him to death. And the decapitation and rammed by moving bus ones are okay too. But hands down, the best one involves Ms. Lewton's demise. It's like a beautiful, operatic domino effect of a death. First she gets a shard to the throat. Then she gets things exploding in her face. Then she slips on the floor. Then she gets impaled by a knife while trying to reach a cloth above her. And then something lands on the knife to impale it deeper. Then a fire breaks out, exploding her house. I mean, it's just an incredible sequence and if I had to make a Top Ten list for Best Kills in the horror genre, that may have to be on it. Just a great job by the production team and FX on this one.

James Wong does a great job behind the camera. He knows how to set up the mood and atmosphere to give the film a very creepy feeling. There's also a lot of tension built due to the fact that we know who is gonna die and it's just a matter of waiting for when the terror will strike. I also liked the subtle things as well, from the names of the characters [based on people who are or have been involved in horror] to the hints in the mise-en-scene that imply what will happen to these characters. I also liked the use of John Denver during every murder scene [nice to exploit the man's death in a plane crash]. The murder sequences are also edited perfectly and are quite suspenseful to watch. Wong knows what he's doing and does it well.

The acting in FINAL DESTINATION is very good. Devon Sawa is great as Alex, conveying a believable emotional evolution as he attempts to cheat death for himself and his friends. Alex goes from calm to scared to paranoid to impulsive to nuts in 98 minutes running time and Sawa definitely brings them all to the plate with conviction. I really liked his performance here. I'm surprised his career didn't build from here. Ali Larter is also very good as Clear, giving a very vulnerable and strong performance. It's interesting seeing her play against type as she's usually the sexpot in films and on television. But she does real good here and has nice chemistry with Sawa. Kerr Smith is a good actor, but I'm not a total fan of the character he plays. I mean, Smith just plays an angry son of a bitch who says the "F" word every other sentence. Not much of a part. I have a feeling he picked this role because it countered his gay role on Dawson's Creek at the time. Sean William Scott played the goofy role well, although I can't see him being picked on by Kerr Smith. He's fuckin' Stifler! Kristen Cloke did nervous really well as Ms. Lewton. I think she was almost in tears in every scene. That must have been tiring. And Tony Todd has a cameo as the undertaker, Bludworth. All he does really is explain what Death is and how it has a design. But I dig his monologue and he's always a pleasant sight in any film he's in. So a great cast for a great horror flick.


- Feel afraid when someone tells you that you have your whole life ahead of you. You'll probably be close to the brink of death soon after. Hey, they never said which life they were referring to.

- Always believe someone and their premonitions. They could save your life. Or your sanity. I should have listened to the Cinema Snob about THE NAIL GUN MASSACRE. But did I listen? Noooooo...

- Ms. Lewton is afraid of Alex whenever he's near. The film leads you to believe it's because of his premonitions. But I have a feeling she had a sexy encounter with his IDLE HANDS. Hubba hubba...

- Don't hang things above the bathtub. The next person who comes in to use the tub will end up accidentally choking him/herself on the clothesline. Or maybe it'll be intentional for making them do more work than they had to. Either way, it's your fault.

- "Death has a design". I see who's gonna win Project Runway this season! Auf wiedersehen!

- Ms. Lewton got a computer monitor shard lodged in her throat, vodka and other materials blew up in her face, and then she got impaled by a butcher knife in a span of 3 minutes. For an Irish lady, she sure didn't have a lot of luck or fight in her!

- Billy's head got chopped off by something sharp attached to a moving train. With a heave...and a ho...Billy's head just had to go...go...go...

- Death tried to kill Clear with electricity. How fitting since she acquired the power to manipulate herself into water and ice since then. Well played, Reaper. Well played.

A teen horror movie that plays it straight and serious - what a rarity. But FINAL DESTINATION does it and does it really well. It's near the top of the horror pack [especially in the modern era] with its inventive kills, fleshed out characters, and a villain who is unstoppable. Heading into this FINAL DESTINATION is quite a fun ride and definitely a film worth owning if you're a horror fan. We'll see how the return trips [FINAL DESTINATION 2, FINAL DESTINATION 3, and THE FINAL DESTINATION] stack up in the next few weeks.



  2. The kills in all the FD movies are nice and clever. Unlike stupid Saw traps.

  3. I agree, Final Destination is a classic in the same league as the old school horror's of the 70's and 80's - unfortunately that cannot be said for the sequels!


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